The Cameron Column #107
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Lights out for the Camerons
Copyright 2000 W. Bruce Cameron

      The Cameron children are the sort of kids who really light up a room, and then are content to leave it lit until all the electricity in the country has flowed through our circuits and out into the night. I'm developing carpal tunnel syndrome from the repetitive motion of turning off the lights after them, and can't understand how they could possibly fail to notice a blazing light bulb, for crying out loud. When I walk into the house in the evenings, every single room is as brilliantly lit as a hospital operating theater. The little wheel that measures the electricity sluicing through my home spins inside its glass case like a CD player, and no one can walk within 100 feet of my yard without casting a shadow. It looks like the grand opening of a sporting goods store.

      My teenagers are the worst. Not only do they require every bulb to be lit, but they can often be found in front of the television, the phone to their ears, the stereo blaring in the background. "I'm doing homework," they'll protest when I ask them to choose between one of the appliances. They use this as their universal alibi for everything. If I were to catch them in the middle of an armed robbery, I'm sure they would claim it was for a school assignment.

      I've tried to explain to my family that as responsible Americans, we all need to preserve precious natural resources like the W. Bruce Cameron bank account. "I have no desire to have the nation's next nuclear reactor named after me," I advise them, but they don't seem to get it. It makes me wonder whether the power company isn't paying them off after school.

      Let's be reasonable. The furniture hasn't moved. There are no falling objects in the living room. We don't need to turn on the lights unless there is something special we want to look at.

      "But we have to do our homework!" my children protest.

      "Remember Abe Lincoln?" I challenge them.

      "No," they respond, "We don't remember Abe Lincoln because you won't let us turn on the lights so we can study."

      "Very funny. Abe Lincoln never had electric lights. He studied in front of a fireplace, doing math by writing numbers on a shovel."

      "You mean his teachers let him turn in homework written on a SHOVEL?" My son laughs, delighted.

      "Also," I recall from some book I read once, "he held his brother up to the ceiling to make footprints or something."

      "What was that, gym class?"

      "The point is, we have to reduce our use of electricity."

      "Which is why your father is giving up watching sports on the television," my wife chimes in.

      I give her a stern look. "Let's stay focused on what we're interested in, which is what I'm saying," I admonish her. It is a primary tenet of good parenting that parents should be unified when it comes to matters of my policy.

      "Also, whenever the thermostat is set above hypothermia, we have to turn it down," she cautions. "And children, you will all need to learn Braille so you'll be able to read in the dark. Showers will be limited to seven seconds--if you can't wash your hair in that time, there's always the hose." She smiles sweetly at me. "Oh, and I'm going to the store tomorrow--tell me how much homework you have so I'll know how many garden tools to pick up."

      "Instead of listening to music on the stereo, we should all just sing!" my son suggests.

      "There's no sense in using the telephone when you can shout," my daughter affirms.

      "Flushing toilets more than once a month is an extravagance!" they hoot. "Never open the refrigerator! Doing laundry is communist!"

      Well, there's no point trying to reason with them--they're laughing too hard to pay attention. "As soon as you're finished I'll begin passing out punishments," I state menacingly.

      "What are you going to do, make us sit in the dark?" my daughter shrieks, holding her sides.

      Half an hour later, when I stroll in to check on the thermostat and turn off a few of the lights, they're still laughing.

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Copyright W. Bruce Cameron 2000
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