I will confess to being a collage enthusiast.
I knocked on the door to a house, and three kids under the age of 10 answered it. As I went around the side of the house to find the meter, the neighbors called me over because the parents had been gone so long that the kids were peeing out of the windows. They'd already called the cops, so I didn't have to. I shut the power off anyway -- because shitty or not, that's my job -- and continued on my route. Two days later, one of my co-workers had to go back to that house to investigate if they were stealing power. This time, Child Protective Services was there taking the kids away. To be clear, CPS didn't show up because the kids were peeing out of windows, but because we'd shut off their power. It sort of makes sense: kids are cool with pissing wherever -- toilet, windows, little brother's Big Wheel, it's all the same to them -- but once the heat goes off, there's an actual danger. And not just from the inevitable sharp peecicles everywhere.
"Bye, kids. If any wild animals come by, just break one off and stab it."
There's a Lot We Can Tell About You Just From Your Yard and Electric Bill
If you've ever watched Weeds or like, just been a person who grows a ton of weed, you probably have a good idea of how much electricity growing pot requires. We have a machine that we hook up to the power lines that can read the raw usage going into a house. Police can use that and past records to see when a customer went from using 200kW to 1,500kW a month -- that kind of jump doesn't just come from binge-watching all of Friends the week that Netflix got it.
"OK, this is either a grow-op or one hell of a World of Warcraft raid."
I can also usually tell if you're going through a divorce or have lost a job. If you've had a perfect payment history, and then three months ago you just stopped paying, you lost your job. If you have an inconsistent payment history where you'll get a few months behind, then catch up, then fall behind again, you're probably going through a divorce.
Then there's your yard: when I'm walking through discarded needles and helium tanks, my first thought isn't that you're a diabetic clown. John Law is getting a phone call. We even receive training from the police department on how to manufacture meth, so we can recognize evidence of it being made (as opposed to just like, using that information to build the greatest electric company-based drug empire the world has ever seen). Feel free to steal that idea, Vince Gilligan.
Thinkstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images
May I suggest either Power Break or Meter Heads? No?
There are also those little signs people put in the yard for their son or daughter's high school sports team. For some reason, parents think it's totally fine to give potential predators the first name, team, player number, and home address of a child. That's for anybody walking by to see, not just the power guy. But combined with your electricity usage info -- with how much or how little you use, we can generally tell how many people are at home and on what days; when everything goes off, that's when you usually go to sleep -- that could either make for a pretty effective predator, or maybe like an evil version of Santa Claus.
For more insider perspectives, check out 5 Bizarre Things Only Mailmen Know About Your Neighborhood and 5 Reasons Packages Get Destroyed (Learned Working at UPS).
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