Methane Wars: A Fable — Chapter Eight

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Methane Collector

FemCad had a subsidiary: the Methane Collection Service. If FemCad was like the IRS, then the Methane Collection Service was like the postal service except in reverse: a civil service union charged with collecting methane and other gases. But everyone still called them FemCad. They were supposed to be the softer side of FemCad. Customer service oriented, but I don’t think it worked out that way. They ended up being the reviled face of a hated bureaucracy. I used my connections to get a transfer to the Methane Collection Service. If I could not find the source, I could witness the impacts firsthand.

A day in the life went something like this:

  • 811 Dunsing Street. Should be three canisters here. Janice probably forgot again. People forget. Kind of like forgetting recycling. But unlike recycling, forgetting your methane canisters is not allowed.

So I knock. Because some people forget and some people “forget.”

“Hi Janice. Forget something today?”

“Oh my, just left it in the kitchen. Be right back.”

“No problem. Just trying to stay on schedule.”

“Here you go, three canisters.”

Some collectors are not so generous. If you forget, they will claim they tried to knock. Or maybe they are just lazy. Then they just write you up with a warning. Happens a lot because people work and aren’t always home. Three strikes and you were out. Fined, or worse.

Of course, you could register for an exemption if you were out of town or sick, but those were scrutinized closely. Especially if you claimed an illness exemption. Better off registering a claim for a technical malfunction. The penalties were smaller and there were no nasty medical exams to deal with.

  • 815 Dunsing Street. Jones had missed his quota a few too many times. He’d never missed a collection but his volumes were too low. He’d been fined. That doesn’t seem to help. He’s claimed technical issues and medical issues, had his quota reassessed. FemCad said his quota was right on. They don’t exactly provide a rigorous appeals process.

Jones was the recipient of one of the new monitoring units. Kind of like the ankle bracelets used for house arrest. He couldn’t take his collection unit off without an alarm going off. The average person was allowed to take their unit off a few hours a day. Not Jones. He had to wait until I came by and exchanged the canister.

“Good Morning, Jones. How are you?”
“Good as can be expected with a cold poker up my ass.”

“Fair enough. Can you hold you shirt up there? Let’s get this new can in here. Oops. Sorry about that. The cans are a little cold this morning.”

“How much longer do I have to wear this thing? Could you take it off today? I got a date. Be nice not to have to wear it on a first date.”

“Can’t take it off. Need the right code. And I don’t know how long you have to wear the monitor. I think that information should be in the judgment papers.”

“Can’t you tell?”

“No, my hand held just tells me details for today’s route. When your term expires I will be instructed on removing your monitor. OK, See you next week.”

Jones wasn’t always this pleasant. The first couple pickups were rough. He was very angry and took it out on me. I almost had to call the real FemCad goons. Nothing really I could do for him. I didn’t know the details of his case. I could help him get around the rules but that wasn’t worth it. The punishment for aiding and abetting was pretty serious. I wasn’t ready to do that.

I’ve had a lot of people yell at me. No one likes to get warnings. I’ve never been physically assaulted but other collectors have. Some have ended up in the hospital. They didn’t issue us guns after that but we could carry mace or a Taser if we like. I carried a Taser. I’ve never used it.

You could actually report someone for verbally assaulting you as well. Just like getting a warning. No one ever reported verbal abuse. You’d have to do it all the time. Probably just make the abuse that much worse. Probably provoke a physical assault.

  • 906 Dunsing. An exemption. I wish they would tell you what the exemption was for. Not that it matters to do my job. I suppose knowing might color the collector’s view of a person. That would not help customer service.

There’s about a five percent exemption rate if you didn’t include children and the elderly. I don’t know if that was a lot. I mean, what do you measure it against? I know it wasn’t easy to get an exemption. Most people who had any legitimate reason for an exemption usually end up with a reduced quota instead of an exemption. FemCad didn’t like anyone getting away not wearing a CU.

I don’t know what the exemptions were for each person, but I could see as well as the next. And I hate to say it but there were certainly bribes occurring. Obviously FemCad claimed they didn’t discriminate but the pattern was hard to deny. Wealth had its trappings and you could see them. And where there were trappings there were exemptions.

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About joegergen

To evoke a smile. That's all. Author of "Methane Wars: A Fable" and "Lear's Fool" as well as various poems and some these painting things as well.
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