Monday, July 31, 2006

What Happened to the Day?

Sometimes I wonder where the day goes. It was just here this morning. I woke up and saw it, bright and full of possibilities. There were lawns to mow, toys to put away, dishes to do, more toys to put away (still), there’s that dust on the blinds that’s been bothering me for a couple of weeks, and I’m pretty disappointed that there are weeds in my planters… and don’t get me started about what the heat wave did to my poor fern that I’ve loved and cared for these past six years. Laying in bed this morning, I had ambition, drive, motivation.

So what happened? Why is it just past midnight and I accomplished only a few things on my mental list of responsibilities for today?

I get caught in so many distractions that eat away the hours. Read the news sites, catch up on why Lohan got chewed out by the movie studio execs, find out that if you’re a celebrity like Mel Gibson, you can get away with pretty much anything, do some actual, honest-to-God work for a change, watch “Good Eats,” a cooking show I TiVo’d last night (if only I cooked), brush the dog, be allowed to sleep in to nearly 10am (I did the 4am feeding when Kara stuck the deal: “I’ll let you sleep in as late as you want if you get up and feed him” Deal!). However, “as late as I wanted to” translates into 10am when Natalie decided enough was enough, old man, rise and shine or I’m going to pile-drive my knees into your flabby unguarded stomach… which she did anyway. Some mornings, I rue that I didn’t put on a cup the night before, as she isn’t the most accurate semi-pro wrestler on the toddler circuit. The joke was on her however, as she proceeded to fling herself off of the bed with a crashing thump. “I’m okay,” she announced, rubbing her head. There goes the third grade, so I rolled over, back asleep. I think Matthew made an appearance, but I was having one of those “I’m graduating from high school today and I can’t figure out why there’s no pumpkins to wear” dreams that I needed to finish, and I don’t recall if he was actually in bed with me at some point or if he was giving the commencement speech.

I cleaned my office desk, which was a satisfying achievement, and probably one of the highlights of the day, as I am a most organized pack rat. I’ll save everything, but it’d better be filed under its proper heading or life as I know it is not worth living. Plus, the desk was getting a gamey patina that began to resemble the utter room at the milking plant. Kara feeds Matthew in this chair and inadvertent little drops of milk have formed solid craters on the wood that needed to be scoured (for those that are suddenly grossed out, I’m talking about formula, not breast milk… and grow up, it’s natural), along with their co-conspirators, a half-dozen bottle rings in an artsy pattern that make one corner of the desk appear as though I’m hosting the Olympics.

Natalie and I made sure all of the pens and pencils in the cup on my desk still worked… and she wanted to do it twice, so I had her go through the rejects a second time to rescue any that were wrongly outcast. She found one that she deemed useable and I notice now that all of the pens in the cup are scattered around in a way I didn’t leave them, so she must have gone through them a third time later in the day. Then I filed all of the old bills to make way for all of the new ones. It’s the end of the month, which means bill day.

It was mild today, the first day in two weeks I didn’t have to listen to the air conditioner compressor kick on in the attic, a sound similar to a shovel full of dollar bills being flushed down the toilet while a bucket of coins is flung into the street on the hour. According to Southern California Edison the sound of a shovel full of money equates to exactly $485.40… or roughly the sound of a BMW payment.

But what did I get for my 1,963 Kilowatt-hours used for the month of July? Peace and quiet, for one. I didn’t have to hear Kara tell me that it is hot every 15 minutes and that we should turn on the air, though we did go through the timeless ritual of playing ping-pong with the thermostat. It’s a wonderful game I learned from my parents years ago, they were masters at the illusion that it was the same temperature in the house all day, but instead, it was you, and you alone, who was getting hotter.

I called it “the creep.” Every time I walked by the thermostat, which is conveniently located in the hallway so I passed it numerous times during the day, I’d bump the dial up a hair, just slightly, perhaps a quarter of a degree, maybe a half. So, in order to raise the temperature of the house three degrees, from a cool and breezy 78 degrees up to a tepid and clammy 81 or 82 degrees—just warm enough to keep the A/C off but not hot enough to elicit attention—I’d have to tap the dial about a dozen times. There’d always be a baseline to watch for, that fine border that, on one side, the air is on but on the other side, it is off. Ride that border and you can stretch out a lot of “off” time for the A/C.

Cheap, cheap, you say? Yep, but when I get a bill for $485.40, I wonder what I could have done with that money. Had I invested it in a mildly yielding annuity, in 50 years, it would be $62,131.20 (assuming the value doubles every seven years, which it has the last 70 or so). Even while I was doing the bills, Kara threatened to turn on the air, to which I poorly punned that she was conditioned to think she needed the air, a remark she must not have heard… then again, it wasn’t that clever so perhaps she was merely ignoring me. I threatened a murderous rampage if that little switch was flipped to the On position, as the last thing someone doing the bills wants to hear is the A/C turned on, especially since I had just grumbled about the fleecing we got from Old Man Edison.

But, that’s not the worst of it. Get a load of how we’re getting screwed by the electric company, yet another company in a long parade of outstretched hands with the purpose of keeping me from millionaire status. Not only are they enforcing rolling blackouts during heavy peak hours in Southern California and have they suggested you place those control devices on your A/C so they can turn them off at their slightest whim, but they’re charging me more per Kilowatt-hour in the Summer as they did in the Spring. That’s right: It is a sliding scale of payment depending on how much I use. The more I use, the more it costs me per unit.

Here it is: In April, I paid 14.8 cents per Kilowatt-hour. I used 620 that month and my bill was $92.21. May’s charges were $106.28 for 679 Kilowatt-hours equaling 15.6 cents for each unit. In June, I nearly doubled my usage to 1,166 units to pay $232.03, or 19.8 cents each. So I used 42 percent less energy in May as compared to June but I was charged a 22 percent higher rate for each unit in June… just because it is Summer. However, for July, thanks to the heat wave and the perpetual use of the A/C at all hours of the day and blessed night, I used 1,963 Kilowatt-hours and paid $485.40 for them, or 24.7 cents each. Comparing the charges in April with the charges in July, I’m paying 41 percent more per unit of energy because of a change in the calendar.

For comparison’s sake, I dragged out the January bill to see how Old Man Winter stacked up to the Summer months. Surprisingly enough, I used 834 Kilowatt-hours of energy and paid $128.14, or 15.3 cents per unit, 39 percent less than in July. I can’t wait until next month when we get another heat wave.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this. I guess I’m a little bent that I have to pay this bill and perhaps there’s a tinge of I-told-you-so-ism in this that serves me right. I admit, I like to be comfortable, especially when it is 115 degrees outside, and our German Shepard has melted into a Shih-Tzu (which is opposed to her usually being a Shih-Tz-Head), so I caught myself turning on the air more than once or twice in the last few weeks.

What I’d really like to do is get solar paneling on the roof so I can then tell the electric company where they can put their energy, but at the cost of solar paneling, we’d have to live here for 40 years to make it worth the money.

I guess I’d better get back to work to make some more money to keep the Man cool.

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