Let there be light

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How many mystery writers does it take to screw in a light bulb?

Two: One to screw it almost all the way in and the other to give it a surprising twist at the end.

How many managers does it take to change a light bulb?

We’ve formed a task force to study the problem of why light bulbs burn out and to figure out what, exactly, we as supervisors can do to make the bulbs work smarter, not harder.

And the best one yet: How many years does it take to pay off a light bulb? Three (apparently).

Wait

That third one is not even remotely funny, although it seems one utility company may have been laughing all the way to the bank.

Our region’s electric supplier, known to some as Satan’s Own Electric Company, announced that it would personally hand deliver two compact fluorescent bulbs to each customer’s home and mail some of the bulbs to rural customers whether they wanted them or not. Sounds sweet right?

But wait, as they say on TV, there’s more!

Costly

There is, of course, no free lunch. If we had suffered even the momentary delusion that the same utility company that can’t find the time to read my meter was going to personally hand carry two light bulbs to my door for free, we were very much mistaken.

Customers would, we were told, be billed roughly $7 per year over the span of three years for these bulbs. This would mean that in the end, the bulbs would cost more than $10 each.

I understand we are in a recession, but this probably marks the first time since the 1930s that anyone has had to purchase a light bulb on credit.

Why?

Why you ask? These new bulbs would fulfill a government mandate requiring electric utilities to reduce energy consumption by 22.2 percent by the end of 2025 and reduce peak demand by 7.75 percent by the end of 2018.

The law requires the utility to take action in 2009. Apparently, by “take action” the legislature meant pelting consumers with unwanted light bulbs.

I think maybe the utility company has caught on to celebrity culture. The notion is that there is no such thing as bad publicity. I now know far more about CFL light bulbs then I ever thought I would care to know.

We are assured that consumers who replace two standard 100-watt bulbs with these newfangled energy saving marvels are purported to save up to $60 over the life of the bulbs.

In fact, so sure are the electrical-powers-that-be that you are going to use less electricity and save buckets of money, that they are planning to charge you for the difference in the loss of energy you would have used.

For those of you playing along at home, this means they are hoping to provide less service while charging you for what they haven’t actually delivered lest they lose profit.

Scary

Now, I am as big a fan of the environment as the next oxygenated mammal. I am also the cheapest person on the planet so anything that helps me save on monthly bills is a win in my book.

That said, the instructions for the care and handling of these newfangled bulbs is enough to scare me back to gaslights.

Clean-up instructions include such ominous delights as “remove all humans and pets from the room for 15 minutes” and “shut down all central heating and air conditioning units.”

It is also important to note that the use of vacuum cleaners or brooms to sweep the mess should be avoided, as they can spread mercury to other parts of the house.

Apparently, we’re going to have to pick up any broken bulbs with a set of sanitized tweezers. Perhaps some guys in the Haz-Mat suits can sort it out?

I sure hope none of the other utility companies get wind of this. I can just see them dropping off a new gas stove to replace my ancient electric model and sending me the bill.

Halt

To be fair, as I prepared to file this column, my son breathlessly reported in true “stop the presses!” style that the “not-so-free light bulb giveaway” had been suspended for the time being.

As it turns out, few consumers take kindly to forced acceptance of an item they weren’t sure they wanted. It only adds insult to injury to expect them to pay for the privilege too.

Of course, if the utility company were really looking out for my energy consumption, they’d drop off two candles and a match.

I’m rather afraid to put that in print, however, I’d hate to give them any more bright ideas.

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Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless.

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