We had an unusally hot summer and, so far, an unusually warm (for Michigan) autumn. There were a few chilly mornings when the temperature in the house dipped into the 66-, 67-degree range, but I resisted turning on the furnace. The last few days it’s been close to 80 every day, but it can’t last, and a chill wind is a-blowin’ as we speak. It looks as though the next few days will break in the heating season. Which I am dreading.
You’ve read the stories. This one, from Slate, is typical, right down to the terrifying headline: “Get ready for your first $1,000 heating bill.” Uh, no thanks. But even if they go up 50 percent, which seems to be the figure everyone agrees is reasonable, my heating bill will hurt. Badly.
And excuse me, but I’m in no mood to read things like this, in which the U.S. energy secretary tells me my only defense is to conserve. That’s comforting. Stories like that are generally accompanied by a helpful graphic, downloaded by your local newspaper, offering tips on how I can do this. Turn the thermostat down at night, it might say, or Make sure your windows are well-sealed.
Who, precisely, are these tips helping? Who lives in a cold climate and doesn’t already do these things? Granted, there are a few. I knew a guy who kept his house heated to 76 degrees all winter long, while he sat around in shorts and a T-shirt. “I’m really best suited for a place like Florida,” he’d say, while the rest of us, his guests, peeled off our sweaters and tugged our collars away from our necks, so as not to suffocate. “I’m most comfortable in clothes like this.”
But you live in Ohio, you stupid git, I thought, struggling out of my parka. And it’s about 20 degrees here at the moment. (I think that was the winter of the Bengals-Chargers fiasco at Riverfront Stadium, when it was 9 below with the wind howling down the river valley, but I could be mistaken.)
And yeah, I’ve been in houses where people had to learn, yes, learn, that in winter it’s wise to keep your windows closed tightly. But most people smart enough to put on their own socks, and responsible enough to pay their own heating bill, learn this through trial and error soon enough.
I want to ask the energy secretary, what about those of us who already live in a house kept at meat-locker temperatures, who bark at our children to put on a sweater, who already have a programmable thermostat, an insulated attic and thermopane windows? What about us, huh?
A 50-percent increase in your heating bill, that’s what.
Oh, well. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy this last day of warmth and summery temperatures. I laid on the bed next to the open window and read for 30 minutes in shorts and a T-shirt, and let me tell you, I appreciated every minute of it. That’s what life is all about — the appreciation.
I only read for 30 minutes because the rest of the day was all about the work. After a slacker end of summer I’m discovering the awful truth: I’m so broke I can’t pay attention. And so I leapt into action, and suddenly I’ve got plenty of work, enough that I actually feel employed. Which means I’ll have money in November. I hope. It might not arrive until December. (Just in time for the $500 heating bill!)
Freelancing is a life of many, many pleasures and advantages that make life feel sane and human-scaled. But swift payment for services rendered isn’t one of them.
It could be worse — I could work for Delphi.
Our old pal Atlanta Nancy wrote today. She was one of the first people I met online; we were both Warren Zevon fans. It was possible, especially in a place like Fort Wayne, to feel like the only Warren Zevon fan in the world. It was maybe my first experience in how you could use the internet to find people who shared your interests, who got you.
Anyway, she wrote today: There’s a burrito chain here called Moe’s that’s been expanding through the Southeast with scary speed. They drove my favorite independent burrito restaurant out of business, so I hate them, but I still eat there at least once a week because Willa loves it. Anyway, the only music they play is by dead singers. It’s a real mix–Jim Morrison, Allman Brothers, Frank Sinatra, John Denver, etc. I’ve been meaning forever to e-mail them and suggest that they add Warren to the mix, but, since I have a 2-year-old I never get around to anything. Well, yesterday, Willa and I walked into Moe’s, and “Werewolves of London” was playing. I got a bit teary and starting babbling about it to the guy who was making my burrito. He so didn’t care.
They only play dead singers? Yes.
Here’s what it says on the web site:
“The Music: Moe wanted to pay tribute to his heroes who have passed on and would never have a chance to taste his food � hence the music. A little strange? Maybe. But that’s just Moe.”
I wonder what corporate weenie came up with that little bit of carefully studied eccentricity. Probably got a bonus for it. Probably take care of his heating bill this winter.