“Shut the Damn Lights Off!”: My Rapid Decent Into Becoming My Father

My Dad would often say, “You guys don’t need all of these lights on. I get up every night and walk through the house in total darkness!” What he didn’t ever fully explain is how he got all of the bruises on his shins from running into coffee tables, foot rests, and dining room chairs.

Starting Credit Card Debt (01.01.19): $126,310.77
Current Credit Card Debt: $109,570.87
Total Paid Off: $16,739.90
Income Going to Savings: 2%

My Dad is a smoker. Growing up he would smoke at least a pack a day, and he would often get nicotine cravings in the middle of the night. So he’d roll out of bed and wander into our living room to have himself a late night puff.

As a young child I had no idea that this was his nightly ritual because I usually slept right through the night. However once I hit my teenage years I began staying up into the wee hours of the mornings, usually playing videogames. Around 1:00am I’d get hungry (after a particularly stressful bought of something like Mike Tyson’s Punchout), and I’d wander out to the kitchen to see what leftovers I could consume. I played a lot of high school sports, and I was a big kid, so I could eat like nobody’s business. When the cravings hit, I ate anything that even partially resembled food.

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Tangent: I think there is probably next to zero chance that I have any high school aged kids reading this blog, but if there happens to be, please take my advice when it comes to eating anything you can get your hands on as a teenager: There will come a day when you stop playing sports and if you continue to eat as though you still do, you will pack on the same 100lbs that I did. I’ve since lost it all again, but it was not fun.

I have hope though. I was raised in the 80s and we didn’t give a flying rip about things like preservatives or what exactly went into getting that Big Mac into our hands. However a couple of months back I was at an out-of-town lacrosse tournament with my family, and we had ordered a few pizzas to split with some friends. After eating our fill, we were still left with a couple of pizzas. Not wanting them to go to waste, my wife approached some of the members of one of the high school teams and offered them free pizza. The response she got?

“We sincerely appreciate it, ma’am, but we are intermittent fasting and can’t eat again until tomorrow at noon.”

Once I had removed most of their flesh and hair from under my wife’s fingernails for referring to her as “ma’am,” I congratulated them on such a healthy lifestyle at such a young age. I hope this trend keeps up!

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So there I’d be with a chicken leg hanging out of my mouth, and I’d wander into the living room. Like most fathers, my Dad was a stickler about making sure we shut lights off when we left a room, and I think he would of been fine if we had just resorted to using gas lamps to light our path through the house. As a result, my Dad would be sitting in the total pitch black of night having his cigarette.

At least half the time I would forget this, and from the darkness my Dad would harshly whisper, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” just to startle me. I’d then swallow the chicken leg whole, which would lodge in my throat, and then he’d laugh and finish his cigarette while watching me dance around in the living room gasping for air. It was sort of our thing.

My Dad would often say, “You guys don’t need all of these lights on. I get up every night and walk through the house in total darkness!” What he didn’t ever fully explain is how he got all of the bruises on his shins from running into coffee tables, foot rests, and dining room chairs.

Up until this year, I didn’t give a rip about our lights being on or off. I ran the heat pump 365 days a year, left my PC and gaming consoles on 24 hours a day, and I only knew how to flip light switches up. Who knew those suckers could also be flipped down as well?

Once we hit the financial wall however, the switch in me flipped! On most days now you’ll find me perched on a ledge just above any light switch in our house like some kind of flabby, hairy gargoyle, just waiting for someone to leave the room without shutting the lights off. I then swoop down, latch onto the back of my unsuspecting prey, and violently guide their hand to the light switch while reminding them that electricity isn’t free.

The benefit has been a much lower electricity bill, which I can now monitor daily via the awesome interwebs of 2019. As a videogame maker and avid player, this is essentially a high score as I attempt to best my energy consumption from the prior month to see just how low I can get it. The first month alone we saved around $150 bucks just by being mindful of what things we have on and when.

While I’ll never adopt all of my father’s characteristics — I don’t plan on taking up smoking anytime soon — I have fully embraced the importance of not wasting electricity and driving up one’s power bill.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll just sit in the dark with an unlit cigarette in my mouth and wait for my kid to take a break from playing Madden.

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