Dear Dirty America


The Los Angeles Energy Savings Assistance Program Boondoggle

The Los Angeles Energy Savings Assistance Program Boondoggle
September 23
16:38 2013

Bob was beside himself. Actually, I was beside Bob, standing in his dingy bathroom with its dulled black and white tiles. I could feel his distress. This was not how he’d wanted to end a ten-hour workday. He slid a fat hand over his pineapple-shaped head and sighed. He’d called me because I was the most reasonable person he knew would be awake at this hour.

I was slammed with an image of Bob in the shower. His hairy arm pumping his wooden back scrubber’s bristles over his greasy white back. The angel-soft water pressure barely washing away the soap suds.

I’d have problems washing my own long blonde hair as I waited and waited and waited for the environmentally-conscious shower head to shoot enough water to soak my head.

Apparently, Bob hadn’t seen the flier hanging in the lobby of our apartment complex. It said the owners were “pleased to announce” that an “authorized contractor for the Energy Savings Assistance Program” would be entering our units to install energy efficient devices at no charge.

"They shoot more air than water!"

“It shoots more air than water!”

This was a mandatory exercise. The officious note, and its pleasure in announcing our good fortune, had an Orwellian tone. The workers would be entering our apartments to weather-strip the door and the windows, as well as installing new bathroom and sink faucet aerators. We should welcome their intrusion.

And at no charge! You’d think this was some kind of a good deal for low-income families and neighborhoods, like the one Bob and I lived in. You’d think we were sneaking away with one…but one what?

What the Energy Savings Assistance Program of California turned out to be was an attempt to save the environment by hampering the low-income folks barely scraping by in LA neighborhoods. What ended up happening to my studio apartment prison cell and Bob’s messy one-bedroom was drastically reducing the pressure of our shower heads, and bathroom and kitchen sink faucets. The door and windows never did get weather-stripped.

We stared at Bob’s shiny new shower head. Shiny, but cheap, I said. The whole thing was a straight-out boondoggle. They installed sleek equipment, but hampered with environmentally friendly insides, which significantly reduces the water pressure.

Bob, still in his grimy work clothes, leaned over the bathtub and switched on the water to show me. I already knew, however, because I’d been home when the workers arrived that afternoon and installed my new energy-savings equipment. Like I was the luckiest tenant in Los Angeles. Until I tested the silver son of a bitch out and realized I’d been duped.

Bob’s shower head, just like mine, did not blast water like it used to. Rather, it shot about a dozen skinny pinprick streams. He held his hand out.

“Hell, it shoots just as much air as water,” Bob said.

That’s the aerator feature. It sounds good if you have no idea what it is, or what that word means, I said. That’s how those energy bastards pitched it to us. New aerator faucets and shower heads. As if that’s a feature we’re going to be interested in. Instead, these people just took away from us one of the last few pleasures of the working poor — a hot, intense shower after a long, underpaid workday.

“Jesus!” Bob muttered, “I don’t want to sound like a goof, but it’s true. My favorite part about coming home after work is a hot shower with a lot of pressure.”

Well, we’re living in the end times, I said, and the idea behind the Energy Savings Assistance Program is to begin stripping the luxury out of the every day lives of poor, regular working people.

First, they’ll start with the Americans who make the lowest incomes, like us. Meanwhile, the federal government, along with state governments like California will guilt the middle class into installing these products into every house and apartment complex, until finally these lame shower heads will be the only kind left to buy on the market. It’ll become law that all shower heads must be weak, and can only shoot out twelve pinprick streams at a time, and those streams have to be mixed with 40 percent air.

Bob was rubbing the top and sides of his bare white skull. He couldn’t take this information. He was nearly in tears about the loss of his shower. The coarse hairs on his neck looked like they hadn’t been shaved in days.

But Bob, I said, relax, don’t you feel better about saving the environment? By saving energy, water, and precious resources, people like Al Gore can keep cooling and heating all five of his mansions at the same time, and Bill Gates can keep fresh water in his pool. A pool that has, I reminded Bob, underwater music. Rumor has it, Gates likes to flounder about in the middle of the pool and pretend he’s drowning. When his head slips below the surface, he can hear his favorite Beyonce album, played backward and slowed by 47 percent. It gives him the impression he’s sinking into Hell.

“Sounds like one of those fetish things,” Bob said.

Well, yeah, I said. And when you drive around Beverly Hills and see the properties of the people who own apartments like ours in poor neighborhoods, you’ll notice their fleets of Range Rovers parked in rows behind the closed metal gates that run ’round their estates.

And let me ask you, Bob, I said, putting one hand on his shoulder, do you think they install water-saving shower heads in their five or ten luxury bathrooms? Do they worry about the constant sucking of energy to keep their pools heated and their whirlpool Jacuzzis bubbling?

“They probably don’t give two shits,” Bob said, “as long as they get a satisfying shower at night.”

What’s happening, as far as I can tell, I told Bob, is that we’re watching the elite in this country create a permanent class of unemployed people living in the streets, or in tent cities, or barely scraping by on government assistance programs.

Then, we have the working poor class. Then the just-below-the-poverty-line working class. And those classes are swelling with the ever-shrinking middle class. All the while, the elite continue to centralize their wealth and influence. They’ll be living in impenetrable, secured sections of cities guarded by their own private mercenaries while the rest of us work for wages below the standard of living, or don’t have any work or income at all.

We’ll be left in the miserable, overcrowded city grid amid constant crime. Muggings, carjackings, robberies, and murders, I said. Desperate mobs shooting up dilapidated shopping malls and siphoning all the gasoline from the fuel tanks of vehicles parked on the streets. And, of course, you’re not supposed to own a gun. You’ll have to wait for the police to show up and defend you and your family from a home invasion.

Bob’s face was beet red. He cracked his knuckles and looked at my iPhone. Check out this video, I said. Technology all the time, at least we have that. If the masses didn’t have access to the Internet, which provides free porn, stupid games, pirated movies and TV shows, and a constant feeling of connection, I think we’d already have seen a riot or revolution.

“Ha!” Bob said and slapped his towel rack. “A black man lecturing poor Africans about how they can’t have air conditioning or cars like we do, or else they’ll destroy the planet!”

It’s called satire, I said. Cleaner energy does exist. JP Morgan shut down Nicola Tesla after he invented a way to send electricity to anyone on the planet. “Where do we put the meter?” Morgan asked. But there was no profit in it. Meanwhile, billions of dollars in subsidies to the oil and coal industries keeps our gas and electricity just cheap enough to thwart any new technologies.

And the best part  is that after the speech, the president climbed the steps into his personal high-tech jumbo jet, equipped with his own bedroom, work out room, and bathroom. He’s got a personal doctor, a pharmacy, and emergency room equipment. There’s enough food to feed 100 people at a time. The plane has 19 televisions and 85 phones. There’s even a lounge for the staff or the president to relax, with enough booze to last a hundred trips around the world.

“I wonder what kind of water pressure he gets?” Bob asked. “Did the Energy Savings Assistance pricks foul up his lines, too?”

Did George Washington and his army enjoy continental breakfast during their stay at Valley Forge?

Bob and I carefully deconstructed the shower head and found the culprit restricting water flow. A tiny black plastic piece with three holes drilled into it. Bob brought a screwdriver into the bathroom and he popped out that piece with such force, it flew out the open window.

When we tried the water again, the metal cord jumped like a revitalized snake. The shower head handle, clutched in Bob’s hand, jerked. The muscles in his forearm tightened. “Ah ha!” Bob said, nodding at me. Water blasted out of the head and into the tub.

She really flows, I said. Problem solved, for now.

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