Powering Down

Article excerpt

Ever since the Boys of Enron slipped their greedy hands into our pockets and stole our lunch money, I've been on a mad mission to conserve energy.

My favorite energy-saving trick is to dry my clothes outdoors on a dryer rack that I purchased from Target and set up on my deck. I've never once found bird poop on my clothes. I hadn't even thought of that possibility until my sweetheart, Steve, moved in with me six years ago.

When I first saw him put his freshly washed clothes into the dryer on a sunny day, I tapped him on the shoulder and said, sweetly, "Oh, honey, I've found a great way to dry clothes and cheat PG&E at the same time!" I pulled out the dryer rack and demonstrated.

"Nope," he said. "Not gonna do it."

"But, but, why not?" I asked, mystified.

"Bird poop. I don't want bird poop on my clothes."

"But, I've never ..."

He waved me away and started the dryer.

"OK," I said. "Give up a month's pay to PG&E, see if I care!" He ignored my remark and walked away. I cringed at the sound of the dryer's every energy-sucking tumble. Maybe I should have reconsidered the whole moving-in thing, but love does stagger on.

Around the same time I learned about what I (lovingly) call his "bird-poop phobia," I was made aware of some of my own shortcomings. Who knew (or cared) that I seldom dry my hands thoroughly after washing?

I went to hug him one day and he backed up, saying, "Ewww, your hands are wet."

"What?" I said feeling ever-so-sensitive at this hint of rejection.

"Your hands -- they're wet." I looked down at them.

"So?"

"I love you, but I don't like wet stuff, especially your wet hands all over me."

"But," I said rising to my defense, "that's what air is for." I quickly wiped my hands up and down my legs, "That and sweatpants." I held them up for inspection. "See? All dry!"

I hadn't lived with anyone for 19 years before Steve moved in, and I was unused to negotiating day-to-day domestic differences with anyone but my cat. …