Following the trail of Interstate Power people

Published 8:43 am Monday, January 19, 2009

As major happenings occur with health, healing and job, I instead delight to share today a trivial unfolding. I helped a friend out with a family business project for three days. I took on the task of sorting through pure stuff.

Leftovers from a used-a-bit shop of a woman who died leaving piles and miles of things. I pulled out a few useless treasures to tabulate their worth, levels and layers later. I focused on a musty 1982 Interstate Power Christmas Cookbook, since the holiday was nearby.

After New Year’s Day, I stopped by the IPS building in downtown hometown and discovered a young employee leaving the building just as I arrived. I showed her my tattered cookbook prize and was surprised at her excited response, which gave me great reason to give it to her immediately. We discussed the idea of her making copies for her co-workers and inviting each to try a recipe and bring their goodies to the lunchroom to share.

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She told me that she’d worked at the energy company around a year. She likes her job and the exercise it brings of walking more than eight miles a day as a meter reader. Then she shared that she may be out of a job in a year or so, as the company will upgrade their technology and use electronic readers from moving vehicles to read meters.

I found talking to her about specifics of her job all new information to me, plus we had a fun five minutes, connected only by exquisite timing and an outdated cookbook that is older than she. When I said good-bye, she agreed to contact me with the outcome of our moment’s connection.

The very next afternoon a first-time event occurred at our front door. Two towering orange-vested men rang our doorbell and asked to change our gas meter. I questioned their representation and they flashed their Alliant Energy badges, which happened to match the lettering on the large, white truck across the street.

I then recalled this outfit used to be IPS Co., the place I hadn’t visited in a decade, or more, until the day before. I ran the young meter reader lady’s name by them and asked if they were helping to put her out of a job today. They immediately recognized her name and strongly denied any such thing. Their job was to update the gas meters every 10th year, and our house met the decade date.

With such apparent parallel patterning projected out there, at least in my universe, I enthusiastically invited them into my living room and directly guided them down to the bowels of our basement.

After they did their 10 minutes of chores, one of them inquired about our old gas stove connection and exclaimed it was dangerous and illegal.

I made a snap decision to have them cap it off, after we discussed the Y2K scare as reason for hanging onto an old gas burner stove. We both made mention of the more-than-a-decade-ago great ice storm, and I found it curious that although we were smart enough to use our fireplace, no one in our family considered turning on our not-once-used stove in the basement, when all the electricity was out for a few days.

With the gas business completed, the men clomped out in their boots through the kitchen side door. I was left alone with a gas tale to tell or read at my next writer’s group, which will save me a quarter to be paid only for lack of a story. It also will bring a smile when memories emerge of a story of similar stuff that intersects and connects by simply following the trail.

That was jesterday, I mean yesterday. Today, while I was out walking at the mall, I spent some time talking to a very tall man with a stride similar to mine. I was not totally surprised when at the end of our trek, he told me he used to work for Interstate Power Company.

Sara Aeikens is a resident of Albert Lea.