My sanity has become the latest casualty in my family’s war against the electric bill. My wife has taken to unplugging things. Lamps seem to be her favorite targets. Also the toaster, the coffee maker, and the chargers for our cell phones. If it has a cord, it’s getting yanked.
The idea behind this seemingly crazed notion came by way of Oprah, who recently had a guest who stated that even if an appliance is turned off, it continues to use a small amount of electricity if it is plugged into an outlet. Simply unplugging things when not in use can reduce your electricity bill by as much as 20 percent over a year’s time.
Which was all my wife needed to hear.
This has been going on for weeks now, and I still can’t get used to it. I’m turning on lamps and wondering why they’re not working. I’m making toast and coffee and standing there like an idiot when nothing happens. And my cell phone died the other day because I neglected to notice the cord was unplugged when I charged it the night before.
So I began to wonder: is this worth me running around the house like a bumbling idiot? Worth the hassle of fumbling around in the dark trying to plug in a lamp? Worth shaking and smacking the toaster only to have the kids say, “For cryin’ out Daddy, just plug it in?”
I wasn’t sure.
So I decided to do a little digging myself. After all, Oprah has been wrong before.
As it turns out, her guest was right. Things plugged into outlets do indeed continue to use power when they have been turned off. And you can indeed save up to 20 percent on your electric bill.
Leaking electricity, as it is known. There are also other, fancier sounding synonyms like Phantom Load. Or this one, the most insidious: Vampire Power.
But I suppose it makes sense, really.
Like most people, I was once upon a time obsessed with how other people saw me. Did they like me? If yes, how much? If not, why? Was there something I could do or fix to convince them I was a good person?
Sure, foolish questions. But ones most of us ask. I tired of trying to get everyone’s approval when I realized happiness lay in concerning myself only with what I could control. What other people thought of me? Not what I could control.
Then there was the brief obsession with having a career. To your average male, the quality of his life is intricately tied to his profession such that men often regard each other with a mental comma: Bob Simmons, banker. Tommy Sanders, supervisor. Me? I’ve been Billy Coffey, gas station attendant. Or Billy Coffey, factory worker. Not so special. And since there wasn’t anything special after my comma, I thought I wasn’t either.
Thankfully, faith fixed that for me. My job now is more what I do than who I am. I have something else after my comma now. Billy Coffey, child of God? I’ll take that any day.
And there was worry. I used to worry about everything. Big things like death and small things like if I would miss the bus home from school. Worry was the dark shadow in my life growing up, disappearing only when God’s love was shined upon it.
There are more. Many more. But my point is this: I thought I had gotten over all those things. That I had grown within, grown closer to God, so that those things I once obsessed about were no longer in my life. I was wrong, though. I’ve turned them off in my heart, thinking that was good enough. But it wasn’t. They’re still plugged in.
I still want to be liked. And to have a better job. And I continue to worry. And I still do all the other things I could have sworn I didn’t. Not anymore.
Vampire Power drains me, too.
It’s price is high. It costs my peace and my joy. It demands my attention. It places me in its debt. Not all at once, of course. Little by little. Weighing me down, sinking me in spiritual quicksand.
Why live like that? Why not just unplug it? Once and for all.
My wife’s on to something, I think.