Written October 6, 2023, At Kansas City, Missouri.

Most of us are creatures of habit. We like routine and when our routines are disrupted, we are often annoyed.

Example: An employee parking lot without assigned spaces, yet repeated use of a particular spot brings with it a sense of ownership. (annoyed and spoken under one’s breath) “Who the f*** parked in my spot today!”

Another example: Earlier this week I was invited to sit in on a community college history class. It was an excellent experience, but a bit sobering. I was significantly older than the professor, and shocked to see how young college students had become in the last 50 years! Prior to class I had been cautioned to sit in a particular seat so as not to “take a student’s seat”. This is despite the class having open seating.

Those are relatively benign examples yet when change is imposed by another person or agency and we feel powerless in its face, that person/organization may become the target of more extreme anger, vilification, and even conspiracy theories.

I recall when national legislation mandated the demise of most incandescent light bulbs, instead requiring the use of the more efficient compact fluorescent and led lights. Incandescent lights typically last 1,500 hours and convert only 10% of electricity into light, the other 90% is converted to heat. Who remembers the Hasbro “Easy-Bake Oven” which used a lightbulb as the heat source with which children could bake small cakes, “just like mom”.

Conversely, compact fluorescent and led lights last upward to 25,000 hours and use 75% less energy to create the same amount of light. A 60-watt equivalent led light uses only 7 watts of energy, about the same as an old incandescent “night-light”.

It seemed a no-brainer; less electricity used in a longer life bulb meant significant money saved and it was good for the environment… Yet certain (dare I say conservative?) elements of society saw this as a grand conspiracy. They decried this as an attack on our personal freedoms, much as they did with the introduction of and later mandated use of seatbelts, motorcycle helmets, smoke-free flights, childhood vaccinations, etc. (COVID masks anyone?)

My dear mother (may she rest in peace) railed against the Obama Administration, blaming the President for taking her lightbulbs from her. Educated with a master’s degree, logic could not eclipse her anger. I learned the hard way to avoid this and many other topics during our frequent telephone chats, “Peter Michael, I don’t know why YOU think the way you do. NO ONE ELSE IN THIS FAMILY DOES!”, and with that there would be a loud “click” the line going dead.

Our electric utility in this part of Missouri, Evergy, recently implemented a timed rate structure. During the weekday peak use hours of 4 pm to 8 pm rates become significantly higher and from midnight to 6 am they are significantly lower. This provides a financial incentive to moderate use during the periods of high demand, thus reducing the need to construct greater generation capacity… good for the company, good for the environment, and good for the customer, win, win, win, right? Not with everyone.

Social media has been lit up with some folks calling it communism, the heavy hand of government, corporate greed, etc. My efforts to explain the system and the rationale behind it have merely made me a target of vilification and conspiracy, “I bet you work for Evergy!”. Even producing the proof that my electric bill has been reduced 30% by timing the use of appliances and changing the thermostat during peak hours has fallen in those circles upon deaf ears.

Sometimes we are our own worst enemy. Sometimes we act contrary to our own best interests… just to make the point that we can. And sometimes those who reach out to lend a hand find that the hand gets bitten. It is a wonder that our species has flourished. Give us more time and Nature will eventually have the last word.

Peace Everyone. Pete

20 thoughts on “Our Own Worst Enemy

  1. Back in college, just a couple of decades past the middle of the last century, I took joy in sitting in “others seats” in class. After two or three classes I’d move to different seat to see if the other person went back to their original seat or had established a new “territory”. Unbeknownst to me a Psych. Teacher was watching my antics. Toward the end of the semester he stopped me and asked what I had detected. We went for coffee and became friends. He helped me get into graduate school and became my graduate advisor. Your article triggered a good old memory of, what now appears, a much simpler and less stressful time when my job was learning and growing paid for by the GI Bill.
    Thanks Pete.

  2. Charlie Murphy says:

    As usual, a good thought to ponder.
    Thought you might work in your story of the longest lasting light bulb of all time in the fire station. Wonder if they’ll start turning it on and off for maximum rate efficiency? Hahaha.

  3. Great stories Pete! And like Bill, I too like to intentionally and randomly sit in seats that others think are “theirs” …! Keeps us all on our toes, eh?

  4. I don’t know if it is ownership. When I was a kid working with dairy cows I was amazed how whenever you hered them into the barn they always went to the stalls designated for them.
    I think it is a matter of routine and to have someone sit in the seat you always sit in is a disruption to your routine. That can be unsettling. For some it is a minor inconvenience. For others it is another change piled on top of other changes and it becomes a bigger issue than it actually is.

  5. Pauline – hanging up on you?.. without even a goodbye? Peter – heavens to murgatroyd .. look me in the eye… fact or fiction?? Ha ha. She certainly made up for those calls by her sweet message on your blog! Anywho – I am one of those people for reasons unknown to me – often “claim” a seat in my head and can be a tad disgruntled when said seat was taken by some ne’er-do-well!! Harrumph. I will say that I found (after I got over my thoughts of a paper airplane with a curt message chucked in their direction) that sitting in that different seat afforded me a new perspective! As far as the rate changes – I am a tight wad Yankee – show me the money honey!! (in cost savings and I am there). Nice to hear from you.

    • Liz, one would think that I would have taken the hint when my mother used my middle name. Yes, fact. The fact that she would speak to me just a few days later, forgetting the incident, speaks her sweetness and forgiving nature. I miss her and 3 years gone I have not deleted her contact info from my phone.

      • I get the contact thing – I have texts from my siblings that have passed that will remain on my phone. Also my father passed 1/99 and I still have the tape from his answering machine. I don’t listen to it – but I have it none the less. Hugs

  6. So funny… While reading this, I recalled at our church, in the past, that some families had “their pew”…
    we went to the same church for 40 years and never sat in the same place…it just wasn’t important (to us)… 🤷🏼‍♀️

  7. Gosh, Peter Michael (the dreaded first and middle names!!) you’ve hit the nail on the head again. Acting against our own best interests is another virulent human pandemic. Cooperation is seen as weak and competition as strong. That is the way that many children are raised so it becomes the “way of the world”. Cooperation is the key to our own and the planet’s survival, but the cult of the individual and his/her selfish absolute rights, will surely bring us down.

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