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Runway Lights

August 27, 2023

We just got new living room loveseats. We went with two dual recliners. Electric. Naturally, all things electric these days need an indicator light to announce power is flowing. Using power to report power is being used.

My meter has picked up the pace. My electric bill is soaring.

It started small. The master bathroom ground fault interrupter, a protective type of electric outlet for outdoor power, bathrooms, and kitchens, has a night light softly illuminating the master bedroom. There is more. The stove clock is electric blue. The microwave clock is soft white. The freezer light is green. At some point came a blue light on a doorbell extender that makes sure we can hear the upstairs doorbell downstairs. (We don’t have a downstairs doorbell.) The digital clock by the television is green. There is a network switch under the TV in the living room.

Network switches are less intelligent routers, kind of like a network extension cord with multiple outlets. Switches and routers have flashing green and yellow lights. The DVD player and smart television plug into the switch to use apps like Netflix, Prime, Hulu, etc. Each device has a light. And “light chatter” on the switch as they maintain a conversation with the router (The router has 7 or 8 green or blue lights of its own). The router talks to the network provider. More chattering lights. Endless conversation.

“Are you there?”
“Yes, I’m here. My address is F8-62-17-48-BA-4C-2D-PQ”.
“So you are still IV4?”
“Yes, but I also do IV6”
“Are you still there?”
yada yada yada.

This kind of conversation goes on constantly, all day and all night. And each network device plugged into the switch has the same conversation. Chattering lights.

So my first trip of the day is quite a light show of various color solid and flashing lights. When I do the boxer walk in the morning on the way to the day’s first bio break, the world seems to light up at my feet… every several feet as my wife’s new motion-detection light system turns on each few steps of the runway. I’m starting to feel a little like a model. If I close my eyes, I can almost imagine flash of cameras recording the latest in nightwear suitable for a man of a certain age and body style, fashion plate, announcing the fall, winter, spring, and summer wear for the day’s first few steps.

Step. Step. Spin. Step. Turn. Smile. Wave. Turn. Wave. Smile. Step.

Of course, if I close my eyes I stub my toe on something so the first reading of the day must wait for my eyes to recover from the light show. And the electric meter whirls.

It used to be that we were more conscious of energy waste. Richard Nixon was the first to take on daylight savings time back in 1974. He had visions of saving upwards of 150,000 barrels of oil a day. Idea whose time had come and Americans were ready to embrace it. It went soon afterward. (Then came again last year.) We were insulating our homes and turning thermostats down and lights off and taking shorter baths and showers and buying smaller cars. Driving less. Slower. I remember putting all kinds of doodads on my Pontiac Firebird to improve gas mileage. Tachometers to help me keep RPM in the sweet spot by accelerating slowly. Etc. Radial tires and strict attention to inflation. Etc. I was helping keep JCWhitney in business.

Somewhere along the line, consciousness of waste and energy went largely out the window as the country rekindled a taste for BIG. Bigger trucks. Hummers. Love Bill Clinton or hate him, the economy chugged and his administration ended with a budget surplus. Do you remember the last time that happened? I don’t. It was certainly not in my lifetime, except for the Clinton administration. (Late note. Eisenhower left a surplus also.) And we got drunk on excess.

We rediscovered our love for BIG. The rest of the world became resigned to high-dollar gas while we were insulated from actual costs. The lights were being turned on again. Turning them off lost importance. A generation who did not know, through the pocketbook, the times of recession and fuel shortage and gas lines, etc. lost any sense of austerity. My adults, to this point, have only history through which to experience recession. For them, it is a textbook experience. Austerity was not in their recent memory. As foreign as the depression was to my generation. Ancient history.

The next administration burned through the surplus of the Clinton years and nearly drove us off a financial cliff. It was oil men running the show. Heady times fueled excess, especially in the mortgage/housing industry. The ‘Great Recession’ of 2008. This was a dark, dangerous time for our economy. It was not dark because people turned lights off. It was dark because of the effect on the country and what COULD HAVE happened had the new administration not taken radical steps. Companies went out of business. People lost homes. Times got hard for MANY people. Hard lessons. Some lessons are never forgotten.

My grandparents learned lessons from the depression that they never forgot. It instilled a frugality in them that lasted their lifetime; And affected everything they did; Every financial decision they made. The recession in the 1970s did something similar to me. I turn lights off when I leave a room. I keep the thermostat higher in the summer and lower in the winter. It affects the way I drive and dress. I keep blankets on the back of my living room couch and chair. I cut my own hair. It has affected the way we spend money and use credit. And I cringe when I take my first walk down the hall, bedroom to bathroom, in the wee hours squinting in the light of power-sucking appliances that insist on dappling that nighttime expanse with multi-color digital and motion-detection twinklers lining and outlining the royal runway.


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