Thursday, June 09, 2011By Steven H. VanderLeest
I have just arrived in Chicago for the ďWrite To PublishĒ conference (held on the campus of Wheaton College). So I guess this is a good time for a new blog entry! My hotel room has just one unused outlet that is easily accessible, and only because the coffee maker isnít plugged into it yet. The other three outlets on that wall are taken up by a TV, microwave, and small refrigerator. The lamp and alarm clock are hogging the outlets by the bed. The receptacle in the bathroom has one of two outlets open, the other is taken by the hair dryer. The funny looking plug by the window is probably 220 volts and is occupied by the A/C unit. So I use the only outlet and alternate between charging my laptop and making tea. It turns out there actually is an open outlet behind the nightstand because an extension cord allows the lamp and alarm clock to share the other outlet, so I can charge my cell phone there.
Good thing I am traveling alone for this trip Ė when my wife is along, we have even more gadgets that need a daily meal of power. We only have one child at home yet, but it wasnít long ago when we had several teenagers angling for outlets too. We typically have a number of low-power appliances—cell phones, hand-held video games, cameras, and other little devices needing a quick energy snack Ė so an octopus style power strip became a staple item on trips.
I wonder how many rooms there are in this hotel? There are three floors with dozens of rooms each. Does each of them have a little refrigerator humming away while it munches a few watts? Letís see, I edged it away from the wall to read the plate on the back: 60Hz 120V 1.3A. So that calculates out to 156 watts for the fridge. I have the desk light on with two 40-watt bulbs, the light by the bed with 100 watts, and the bathroom light on (6 of those decorative 40-watt bulbs). Thatís another 420 watts there. The microwave isnít running, so Iím guessing the LED time display only is drawing a trickle of juice for the moment, and similarly for the alarm clock. The adapter for my MacBook Pro is rated at 85 watts, but my laptop is charged now, so it is probably down to a few dribbles of current now. It wouldnít be hard for me to hit a kilowatt of power all by myself in this hotel room this evening. Oops, there goes the A/C running. Forgot that one. I sneak the front panel off —I wonder if all engineers canít help but explore all the gadgets in the room? It is rated at 800 watts. So there, Iím over a kilowatt while that runs for a couple minutes. Iím not sure what electricity goes for in Chicago, but in Grand Rapids, residential electricity is currently around 12 cents a kilowatt-hour. So thereís not a lot of dollars burning up here, but still, it seems like a lot of waste. I canít easily turn off the fridge but Iíll turn off a couple of the lights. (By the way, isnít it strange that we can turn ďoutĒ the lights but we cannot turn them back ďinĒ?)
What does all this watt counting have to do with my Christian faith? First, a little awareness of my resource use can help me be a good steward. Second, I think maybe Iíve gotten a little too comfortable with the instant gratification of electricity on demand. My hunt for outlets this evening was a good reminder of how good I have it in general. Those outlets are little blessings that give me power to light the room, heat my tea, cool the air, and keep the bits flowing in my laptop. Third, as Iíve mentioned in a previous blog, I think electricity is a nice analogy of the Holy Spirit and Godís providence: a constant source of energy that keeps everything running and alive with spark.