He likes the outdoors

At Work

Meter reader does lots of walking, lots of driving, but every day travels a different route


September 13, 2006|By Nancy Jones-Bonbrest | Nancy Jones-Bonbrest,Special to the Sun

Greg Zacharko

Meter reader

Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.


Salary --$19.57/hour

Age --45

Years on the job --23

How he got started --Zacharko worked as a records clerk in the accounting department at BGE for about six months. Then he saw an in-house job listing for a meter reader. "I thought it would be something I would like to do. I've always been one who likes the outdoors."

Typical day --Zacharko gets to work by 6 a.m. and picks up his assignment for the day, which includes a printout of the route he will be working. He works one route a day and covers 21 different routes a month in Baltimore and Harford counties. The number of meters read depends on the type of housing, says Zacharko, but he averages about 400 to 500 meters a day. He has both driving and walking routes. When driving, he spends most of his day getting in and out of his company pickup truck to read meters. When walking, he said, he averages about 10 miles a day on foot. The route must be finished by the end of the day, which usually is about 2 p.m.

Reading meters --There are many different types of meters, says Zacharko, including inside and outside meters, digital meters and those that must be reset after reading or plugged into in order to read. If he makes a mistake, it usually is caught automatically by his handheld computer which beeps and requires him to key in another reading. If a mistake is not caught on the spot, which is rare, the customer will likely receive a bill based on an estimate.

The good --"Being your own boss."

The bad --"Physically it's a hard job. A lot of people see you walking to the meter, but they don't realize you're doing that 400 times a day or getting out of the car 300 times a day. And if it is 100 degrees or five below, you're still doing it."

The weather --Rain is the worst. He has a rain suit, which includes pants, jacket and shoe covers, that he wears to stay dry. "If it rains all day, after a couple hours it doesn't matter what you have on, you're soaked all the way through."

Bites, bee stings and spider webs --He averages about four stings a summer. "Last year I got stung on the eyelid and the temple at the same time," he said. He has gotten pretty good at reading when it's safe to enter a yard with a dog; his last bite was about 12 years ago. In the spring, walking into spider webs is the hazard.

Customers --"There's a lot of people I consider my friends out there. And a lot of older people who wait to see me every month." He said one customer always offers him cookies or cake.

Philosophy on the job --"Safety is No. 1. You have to have your wits about you."

Nancy Jones-Bonbrest

Special to The Sun

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