Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Job

My new job in 80 words: New Orleans is piloting a grant-funded project through the city’s energy company, Entergy. In short, there are electric meters cleverly called “Smart Meters” that communicate with these new devices in people’s homes. The devices show real-time kilowatt usage, the homeowner's present electric bill and their projected end-of-cycle bill. After that, it gets more detailed and complicated so all you need to know is our job is to go help fix the devices that aren’t properly synching to the meters.

Sometimes this is as simple as taking the device out of the box it was mailed to the homeowner in and plugging it into the wall. Sometimes we are on a conference (called “The Bridge”) with several technicians who are running all sorts of diagnostics and telling us what to do. Kady and I share the record of a three-hour visit inside a home. This might sound a bit banal, I realize, but I love this job.

I’m driving all over New Orleans in a rented cushy SUV with a locally based Entergy customer service representative. I’m exploring every neighborhood in this place. The locals are taking me to the best hole-in-the-wall places I’d never notice. I’m eating jambalaya, red beans and rice, shrimp po’ boys, gumbo…

(Today Kady and I met our boss or boss’ boss or whatever at Sammy’s. It was my third visit to the cafe that's been featured on multiple food network series. When Kady came to the table with her brisket sandwich, he said, “You guys are gonna get fat.” I somehow took this as a compliment because all I heard was, “You’re not fat.” Yes!)

I’ve put a lot of thought into how to write about some of the things I’ve seen and heard as evidence of the events surrounding Hurricane Katrina in August of 2005. Everything—and I mean everything—I’ve thought to write just feels trite. It doesn't really feel like my story to tell in any way. I will share that many people voluntarily demonstrate where the water level in their homes was. Many people tell stories of how they lost their mother or sister or child, how none of their neighbors returned and how seven out of ten houses on their block are just sitting in shambles. I’ve driven by countless abandoned buildings—small grocers, schools, gas stations, a prison, an orphanage. Many of the houses are still marked with these spray paint codes.

Yep, I was right. It all sounds trite and even a bit self-indulgent. So I'll just go with that and wrap it up with this:

When stuff like this gets to be a little much for me:

An abandoned school

The spray-paint says "No dogs seen"

A stoop, no house...

and it sometimes does...

Kady and I repeat the best one-liners we hear in the houses we visit (please read Kady's story here), and I let her serenade me with her fantasies of cooking nutritious meals for the Jolie-Pitt children.

And if all that fails, there's always this:


  1. You are so brave. Not for doing this job, but for posting that photo on the PUBLIC INTERNET. Kudos, I salute you.

  2. I am more in love with you now than ever before.

  3. BTW, thanks for cropping my gross face out of that photo. True friend.


Your comments are why I get out of bed in the morning. Just kidding. But I do like them.