The ‘Grid Siphon’

If you’ve lived in the Yukon long enough, you will eventually befriend an off-the-gridder.

Off-the-gridders belong to the robust breed that turns their backs on the conventional services we are all accustomed to, which include running water, on-demand hot water, limitless electricity, indoor plumbing, dishwashers and mechanical laundry.

They are equipped with various levels of technology, from solar panels, to washboards, to buckets for water and buckets for you know what.

Their motives vary, including rural lifestyle, environmental conservation, personal challenge and the prestige of saying, “I’m off the evil grid.” And perhaps some are paranoid and want to be independent from corporations and the government.

Largely, they are to be praised and respected. Using an outhouse at minus 50, with the slight chance of being mauled by one of the Yukon’s many ferocious beasts, is a no-convenience task.

Nor is being on “bucket duty”, the communal bucket, that is, or living through those dark months of December and January with limited solar input and not being able to watch a movie, let alone use your radiophone.

Personally, when I put myself in their shoes, I think, Dang, that is one tough off-the-gridder. Regardless of their motives or technologies, they are to be respected.

But there is another off-the-gridder of whom I have started to categorize: the grid siphon.

You may have encountered one and may have been victimized in their game. To illustrate, I will reveal a recent encounter …

This friend of mine has recently become an off-the-gridder whose new lineup of conveniences include an outhouse, hauled water, a meager solar system and a wood stove. This lifestyle is new to him, though his eyes sparkle with esteem when he proudly announces, “I live in a cabin 60 kilometres out of town and off the grid.”

For anonymity, I will refer to him as “Gridless Sid”.

Gridless Sid came over the other evening, after work, for a few beers and nothing in particular. Sid grabs a cold beer from the fridge and quickly jams a few food items into the freezer, a convenience he does not have. No problem.

He then starts to cycle a few loads of laundry into the machine … something he goes without. No problem. While waiting for his laundry, Sid checks his e-mail and other Internet applications … online banking, something he cannot normally do. No problem.

Prior to sitting down to watch TV, he makes a few phone calls, both luxuries he does without. No problem. Gridless Sid then plugs a few deep-cycle batteries into a charger, as well as an assortment of rechargeable AAs, D cells and his iPod. Charge away … No problem.

Before taking a shower, he fills a few 20-litre containers with water. Understandable. No problem. All of these tasks are done with expedience, application and a sense of urgency, similar to that of a starving dog rummaging through the trash.

Once his laundry is done, I help Gridless Sid load his water jugs and batteries and he bids his farewell. There he goes, against the grain, a step ahead or behind the rest, leaving me feeling as a lesser with all of my modern conveniences, things a man of his character does not require.

I go back in the house to use the bathroom where I am greeted with a wofting stench, the evidence for Sid’s final task at my house, likely withheld for days until indoor plumbing presented itself.

The final straw: this man has not moved off the grid, but has simply hijacked mine.

The above events depict the less-marvelous off-the-gridder, whom I term the “grid siphon”. Not to be cruel, but this subset of pseudo off-the-gridders does not truly embrace the essence of off-the-grid living, which is to live off the grid.

And for all of you on the grid, beware of the grid siphon and their companionship of necessity, convenience … and indoor plumbing.

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