"Oh, there you are," said the senator as a Capitol Hill resident opened his door after several knocks. "I wanta give you a little booklet... I hope you'll read that and get some good energy-saving ideas."
Sen. Charles Percy (R-Ill) and a group of Boy Scouts were kicking off the nationwide distribution of a new Department of Energy booklet, "How to Save Money by Saving Energy," by handing it out door-to-door on a block of 7th Street just south of East Capitol Street.
In doing so, they met a man with a wood stove in his home office, a woman with a fireplace in the kitchen of her lovely old Victorian house, and another woman who answered the door wearing a wool cap and an overcoat.
Percy said the people he visited were "100 percent cooperative." The cold weather and the Iranian crisis "show how fragile the situation is," he said. "It's a fact of life that we need some sort of critical situation to bring this (energy crisis) to the public attention."
Robert E. Smith, publisher of the Privacy Journal, answered his door and told the delegation about the wood stove in his carriage house. H had built an office in the carriage house and thought it would be prohibitively expensive to heat it electrically.
"It just seemed like an easy way to heat the office," he said. "It's worked out well." But Smith wonders just how cheap it is with wood at $65 a cord and up.
He said Percy had picked a "strange neighborhood" to kick off the distribution in. "Most of the people here are associated with Congress or the executive branch, and they know about congressional p.r., too," he said.
Betsy Stengel not only has a fireplace in her kitchen, but she and her husband, Robert, are planning to put in quite a bit of insulation.
The insulation is especially important because she recognizes that the fireplace, charming as it is, probably causes a net heat loss for the house as a whole. But it makes it cozy in the kitchen, which is at the back of the house and ordinarily gets little heat from any other source.
"We're having storm windows put on tomorrow," said Stengel. "They've been on order for months but I guess the Washington area is very slow."
A woman who identified herself as Mrs. L. Boone answered the door wearing a wool cap and a heavy overcoat. She said she keeps her heat below 70 during the day and, "I cut it off at night and put heavy covers on the bed."
Cub scouts, Boy Scouts and Explorers will distribute 5 million copies of the booklet -- which contains hundreds of energy tips -- nationally. It is also available by mail from the U.S. Dept. of Energy, Washington, D.C. 20545.
Percy is chairman of the Alliance to Save Energy, a private educational and research group seeking to "raise national awareness" about energy conservation, according to a spokesperson.