I sit on my terrace, minding my own business and suddenly I hear ‘Su Sadai Sara, sok sbai tday?’ (Hello Sara, How are you?) and I turn to see my landlady’s grinning head appear through the bars of the gate. Her body follows as she opens the gate and wanders in, floating almost ghostlike towards my front door where she gestures towards the inside and I nod my ascent.
It’s 1st December and therefore meter reading time.
Inside, she fumbles around for the ineffective light before squinting fiercely as she tries and fails to make out the numbers on the meter in the half light.
I grab my torch and illuminate the situation and together we slowly read out the numbers, first in Khmer an then in English.
Next it’s time to write them on the meter card but not before we’ve pointed to said card to gain permission to remove it.
We head outside for the next part of the ritual (and here’s where the fun begins)
Lovely landlady writes down the new reading whilst I calculate in my head the units used this month.
Whilst she tries and fails to make the calculation on paper I replicate it on the calculator on my phone and show her the result. She nods, then takes away my phone and redoes the calculation (not that she doesn’t trust me or anything eh!?!?!)
Next we have to calculate the cost which involves multiplacation of unit costs and then division to convert to dollars. I do this while she watches on, me careful to show her clearly the calculation I’m doing at each stage, her nodding her ascent and writing down the results of the stages.
We reach a conclusion – $26 dollars (pretty much the same figure it is every month) which landlady writes down before gazing at her notepad for a few minutes and then reaching for the calculator once more.
God knows what’s going through her head but whatever it is means that we have to go through the whole calculation once more, this time with her punching in the numbers, me nodding ascent and the results coming out just as they did the first time (and when I did the whole calculation in my head during the initial process but that’s another matter).
Finally satisfied that the result is correct, we then have to add on the water cost. Now this is simple – a flat $5 rate for the month, and so I just blurt out ‘sam seup mouy (31) dollar total’ and head off to get my purse. But oh no, first we must consult the Apple oracle and lovely landlady proceeds to tap in 26 + 5 and then marvels at the result.
I pay up, she asks me about my ‘good sleeping’ and if I am ‘sok sbai’ before floating serenly off towards and then down the stairs grinning as she goes.
And it’s only 31 days before we do it all again woohoo!