So here’s the incredibly Italianesque story of our gas problem:
When we first got our apartment in 2007, we weren’t sure how long we were going to enjoy being Part-Time Italians. Rather than go to the trouble of putting the utilities in our names, our landlord (who for simplicity’s sake will be referred to as “L” from here on) agreed to keep them in his name and bill us.
It didn’t take me long to realize that I adored living in Orvieto even more than I thought I would, and wanted to continue spending lots of time there until:
1) I died, or
2) We ran out of money.
“L”, who is one of the nicest people we know, was happy with this because after all – we did put in a brand new kitchen, and that certainly showed a pretty high degree of commitment. So he asked his accountant to put together our utility obligations. However, this took awhile…..a year and a half, to be exact.
Let’s fast-forward into the Spring of 2009. During one of our meetings where I ask him how much we owe for utilities, L sheepishly passed over a utility bill that was at least 3 times higher than the cost of my first car. Needless to say, as soon as my heart started beating again, I requested time to go over each invoice carefully.
Armed with an Excel spreadsheet, it didn’t take me long to realize that ALL of the highest bills were during the winter months when we were in the US. I suggested to L that perhaps the accountant had given me the invoices for the wrong apartment. It took another couple of months to uncover the solution, which turned out to be even more bizarre. I was actually paying for TWO apartments.
Our building had been part of a 13th Century school. When the religious order who ran the school needed money about 10 years ago, they sold our building, and it was turned into 2 businesses, 7 apartments, and 2 overflow rooms for the near-by hotel. The first tenant in our place had been a woman who traveled a lot, and needed an additional apartment for her “staff”, who was sort of a butler. She didn’t want 2 bills for the utilities, so the management agreed to combine the meters so she’d get only 1 bill.
(An interesting aside is that between her and us, there was a family of 4 who lived there for several years while their house was being restored. I guess they just accepted the fact that they had unusually high utility bills while they were there – probably blaming the teenage boys for wasting all that energy.)
“L” and I agreed to resolve the money issue using still another complicated spread sheet showing the percentage of square footage of the 2 apartments and time spent there, after which in the Fall of 2009, the gas and electric companies came in and added separate meters for our apartment. The electric bills thereafter were perfect.
At first I excused the strange gas bills I was still getting because of how ENI, the gas company, works. First, they only read the meter once a year. The rest of the year, they estimate the cost based on the previous year’s usage – which in my case was pretty high because it was for 2 apartments. Then, when they finally get around to reading it again, they “adjust” – either giving you a credit if they overestimated or charging if they were under. So while I was paying high costs, I figured that would mean a HUGE credit when the reader finally got around to me. It shouldn’t come as a surprise when I tell you there was no credit.
It took the kind of detective work usually found only on “Hawaii 5-0”, but since I grew up with Nancy Drew books, I was eventually able to solve the mystery. My bill was for the meter that applied to the 2 overflow hotel rooms – not our apartment. The gas company made me dig slightly further than seemed necessary since they do not include my meter number on my bill, but if you keep digging long enough, it’s possible to eventually end up with the correct information.
Where does that leave us? Well – L and I are waiting to gather a year’s worth of good bills so we can compare and see the various credits and charges, which will then allow us to figure out how much he owes me for paying the hotel’s gas bill. In other words, it’s now 4 years since this started, and we still don’t quite have the finish line in sight.
Very seldom during my life in the US have I had to use the word “irremediable”, meaning “impossible to remedy”. In Italian it’s spelled “irrimediabile” and it’s used much more frequently. If you’re going to advance to a Category 3 or 4 Dreamer, I highly suggest you keep the word handy. The chances are very good that at some point, you’re sure to need it.