Sunday, June 09, 2013

Lights out

What is it with our kids and lights? Our girls never met a lamp or other light they couldn’t turn on … and leave on, long after they’ve left that particular room, or even the house. Thomas Edison would feel right at home at my house: plenty of lightbulbs in every room, and most of them burning brightly.
When they were little, it was easy enough to flip switches off and keep them off. The kids were too small to reach them in the first place. But now that they’re taller, I find myself trailing after them, like their own personal light turner-offer.
It seems so obvious to me: leave a room, turn the lights off. But these kids seem oblivious to the concept. It’s like they think PG&E stands for Probably Gonna Exit (and leave all the lights on).
A child of the 1970s, I know where my “lights off” campaign comes from. My mom was always chasing after us during that era’s energy crisis.
“You’re wasting electricity,” she’d call out, slapping down switches every chance she got.
Lately, lights have become a bigger issue at home after I got what seemed like a great invitation from PG&E. Apparently, if I’d sign up for their SmartRate program, on most days during summer our electric rates will be lower. Of course there’s a catch. On up to 14 days, from 2 to 7 p.m., our electric rates will be higher.
My eyes skipped right over the “higher” bit and went right to the “lower” part. Sign me up.
Now I just had to inform the other Huffman residents of our new arrangement. I broke it to them over dinner one night.
We’re going to save money on our PG&E bill this summer, I said brightly, like they even knew what a PG&E bill was. It’ll be easy, I told them. No problem. On a few afternoons, we’ll just take a little vacation from the TV and computers, I said. As a test run, a few days later, I told the girls that we were having a SmartRate afternoon. No TV, computer or lights after school, I warned them.
Six suspicious eyeballs looked back at me. Don’t worry, I told them. After 7 p.m. you can turn it all back on. I wasn’t sure how much buy-in I’d get, so just to be sure I took all the TV remotes, computer keyboards and mice with me to work that day.
That afternoon I reminded them about our plan.
But I’m at 17 percent, complained one daughter, holding out her iPhone and showing me her declining battery status.
Try not to do much texting for the next few hours, I told her.
She looked at me woefully.
You can do it, I told her.
Sure enough, the world did not end during our “brownout.” At 7 p.m., I unpacked the keyboards and remotes and passed them out to eager hands. Summer has only begun, but I’m sure they’ve seen the light.

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