Kids return home to a megawatt energy crisis

May 16, 2006|By SUSAN REIMER | SUSAN REIMER,SUN COLUMNIST

The kids are home from college for the summer, and we are having a conversation very different from the one we had last year at this time.

It isn't about curfews or the bathroom or dishes in the sink. It isn't about drinking or staying out all night or how their family home is not some kind of youth hostel.

Well, OK. The conversation is about all those things. Our college-aged children seem to forget, from one summer to the next, that Mom is not running a frat house or a dormitory dining hall.

But we are having another conversation this summer. And it is about energy.

Not my flagging energy after years of picking up after them. But about gasoline prices of more than $3 a gallon and about the doubling of our bill from BGE.

"I am all about turning off lights and bathroom fans and short showers and TVs and stereos that are left on when no one is in the room," I said. And said again. And then again after turning off the lights and the TV and banging on the bathroom door and shouting, "Are you washing a boat in there, or what?"

My kids look at me with completely blank expressions. "What lights?" they ask, after I have found that the house has been lit up all night as if Jay Gatsby lived there.

This spring has been mild, and there has been no need yet for air conditioning. "Get used to it," I tell them. "And leaving the refrigerator door open while you hang on it looking to see if something new has arrived since you opened it 10 minutes ago? That's over, too."

Our children are remarkably immune to the details of what it costs to run a household, and they take much for granted. And we parents have only ourselves to blame if imposing these new economies is such a shock to their systems. But gas prices and home energy prices have put the grown-ups in a sudden, terrible squeeze. And we are sharing the pain.

My lectures about wasting electricity may have fallen on deaf ears. But when I told my children I was no longer going to subsidize them at the gas pump, you'd have thought I was putting them out in the street with only the clothes on their backs.

My son, who has been attending a military academy on the government's dollar, invoked that fact -- yet again -- as he built his case for gasoline support payments for his completely unpatriotic SUV.

"Your commander in chief would like you to give up your addiction to oil," I reminded him.

"Are you kidding me?" howled my indignant daughter (she of the unpaid internship and the full social calendar). "What do you want me to do, sell my ovaries?"

"Only if BGE is buying," I replied.

susan.reimer@baltsun.com

To hear audio clips of selected Susan Reimer columns, go to baltimoresun.com/reimer.

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