by June Mathews
Ever since the key dangling from Benjamin Franklin’s kite string was struck by lightning, and the march toward illuminating America began, there’s been one – and usually, only one – person in every household freakishly obsessed with keeping the electric bill down. I am that person in mine.
I habitually cut off lights when leaving a room. I unplug small appliances. The dishwasher is run only when full. And when I forget to turn off my curling iron before leaving the house, I fret for days on end that next month’s power bill will be out of sight.
Nothing drives me crazier than to come home after dark and see every window across the front of the house spilling light onto the front yard. Seriously, if not for the trees, we could host a nighttime tennis match out there.
And it makes me even crazier to know that when I step inside, I’ll find every light in the basement on, an unwatched TV or two blaring upstairs and the power indicator on the PC tower blinking away, even though the chair at the computer desk sits stone-cold empty.
I also know that unless the Chihuahuas have developed the ability to turn on lights and tune themselves in to Animal Planet in my absence, only one person could be responsible for all the electrical excess: my husband.
In 33 years of marriage, I’ve never come to terms with Jimmie’s overuse of electricity, and he’s never come to terms with my compulsion to conserve. He gets particularly outdone when I hurry past the bathroom on one of my regular light-extinguishing rounds, flip the switch and leave him sitting on the toilet in the dark.
It’s not like I do it on purpose… Okay, maybe a few times. But he really should do a better job of shutting the door.
In my defense, I was raised to be that way. Mama served as our household electricity nazi during my growing-up years, and despite all the teenage vows I made to never be like her, I have morphed into Mama Jr. in more ways than I can count. Even after giving Jimmie the “lights off when you leave the room” lecture at least a thousand times, I’m still surprised when I hear Mama’s voice coming out of my mouth.
But I could be imitating Elmer Fudd speaking Chinese for all Jimmie cares. He’s no more a conserver of electricity than I’m a conspicuous consumer, and we both know it. So for all these years, we’ve rocked along, with him turning on every light in the house two or three times a day and me turning them off. And so far, thank goodness, we’ve always managed to pay the electric bill.
But just in case electricity ever becomes unaffordable around here, it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to brush up on my wilderness camping skills and lay in a supply of candles. Or I guess we could always sell the trees in the front yard for firewood to pay the electric bill then put in a house-lighted tennis court and charge admission.
That way, we’d both be happy
. Jimmie would have an excuse to leave all the lights on, and I wouldn’t have to worry about being able to afford it.
Email June Mathews at email@example.com.