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June 10, 2001: Home improving

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We went to an energy fair yesterday. It wasn't all that exciting, and since it was put on by SMUD, and we're outside SMUD's range (lucky us - we've got our choice between PG&E or nuthin'), the information was naturally geared toward all the greenergy programs SMUD's pushing. But it was still at least a place to pick up a few fliers and some freebies, and to take advantage of a whole page of coupons for those oh-so-cool compact fluorescent light bulbs you can use in all your regular light fixtures - the type which usually cost an arm and a leg but last forever so you tell yourself they're worth it while you wince your way through the checkout line.

I'll admit here that we did have good intentions when we moved into this house of sticking those energy-saving little puppies into every light we installed (and trust me - we installed one heck of a lot of lights. I know this because we had to *buy* all those lights at the same time, and when you are dragging two carts overflowing with boxes of light fixtures through a very crowded do-it-yourself store, you get a really good idea of just how many of those little suckers you're going to have installed in your brand new home). But after looking at the sheer number of light bulbs required, we copped out and filled up a few grocery sacks with the plain old ordinary incandescants. We rationalized this by thinking that those fluorescent ones are too expensive to be left to folks who might accidentally break them as they're installing them - not, mind you, that they'd have any more or less clumsiness than we would, but it felt noble at the time. Besides, the whole point of buying all these compact fluorescent bulbs is so that when the energy-sucking ones in place finally fizzle out, we can replace them one at a time, and not have to feel like we're blowing one month's salary just to illuminate our house.

But anyway. I was getting somewhere here, really I was. While we were sitting through what turned out to be a fairly useless presentation on SMUD's solar panel program (useless - I will note - only because we can't take advantage of it, due to the aforementioned PG&E monopoly in our area), I heard my name being cleverly distorted over the loudspeaker, and trotted off through the throngs to collect my drawing prize of a gift certificate to a hardware store chain for which there are absolutely no stores close to where we live. This was still a pretty exciting thing, and as it turned out, the place we went to take advantage of all the inexpensive fluorescents happened to be a booth from that very hardware store, and they just happened to have some sale ads on the table, and we just happened to pick one up and flip through it, and saw this thing Richard and I have been drooling over for months now, and not only was it 50% off, but with it's sale price, my lovely new gift certificate would cover it and leave us with a few extra coins in change besides.

So off we scurried to the nearest store (about half a mile away, luckily), and persuaded a fairly reluctant sales clerk to go find the very last one which was in a long and heavy box which had definitely seen better days, and wasn't helped by the fact that since it was in such poor condition, I insisted we open it up and make sure all the parts and hardware were there.

Then we drove home with our prize (after taking care of the remaining change by delving into their ice cream freezer and snarfing down some yummy goodness-on-a-stick) and proceeded to spend the next hour or three contorting ourselves into odd positions, strewing little piles of screws and bolts and nuts and other little paraphenelia all over our front porch, and putting together our brand new toy.

But it was all worth it! We are now the proud owners of our very own glider porch swing with end tables (an accessory which had to be mentioned at least several dozen times in the hardware store between Richard and my Dad. I'm not exactly sure why, but they seemed to find great humor in it. Go figure.), which fits perfectly onto our lovely porch. Last night we both carried our paper journals outside and curled into the bench (a bench which took much longer to put together than you'd think. Trust me on this). This morning, we carried coffee outside and sat on the porch til the sun drove us back in, and this afternoon, Richard has already been happily ensconced outside on the bench for several hours again, basking in the breezes and birdsong.

(Oh, and as a side note, I thought it worth mentioning that, despite this fair being hosted by SMUD, PG&E had a small booth there. There were three people behind that table, all looking more than a bit beleaguered and stressed and probably all wishing they'd never signed up for this in the first place, because it was obvious that we were not the only ones asking them why it was that *their* utility company didn't have any of these really awesome greenergy programs.)

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