By Dick Wolfsie
I’m a competitive person. For example, I obsess about how my lawn looks in comparison to others on my block. I noticed some bare spots recently, so I addressed the issue with a trip to a local nursery. Then at the Memorial Day get-together last week, people were discussing Joe’s yard, which was suffering from the same problem. I thought, there, but for the grace of sod, go I. (That was a long way to travel for a joke, wasn’t it?)
Now I have a new challenge to deal with. It began with a letter from Indianapolis Power and Light — a single page that has reawakened my latent paranoid tendencies.
The envelope seemed innocent enough. It looked like my monthly electric bill. But the contents were far more ominous. The page was filled with charts and graphs and the info was labeled:
LAST THREE MONTHS NEIGHBOR COMPARISON
My heart jumped and my pulse raced as I scanned the enclosed printout, only to learn that I was consuming more energy than those identified by IPL as “Your Most Efficient Neighbors.” I felt so exposed that I pulled the curtains down and then turned off the 11 lights, three TVs and two computers I had left on the night before. By the way, if they want me to save so much energy, they should email me the information so I don’t have to walk to my mailbox.
To really rub it in, IPL informed me that I used 40 percent more electricity than my most efficient neighbor. Who was this person? Which house did he live in? It didn’t say. Was he hiding in the shadows? It’s hard to find a shadow when you never have any lights on.
I asked my neighbor Mort if he received the same kind of letter. Mort is a nice guy, but he always leaves his garage door open, which I think detracts from the ambiance of the neighborhood. I thought he was just forgetful, but apparently this is part of his grand plan to be recognized by IPL as a “conservation superstar.”
“Every kilowatt counts,” Mort told me while we were standing in his driveway. “If I never close that overhead door, I can save $1.49 a year.” Then he asked what I was doing to conserve resources in my home. I was tired of the conversation so I told him I only shower once a month. Mort walked back into the garage, and down came the door.
The idea that someone is monitoring what goes on in and around my home is creepy. Whenever I look outside, strange people are reading my meters, putting colored lines on my neighbors’ lawns, installing invisible fences, looking through tiny telescopes mounted on tripods, and stuffing propaganda in my mailbox. Sure, call them coupons if you want, but see those two little dots in the word Meijer? That must be a secret code for something.
Despite this, I really am going to try to do my part in this conservation initiative. Beginning now, I am going to charge my iPad in the car, disconnect my clock radio when I am not home, and make toast only when absolutely necessary. The competition is rigorous to be Number One in the IPL program, but I don’t plan on expending much energy.