How we met the Electrical Meter Owner Man


It’s 8:30pm on Monday night.  Greg and I were sitting in the living room, watching yet another episode of “How I Met Your Mother” (our latest guilty pleasure).  Barney was in the middle of some new story saying “it’s going to be…wait for it… wait for it…”


No, that’s not it.  Barney is supposed to say “legendary” but noise drowned it out.


That’s the sound of someone pounding furiously at the metal gate.  But of course, we continue to ignore it because: a) we’re not expecting anyone, b) there are 3 other people in our compound and none are home, and most importantly c) we’ve had our security briefing – no opening doors to strangers after dark.


Geez, that guy is determined!  Can’t we just watch our show in peace?


Is that guy trying to climb over the gate?

Our yard and the oh-so-important electrical meter at the back and the gate the Electrical Meter Owner Man tried to climb

Turns out that’s the man owns the electrical meter for our house.  No, no … not the building owner.  This guy just owns the meter  – and no, that’s not unusual in Cameroon!

Electric Meter Owner Man wants money in advance for this month’s electricity bill.  Does he know how much the bill will be?  Of course not, but what does that matter?  And yes, this is unusual in Cameroon.

But he’s determined.  He’s also drunk.  Bad combination. He’s pretty angry because he thought someone at VSO was going to give him money today (just like that!) but they didn’t manage to connect (and he’s surprised?).

So now he wants it from us and we’re not playing ball either.  He wants us to come right up to the gate but we stay a safe distance away so we can make a hasty retreat into the house if needed.  After telling him repeatedly that we can do nothing for him – he disturbed us at night and tried to climb the gate to boot!  He leaves.

Next day.  Tuesday.  Greg is coming back from work.  Guess who is waiting at the gate.  Except this time, Greg and Electrical Meter Owner Man are on the same side of the fence.  He still wants money.  And now he’s taking a stance – he is blocking the entrance.  He looks sort-of sober.  He’s still angry and getting increasingly belligerent.  Won’t let Greg through.  Period.

Greg thinks fast… “Here’s 1000 CFA from my pocket.  Go buy phone credits and call your contact at VSO. See what he says and maybe make an appointment with him.  Let me into my house.”  The $2 strategy works… long enough for Greg to enter into the house and lock all the gates and doors nice and tight.

Ahhh!  Now, dinner and some relaxation.


He’s back. Did he buy phone credits or booze?  Either way, it sure didn’t take long.

Electric Meter Owner Man wants money or he’ll cut the power.  He’ll have to try climbing the fence again to do it.  That didn’t work too well last time.

Quick dial to VSO’s emergency phone number: “Electric Meter Owner Man situation at Casa Spira.  Back up would be greatly appreciated.”

Within minutes VSO’s Country Director arrives… with the office guards. Possibly Drunk Electric Meter Owner Man is told (again) to go to the office in the morning for a meeting.  He’s none too happy.  But he’s outnumbered.  He gets a bit more ornery, but it gets him nowhere.  He leaves.

The Now Sober/Sombre Electric Meter Owner Man shows up at the office on Wednesday morning – wearing a full suit no less!  The sit-down meeting takes place sans Greg, the properly conducted money exchange is made… with a twist.  VSO asks him to also sign a letter promising that he will not harass the “clients” again.  The letter is signed.  Said letter is taken to the police station for certification.

Electric Meter Owner Man may own the meter… but he’s a little short on power.

P.S.  He won’t be returning next month for payment.  No more BANG BANG BANG. We’ll be the owners of the meter by then… and it will be… wait for it… wait for it….


~ by Caroline Spira on September 1, 2010.

4 Responses to “How we met the Electrical Meter Owner Man”

  1. It took all that so you could insert Barney’s punch line? What one will do to while away the time. I love it.

    • You got me! You know me too well. Truthfully though, that was what we were watching at the time!!!

    • To add to the story, an electrician came yesterday to fix a light outside. In doing so, he cut all power to the lights inside the house and then left. I’m in the dark about whether he’ll come back…

  2. Cute ! Now the electric meter man must be feeling pretty powerless and energy depleted. I say, Socket it to him !

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