Wednesday, May 31, 2006

My husband was born in a barn

Winter didn't sneak up on us here in the Cape the year, it arrived with a bang. One day we were eating lunch on the patio, the next day we were huddling in the bed with the doggies in midday just to keep warm!

Fortunately, as a person of foresight, I helped the maid put the electric mattress pad on the bed a few weeks back, moved my winter nightgowns to the top of the pile, and shifted Hubby's long-sleeved shirts to the front of the cupboard. The doggies have become reacquainted with their winter jersies, the fireplace is clean, the space heaters have been dusted and tested, and a small stock of coal and wood are conveniently placed in the garage. As much as is possible, we are winterized and ready for the chilly temperatures...except for Hubby... How do you winterize a husband?

He was born and raised in Durban, a place with a climate roughly akin to Miami. Durban houses have doors on their rooms solely for the purpose of privacy...there is more of a need to open doors for air flow than to close doors to conserve heat. And so my Durban born-and-bred husband has great difficulty remembering to close doors behind him when entering or exiting a room during our chilly Cape Town winters.

This is not a huge problem when the door is the one that leads to the bathroom...but when it is the door that opens onto the patio and I have just spent thirty minutes shivering as the puny little space heater worked itself into a sweat trying to heat up the frigid space I wish to occupy...well, that's a problem! Our home office is located in a room that was built in a section of the garage and is accessed through the patio: two steps out the kitchen door, turn left, open the office door. A conversation with him these days goes something like this:

SV: "Hi, honey. What can I do for you? Close the door, please."
H: "Where is the bread?"
SV: "Close the door, please. In the cupboard above the toaster."
H: " 'k."
SV: "Close both doors, please."

We shut off our geyser every evening so we don't impact the peak demand time; we run around turning off lights when the TV says power usage is increasing; we run the pool pump only during off-peak hours. He is an engineer for Eskom and is intimately familiar with the negative consequences of wasting why does he exit the kitchen into the patio, leaving the door open to admit the frigid outdoor air?

I am teaching my maid to bake, encouraging her by striking a deal that she can take home half of whatever she makes (I supply the ingredients). Using the (gas) stove to cook an all-day pot of soup or pasta sauce or baking something like bread, which requires a warm rising place and a pre-heated oven, are good ways to efficiently use the energy expended: get something good to eat and get the room warm at the same time! This morning the oven is hard at work heating the kitchen and dining room while a luscious batch of scones browns inside...Hubby (who is home on leave) is still tucked up in his long will it be before our precious heat is vented to the frigid expanse of patio as he pops his head in to ask where I have hidden the milk for his tea?

What is it with men...and boys...with doors? I can remember my mother bellowing at my brother "Close the damned door! What? Were you born in a barn?" My own sons were equally door-knob challenged. One would think that an engineer for the power company (who is also the household member who actually has to pay the utility for our power consumption,) would be a bit more circumspect when it comes to conservation of a resource for which he must shell out hard-earned rands. But old habits die hard, I guess, and while I am sure he wasn't actually born in a barn, I know he was born in a place with a far warmer winter clime.

Maybe I should place under his pillow a subliminal tape recording to program his subconscious brain...close the door...close the door...close the door...