$187.74. The electricity bill. That’s pretty high.

“Did you miss a payment?” Rusty asked.

“No. I overpaid.” I pay random amounts and usually end up months ahead. Why? I don’t know. Bill ADHD. I try to get ahead of the months I know will be higher. This is one of those freaky post-recession financial behaviors I still do, even though I’m blessed to be paying my bills and eating food on a regular basis now. Vegetable gardening is the other freaky-post-recession behavior. But that’s kind of fun.

I analyzed the bill. Usually I don’t–it’s sort of like looking at a scale. No one really wants to know the truth. Ever. The truth is better left ignored.

Sure enough, $87 for the electricity itself and $90 for distribution. And some random fees and taxes because the bill wasn’t quite high enough. That makes sense. But fifty percent of the bill seems an awful high fee for “distribution.” I think they hired a drug dealer to do this job and then jacked the fees accordingly.

I thought understanding my Verizon bill was tough. The Verizon bill makes me jump up and down on the phone getting transferred to “sister companies” all over the world who tell me “You need the business department,” or “Sorry, that’s the Internet division.” I jump up and down faster, even though they can’t see this gesture of frustration and say “I just want to pay you!” in four different languages until I finally give up and keep my money just a little bit longer.

But the electric bill is testing the limits of my education. We should use that for the high-stakes graduation requirement. All students who understand it completely graduate. We’d save a lot of standardized testing money and the rainforest trees used for making diploma stock would live to see another day.

I want someone to put a big number on one piece of paper and say, “Listen, moron. Here’s your bill. You’re living in the 21st century. You have lights. Internet. A refrigerator that keeps your food from killing you. Shut up and pay. It costs a lot. Empty your checkbook and resume your regularly scheduled first-world behavior.” I want a bill that can be tweeted to me, “$187.74. Pay or lose your air conditioning.”

electricity billI don’t really need six itemized lines that require me to take classes in nuclear obfuscation. What is a “LIHEAP Enhancement Charge?” or the $11.01 I’m being charged for “Energy Efficiency Programs?” $11 a month to teach someone to turn off a lightbulb? There’s a “transmission charge,” a “transition charge,” and a “distribution charge.” Are they bringing electricity to me three separate times?

According to the paragraph on the side, I have the right to dispute, and there is an “explanation of billing terms available.” But I’m smart. I Googled LIHEAP. The acronym reminded me of “lie a heap,” which sounds like a political term, so I was intrigued. Turns out, it’s “Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.”  I support that. State law, I researched, says that it may not be more than ten dollars per year. Mine is eighty-three cents. It seems they broke down my ten dollars into thoughtful installments, but in the end, I am charged over ten times more more to contribute to training people in the fine art of turning off lightbulbs than I donate to helping people in need. Maybe more people need to learn to turn off lightbulbs.

If I flip the bill over, there’s a helpful graph. It shows how I barely used any electricity before, and in June I used half a power plant. I filed that under “happiness” budget, not “utilities” though, because my husband hates summer. June is when the A/C wars begin. He puts the air conditioning as cold as he can get away with and I change it as soon as he turns around. He tells me to put on a sweater. When I was younger, my dad used to say “Put on a sweater” all winter. I’m traumatized. I’m an adult. I refuse to do that now–especially during the summer. We have an ongoing scientific discussion. Rusty says that because I change the temperature when I’m uncomfortably cold and he’s not home, all the molecules in the house must recool, which ultimately costs more money. Therefore, the bill is $187.74. I’m sure he’s right. But I’m cold. I’ll give an extra few bucks under a line item they should list on the bill “molecule recooling comfort fee.” Or the “marriage preservation tax.” Either of those would be fine by me.

So, I paid the bill. And found the remote control to the stand-up air conditioner and turned it up a few degrees, because my sweater is in the bedroom and everyone’s asleep. I don’t want to wake them. I’m rather enjoying the peace and quiet.

Bills paid, I’m going to go make some more hot coffee while I wait for the room to warm up.