A few years ago I went on a fly-fishing trip with a group of work colleagues. I was working on a project in New Zealand, and we were going to be staying in an old company-owned holiday "bach" just outside of Taupo. You could book these properties for a weekend and pay a small fee. A basic type of unit - furnished with several beds, kitchen, TV, tables, chairs and couple sofas - nothing too fancy.
We unpacked our gear, loaded up the fridge and headed back outside for fly-fishing lessons. My first ever lesson - and apparently you need to learn how to do it while on dry land (without a hook) just to get used to the back-and-forth action before you try it standing hip-deep in a river. Perhaps to make sure you didn't fall over while casting - or hook anyone around you.
After about an hour of practicing casting, it was getting dark and our arms were getting tired, so we headed back in to get dinner ready and settle in for the evening. One of the guys was frying up dinner while the rest of us chatted and watched the little black-and-white TV. I was just walking back into the living room with a fresh beer when the lights went out.
"Who turned off the lights?" I asked.
"There's some coins on top of the fridge," one of the locals called out from the sofa.
"Coins on top of the fridge. Put some in the slot."
He sighed and got up. "In the meter."
He walked over to the fridge and picked up three coins. He popped them into a box on the wall, one by one. The lights suddenly came back on. "That should do for an hour. We pay for power when we use the bach - it's one reason it is so cheap to stay here."
I studied the pile of coins on top of the fridge. It was perhaps my first experience of "user pays" - in this case, quite literally with a pocket full of change.
I was experiencing a sudden and strange shift in expectation - electricity is just supposed to be "on", right?
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