Power and Light

It happens every summer, and in bad winter storms, too. But this evening there was no terrible thunder storm that blew the transformer on the corner. No, this evening, it seems a large power line came down on a main road near my house.

There were things that I was going to do online this evening. And I was thinking I’d watch some whodunits on PBS. And I was also thinking that I’d enjoy the air-conditioned comfort of my house. Alas, no. I’m not whining – I mean, I have a roof over my head (a dark, very warm roof), and plenty of food, and books that I can read with a flashlight, so it’s more about changing plans and being mildly inconvenienced than about whining. But it’s funny how we get very accustomed to certain things.

When I go camping, I don’t miss the t.v. or the air conditioning (ok, maybe the air conditioning a bit, sometimes), or the electric lights. I expect to be in darkness at night. I just don’t expect it at home. It takes a while to get used to it.

I remember the first time I experienced a blackout. It was the massive northeast blackout of 1965. I was 3 1/2. We were living in NYC, and I think my dad got stuck on the subway for a while. I remember being allowed to go to the bathroom by myself – that is, I got to take my candle into the bathroom by myself. I felt very big and responsible. Funny – I can still remember walking carefully into the bathroom holding my candle, and placing it on the sink.

There have been many power outages and outright blackouts since then. There were the three days without power after the Derecho a couple of years ago. Since only four houses on our block were without power, we were a low priority. We spent a lot of time in movie theaters over those few days.

And in winter, there have been many powerless nights sitting by the fire drinking hot cocoa (I do love having a gas stove). On some of those nights, the house illuminated by candles, the fire going strong, we were almost disappointed when the power came back on. But sometimes, when the power is out, it just seems like it will never come back on.

This evening I started to feel that way. I can’t say why for certain. Perhaps it was the lack of a storm preceding the blackout. Perhaps it was the first estimate – that the power would return between 8 pm and 10 pm – that went by and turned into the second estimate of between 11 pm and 1 am, that made it seem like it wouldn’t really happen. Perhaps it was just that it’s WAY too hot to make a fire.

Now, in 1965, there were no cell phones. There was no internet. The phones all worked because they were hard-wired, and I do still have one hard-wired phone, but it’s in the kitchen. I don’t tend to sit in the kitchen during blackouts. And in the summer there’s ambient daylight for much longer, so board games, reading, and all manner of lo-tech fun is still available. So why does it feel so very, very strange when the power’s out?

I think I just get accustomed to functioning a certain way in certain situations. Without power it’s just too quiet. And rather warm. And I feel…disconnected.

I’m glad to be back with you. I’m sure the power will go out again some time.

That’s it. That’s my mite.

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