By Gary Dickson, Features Editor
SIOUX CITY, IA – Nationally-known electric company mascot, Reddy Kilowatt wants you to know he’s fallen on hard times.
Kilowatt’s personal financial misfortune actually started back in the summer of 2017, shortly after Donald Trump was sworn into office as President of the United States. His work hours have been gradually reduced each year due to what he calls the federal government’s “multi-million-dollar tax gift to corporate America.” He said the president’s tax cuts only benefited the rich and not the middle-income worker drones like himself.
And now, Kilowatt says, the coronavirus is complicating his once bright life.
“There’s lots of folks out there like me,” he said. “The executives at the top get richer while we get our hours and wages cut. I’ve noticed more flickers and buzzes coming from my legs and arms lately, too. I don’t have enough scratch to get much of a recharge! Know what I mean?”
Kilowatt said he got an email the other day from his cousin, Willie Wiredhand from Madison, SD. Apparently Wiredhand is going through the same travails as Kilowatt. His hours have been reduced, and so has his pay.
“Ol’ Cousin Willie thought he would be safe from these spores because he lives in a rural county. But nope. He’s getting a lot of the same symptoms I have – just not as bad, yet,” the electric icon stated.
How bad has it gotten for Reddy Kilowatt?
“MidAmerican Energy laid me off at the end of last month,” Kilowatt said. “They tried to hang me up in an old power plant. An old power plant! Who goes into an old power plant? They just thought I was old and in the way — the bastards! So, I had to live on the streets, under the I-29 bridge, stealing half a charge from Walgreens when I could. But they banned me! So, then I started holding up little kids with a knife I had and taking their lunch money.”
Kilowatt said that illegal source of income disappeared once Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds ordered the schools closed.
That’s when things really got bad.
Kilowatt began developing some what he thought were strange symptoms. The first was losing his sense of smell and taste.
“That was about 10 days ago,” the mascot said in a hoarse voice. “I got this cough and it was kinda dry and staticky. Didn’t think it was a big deal at first. Then I started feeling achy and got the sweats. You know getting the sweats isn’t a good deal for someone like me to get. I may be low charged, but I’m still charged. It’s kind of embarrassing when I start to sizzle and pop in public. I even set fire to a blanket I was using to warm up with.”
So, the beloved cartoon mascot took himself to the emergency room of Sioux City’s downtown hospital. He said it was close enough to walk to as no one would give him a ride to the other one on the north side of town. Kilowatt said a medical assistant took his temperature and asked about his symptoms. The woman looked somewhat alarmed he said, perhaps because she was talking to a cartoon figure. Nonetheless, she took him to a room away from the regular ER rooms, told him to lie down on the table and wait for the doctor. He laid down and coughed, shivered and sweated in the ER coronavirus exam room for about two hours until a doctor came in.
“He looked me over, read the screener’s notes, and took my temperature again,” Kilowatt said. “He listened to my lungs and asked me if it was getting more difficult to breath. I told him that it wasn’t, that my breathing ability had been about the same all week. It was just the damned cough. And the fever. That sizzling, popping fever.
“The sawbones then looked at his notebook computer, then at me, then at his computer, then at me. Finally, he shook his head.”
“I’m not sure if you have COVID-19 . . . at least not sure enough to make me want to test you for it,” the doc said. “I thought ‘WTF?’ but he told me they didn’t have enough tests there for everybody with symptoms. He wrote me prescription for some kind of cough medicine and gave me a coupon so I could get it for two dollars. Then he told me to take Tylenol for the pain and drink lots of water. I told him what water did to my circuits and he just shrugged his shoulders and said, “We don’t get many . . . well, we don’t get any electrified figures around here, so let’s just try this, okay?”
Kilowatt said he got the prescription filled and has been taking it as prescribed. We’d been sitting on a bench just inside the bus depot. I looked outside and saw it was starting to rain. The city buses had quit running a couple of hours before. So, I asked Kilowatt if he needed a lift anywhere. He said he could use a ride over to a bar in South Sioux City. I was going to say something about him drinking alcohol and taking cough medicine, but decided not to.
We drove silently over the blue-lighted Veterans Memorial Bridge that crosses the Missouri between Sioux City and South Sioux. He directed me to a side street to a little bar that also had a sign that said “Take Out Loose Meats”. I guess this meant they passed the qualification of being an “essential business” these days.
Just before Kilowatt slid out of my front seat, he turned to me and thanked me. Then he hit me up for some money. I gave him ten dollars – all I had. I watched as the slumped red lightning bolted figure made his way to the front door of the tavern. Just before he got there, the proud mascot forced himself to stand straight up, squared his little shoulders and opened the door.
“Hey Reddy! Good to see you Dude.” Came a chorus of voices from inside.
I think I noticed him light up just a little.