Thursday, July 16, 2009

Slings and arrows, or the revenge of the coneflowers ...

... but very minor slings and arrows on a gorgeous summer morning in Lucas County, Ioway. Wow! I'd burst into a few lines of "O What a Beautiful Morning!" but that would just embarrass us all.

The first burr under my saddle is the fact my coneflowers (above) have had a run-in with the law --- the law as interpreted by Alliant Energy Co. that is. I love coneflowers; don't care that they reproduce so enthusiastically by self-seeding that given an inch they would bloom for miles if left to their own devices.

I like that. Sometimes when I'm a little down about the excesses of the human race, the white tribe in particular, I like to think about what would happen if we inadvertently eliminated ourselves --- and in darker moments I do think that is entirely possible. Wouldn't take that long here in the land between two rivers for the prairie --- my coneflowers, goldenrod, Indian grass and such --- to reassert itself, chew up abandoned highways and streets, overwhelm our fancy ticky-tacky houses and aided by a few strategically placed lightning strikes reduce them to piles of compost. Oh there still would be plastic left, but that would soon be buried under mulch. But I digress.

What you see behind the coneflowers here is my Alliant Energy gas meter. It's an ugly sucker and I don't enjoy looking at it. And thanks to the coneflowers I haven't had to lately --- just sit in my lawn chair and admire the flowers along the east wall of the house.

So the other day I got this letter from Alliant, which read in part as follows: "Dear Alliant Energy customer: We are having difficulty reading your meter. The meter reader has told us that the meter is blocked or obstructed by shrubs or other foliage around it. In these cases we may be forced to estimate your bill for monthly power use, which may cause an over- or under-billing of our account. It may also create a hazard for an Alliant Energy employee. Sincerely, Customer Service Billing."

Yup, them coneflowers is dangerous stuff. And lord knows I don't want to endanger an Alliant Energy employee.

Alliant already is on my list. First, it swallowed up more local, efficient and less-expensive utility companies --- Iowa Southern Utilities and Interstate Power Co. among them --- then after raising rates rushed off to invest its ill-gotten gains in South America. A couple of months ago, trying to close out my Mason City utility account, I spent an excessive amount of time on hold while awaiting the single customer service representative Alliant employs to serve its Iowa customers --- a most efficient and pleasant woman who managed to be helpful despite the fact she's allowed only two five-minute bathroom breaks a day and is chained to her desk the rest of the time. And now this.

It's tempting to let the coneflowers bloom and Alliant to estimate my bill until fall, but I don't trust those folks any farther than I could toss a power pole. So I guess I'll go out and move the coneflowers even though it will mean looking at that butt-ugly meter for the rest of the summer.


And then there's my crisis of faith --- in Google Map. Just when you think you've found something you can trust, it comes to this.

This issue developed as RAGBRAI's overnight stop in Chariton next Wednesday nears. Every Iowan and Iowan-in-exile knows about The Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa, the biggest bicycle event in the country. On Sunday, 8,500 registered cyclists and untold thousands who aren't registered but have decided to bike along anyway, will dip their front wheels in the Missouri at Council Bluffs then pedal across southern Iowa to dip their front wheels in the Mississippi at Burlington a week later.

That'll cause a good deal of cussing among some of the locals along the route since travel by any mode other than bicycle when RAGBRAI is in the neighborhood is next to impossible. But as a rule, they're a decent plague of spandex-clad locusts on wheels and it does give us something to talk about. Some make money, too. One bunch of Lutherans here in town is renting pews as sites for slumber (there is room in the inn, for a price). And you'll notice I did not say, "typically Lutheran."

At St. Andrew's, we'll be housing a bunch of wandering Episcopalians (free of charge) in the parish hall overnight and allowing others to camp on the lawn. But that brings up the question of how to tell people the route to St. Andrew's and you'd think that would be a breeze in this era of instant mapping services and Web-enabled cell phones.

But not so fast --- Google Map and other mapping services for reasons known only to themselves have located St. Andrew's at a specific address in the Hillcrest cubdivision in southwest Chariton. St. Andrew's is actually located in far northeast Chariton on the east side of Highway 14 North just beside the entrance drive to Lucas County Health Center --- and has been there since 1956 after the grand old church building downtown succumbed to dry rot and was replaced by our modest A-frame in the "suburbs."

I suppose at some point one church officer or another, long dead, decided to have the St. Andrew's mail delivered to his or her home address rather than to the church and this confusion about addresses got transferred to the latest in map technology. It seems to be one of those things no mere mortal can correct or at least I've not figured out any way to communicate with either a computer or real live person.

Since Chariton is a small town, I'm sure this all will work out. But it could be an interesting day for whoever now lives at that address in Hillcrest if hordes of Episcopalians start wheeling up asking to sleep in his parish hall.


Don't be surprised if this blog starts looking different. Because of laziness, I've stuck with a basic Blogger template called "Harbor," or something like that, for as long as I've been blogging. It's a pleasant template, but there just aren't that many harbors, or lighthouses, in Iowa.

So while helping someone else fancy up his blog this week I've decided it's time for a change at the Lucas Countyan. Haven't quite decided what, but that will become evident to us all as time passes.

No comments: