When I first came toSpain, I treated electricity with the same degree of carelessness that I held regard for when it came to any kind of utility. In fact, “utility” was the ideal word for the service. No frills, just a jolt of energy or a rush of water to keep things running in the household. Like any young American back in the 80s who had barely been exposed to the efforts of mainstream ecology, energy conservation was for geeks and Californians and not to be taken too seriously…just like geeks and Californians. Saving the Earth’s natural resources was lame, and if you had to do it, the last thing you were going to do is tell someone about it.
My disregard for cutting back on consumption rattled the Post-Civil War Spanish generation. My host-family mother shadowed me around the house clicking off all those switches I would leave on when I departed from the room.
And in the morning, during the winter inMadridthe house would remain dark until nearly eight in the morning, only a brushstroke of light might erupt from the kitchen or bathroom and cast some way of finding my bearings in the hall. Back home, my brother is capable of draining national resources with just a casual flip of the switch, but here, every watt counts. Especially back then.
The reason behind this was that utilities for so long were pricey as the economy tried to pull itself out of the wake of a terrible civil war and decades of isolation. That turnaround began in the 1960s, but Spanish society by that time had spawned a generation or two of very cautious consumers who had been nurtured on rationed services. That meant that even as things began to improve, few had it in them to spend freely, let alone splurge meaninglessly. That was the essence. Spending had to be meaningful and when so, sparing. Spaniards were savers forcibly by habit, not by nature. The recent generations of spendthrifts are proof of that.
There you have it. My morning walk to the bathroom to start my every day, every day.