John Kelly
John Kelly
Columnist

Easy ways to save electricity

Our electricity came back at 4:37 a.m. on Tuesday. We were sleeping on the sofa bed in the study — cooler than the upstairs bedroom; hotter than the basement, but not as moist, creepy or cricket-filled — when we were awoken by the myriad whirs and beeps of a 21st-century house coming back to life.

I was not angry about the early wake-up call. In fact, I was giddy with happiness. It was hard for me to resist throwing off the sheet and running through the house reveling in the resurgent power: flipping switches, opening the refrigerator door, stringing Christmas lights and jamming screwdrivers in outlets to create great blue arcs of sweet, sweet electricity.

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But resist I did. For in the depths of our powerlessness — the food spoiled, the house an oven — I had made a vow: I will never, ever take electricity for granted again. In the future, I promise:

To unplug cellphone chargers from the wall when not in use.

To clean the filter on my central air-conditioner.

To turn off the lights in rooms I’m not in, even if other people are in them.

To refrain from surfing the Web while watching TV and listening to the stereo and playing Words With Friends on my phone. I will only do three out of the four.

To replace my 60-watt bulbs with 59-watt bulbs.

To fight capital punishment in any state where the electric chair is used.

To wear rubber-soled slippers in wintertime, thus reducing the likelihood of static electricity.

To switch from Lectric Shave lotion to Old Spice.

To stop dancing the Electric Slide.

All joking aside, the recent storm and its aftermath have us once again training our fury on the electric companies. Why is it, we wonder, that Pepco has such a tough time keeping the power on? A couple of years ago, Pepco blamed the trees, then said the public didn’t like seeing its oaks and maples trimmed. And, indeed, when Pepco started trimming trees this spring, there was a backlash.

But it’s not as if trees are a new thing in the Washington area. I’m pretty sure we’ve had them for centuries. And electricity isn’t that new, either. Pepco has to figure out how to make the two — power and paulownias — coexist.

Dave Douglas of Laurel just retired as a Pepco lineman. He wrote: “With all the negative press Pepco gets about outages, what gets lost is the men and women that are out there doing their best to restore power in horrible conditions, wearing layers of fire retardant clothes, rubber gloves and sleeves, and various other safety gear. They hear all the negative press and when people complain about how slow going it is you are talking about them and it gets personal. Let’s have some good press about the people doing their jobs.”

I’m happy to oblige, Dave. No one is angry at the frontline workers who are risking their lives to restore power. When a crew shows up in a darkened neighborhood, they are greeted as heroes.

I think our dissatisfaction is aimed at the people in Pepco’s offices, who through poor planning or cost-cutting put us in this situation every year.

Why we give

Here are some of the reasons readers donate to Camp Moss Hollow, a summer camp in Fauquier County for at-risk kids from the Washington area:

“So many of my fondest memories are of the times I spent at Girl Scout Camp,” wrote Diane Levitus of Derwood. “Everyone should get to enjoy camp!”

Arlington’s Rachel Stewart was inspired to give by another Rachel: Rachel Jaffe, the McLean teen who held a babysitting night to raise money for Moss Hollow. The Arlington Rachel said she enjoyed her years at summer camp. “I wish all kids could experience living out in the country with lots of other kids and learning all the new things that camp provides.”

Catherine Sinclair wasn’t so keen on her summer camping experiences (“My parents insisted on sending me”), but she donated anyway, hopeful that her gift “will help some child enjoy the sweetness of nature.”

“The children are our future,” wrote Lynne LiVigni of Lansdowne. “To help them as best we can is essential to our legacies.”

Won’t you help with the legacy? To make a tax-deductible gift, go to washingtonpost.com/camp. Click where it says “Give Now,” and designate “Send a Kid to Camp” in the gift information. Or mail a check payable to “Send a Kid to Camp” to Send a Kid to Camp, P.O. Box 96237, Washington, D.C. 20090-6237.

To read previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/johnkelly.

 
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