“The Ineffable Majesty of Nature”

From Le Vieux Lapin, this is probably not an overall-CIDU: notice the classic joke structure, with setup in panel 3 (along with 5) and the payoff in the final one. But along the way there are several bits which can stand in need of explication, for different readers.

For instance, I have never run into pay-as-you-go gas meters in real life (for tenants to get heat or hot water), but sort of know about them from vintage British movies and some novels. (Though it says a quarter and not a shilling so this may be American.) Maybe somebody understands them better — is electricity paid for this way anywhere? And the Patreon structure of “levels” — is this known widely outside of Patreon users? And does the girl’s litany of questions come from anywhere else in this wording?


  1. Putting “a quarter in the meter every hour” sounds perfectly understandable to anyone who has ever used a standard parking meter. I’ve also run into “pay as you go” meters at campsites and swimming pools (for hot water in the showers), and Mr. Bean had a coin operated electric meter in his apartment (shown in at least two episodes).

  2. Yeah, I thought parking meter right away. Not sure what in the comic suggests an electricity meter.

  3. Not sure what in the comic suggests an electricity meter.

    The fact that the light goes off when your time runs out. Nothing like that happens with a parking meter.

  4. In the mid-90’s, I lived in a flat in Eastbourne, UK which had heaters that ran on 50p coins. Vintage? It doesn’t seem that long ago to me, but I guess it’s been nearly 30 years, so yea, maybe vintage. Wow. I feel old.

  5. Heh. Stan, I wonder if we had the same flat? We were in Eastbourne (or possibly Brighton – someplace with a shingle beach) in the mid-70s, with a coin-op electricity meter. And a fridge that wouldn’t hold more than a quart of milk. I remember doing a lot of running around that summer – out to the meter, down the street to the store…

    I suspect the girl’s litany is (one of the variations on) “kids say why over and over”.

  6. I don’t think the strip is dependent on the existence of pay-as-you-go gas meters; it just needs the reader to be familiar with some kind of pay-as-you-go meters, and we are all used to parking meters. However, it is my understanding that pay-as-you-go gas meters were a thing in cheap apartments in the United States prior to World War II.

  7. As a fairly heavy YouTube viewer these days, I’m familiar with Patreon and have looked at the accounts for a few creators over the years. For those not familiar with it, it’s a service that allows you to become a “patron” by pledging a monthly amount. The levels and amounts are set by the creator. Usually there are various perks at the levels, possibly exclusive content or early viewing of videos.

  8. My guess is that readers of webcomics are reasonably familiar with at least the concept of Patreon. Once you understand that it is a service that allows patronage of content providers, with associated benefits to the patrons, the idea of patronage at different levels is pretty intuitive. It should be obvious that the pill bug level is a very low level.

  9. Girl’s flower seems to be counting down the time left on the sunshine meter.

    I think that coin-metered utilities have had their day in the US, and that day seems to have been a long time ago. However, they’re alive and well in the UK and in some EU nations.

    From what I can tell, you find them mostly in low-rent apartments. That way landlords won’t get dinged for their tenants’ unpaid bills. For the tenants, though, it’s not so great. Besides the inconvenience, coin-metered energy is always more expensive per unit. As is often the case, it costs more to be poor.

    Some UK/EU utilities provide coin service. I’ve also seen coin-op electric meters offered for private sale. So I guess that a landlord could squeeze more profit from his tenants that way, even though in many places reselling electricity is illegal.

  10. FYI, Cat & Girl does have its own Patreon, under its creator’s name, Dorothy. The tiers do not have fancy names, but are called the $1 tier and the $3 tier.

  11. Yes. We vacationed in Dublin, Ireland, a couple of years ago, and rented a very nice apartment with a credit-card-operated electricity meter.

  12. I only knew about Patreon through the YouTube videos I started watching last year. I’m a cheapskate so I haven’t bothered checking out that end of things.

  13. Le Vieux Lapin – I also know about the coin operated meters in the UK from various books I read long ago. In the US, or at least around here on Long Island, NY – the landlord cannot get stuck for unpaid utilities by the tenant. The tenant has to open an account and pay for them directly to the utility.

    When we lived in an apartment we had our account for our electric/gas for stove and of course our own telephone account. We were responsible for them and the landlord had nothing to do with them. If we didn’t pay the electricity no lights or heat, no gas – no cooking, didn’t pay telephone – no way to call and complain about the no gas or electricity.

  14. @MerylA: In the very apartment on Long Island that I’m typing in, the utilities are in my landlords’ name, and in principle they could be stuck with all bills if I vanished. I pay the electric bill myself, but I pay my landlords who have paid PSEG. (Internet service is part of my rent, as is water.)

  15. Carl Fink –

    When we lived in an apartmentwe were billed directly by LILCO for electricity and I think they also billed for gas at that time, if not we had our account with the gas company also (for our stove) and paid them directly also. (Hmm, we only had a 286 computer back then so I am guessing that that my Quickbooks does not go back far enough to see.) Same was true for both of my sisters and Robert’s sister and their husbands.

    We were in all “garden apartment” complexes which might be the difference depending on what kind of apartment you are in.

  16. I live in Accra (Ghana) and most houses have pre-paid electricity. You have to top up your card from a vendor every so often. Been that way for the past… 15 years or so? So I can totally relate tp the lights going out like that.

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