Wednesday, March 7, 2012
The Power of Power
I grew up in a magical land called the foothills where snow came each year and knocked out the power. (More accurately, snow came each year and invariably sent some yahoo-nin-cow-poop too dumb to stay home careening into a transformer-bearing power-pole, knocking out the power, but I digress...) We lived with a well and well-pump, so no electricity also meant no running water, which meant no doing dishes, taking showers, or flushing toilets (more than once, because of course the tanks hold one flush). It was like going back in time, except we initiated each low-tech term with board games by lantern light and polishing off any ice-cream in the freezer before it turned to soup. In the hours or days that followed, we'd play in the snow and warm up by the wood-stove, read and talk, and let the sun set our bedtime. I remember feeling particularly frontier-ish once, building a helicopter with nails and block wood, drawing details and a pilot with a ball point pen, making a low-tech toy "just like the early settlers did," I told my mom not at all ironically. Yearly and from an early age, I experienced and learned to embrace this trans-formative event.
Lean years later, while still a grad student and living so close to the cuff our "nights" in the LA dim were accompanied by police helicopters and we actually took comfort when gunshots we heard were only single-shot, and not even a full clip, we learned the power's-out-fuse-box dance. Strike up the microwave and the electric skillet simultaneously? Shee-yeah! What Bacchanalian madness is that? But those bouts of darkness were typically short and fixed with a flip (albeit with some electrocution anxiety) of the fuse. Neighborhood outages were surreal because suddenly everyone's loud music, basketball and video games went silent, and we'd all sit in hushed anticipation wondering which would pop up first, power, gunshots or sirens. I never got in on the action, but I'm sure someone somewhere was taking a ton of bets.
So you'd think I'd have some perspective. But, no. Last week, whilst yon household was enjoying the throes of flu, fever, and vomit, our power went out. And I felt actual panic! Suddenly, nothing could charge, no cable could be viewed, because we've bundled everything, our hardline didn't work, and since we're so i-phonic around here, I don't even have a watch that keeps time! I felt like a hiker whose compass suddenly starts spinning willy-nilly. Aaaaaa!
With this most recent outage, the first thing I did was try to calm my preschoolers (who couldn't have cared less having already moved on to other toys). Then I went outside to confirm the outage was more than our building and even crossed the street to address neighbors I'd never seen before to confirm -- YES! horror of horrors, theirs was out, too! No one could turn on their lights! And in a scant six hours when the sun went down, that might matter! In pajamas and slippers, sniffling and snuffling, about to fall over from influenzic paralysis, I scuffled back inside to announce, with a distinct note of tragedy, the outage had crossed the street, and we were...
What, doomed? I have no idea what I was afraid of because the TV was already on again (kiddos still unconcerned, having abandoned cartoons to be superhero princess pirate doctors in their room), and the clocks, laptops, kindles, cell phones, home phone...all was charging, functioning, whirring away. And I have no idea why I felt so panicked, or why my first thoughts were of electronics and not on how best to maximize the perishables in the fridge. Where have my survival skills gone? Or is it that I've been so caught up swimming intellectual property waters I've forgotten that the rest of me is firmly anchored in the material here-and-now?
I'm not a wuss. I come from serious stock with deep, dark roots. I'm foothill-hardened and ghetto-tough. I don't just know how to put them on, I've made snow-chains!
I plead the flu.