I’ve got the Power! No, wait….

Do you know what the worst part of having the power go out is? THERE’S NO POWER!!!

I’m sitting here typing this out on my PalmV because it’s the only thing in the house right now besides my Garmin and an LED flashlight that will power on. CB has packed up the kids and gone off for the night to visit her mom and sister, leaving me home alone for the night and very not complaining. I had a grand impromptu evening planned out, which included watching the Discovery Channel and resisting the urge to make a batch of cookie dough and eat it while watching the Discovery Channel. And when the wind picked up and the sheets of rain started pouring down I was actually glad that we’d finally be getting some relief from the oppressive 95+ heat that’s been slow cooking us all day. Then in a ferocious crash of lightning the entire house shut down like a carnival closing for the night. I remember a woman I used to work with who also lived in this town warn me before we bought the house that the power would go out every time a storm came through. Well, maybe not every storm but power has gone out in this house more times in the last 5 years than it did in my 17 years living with my parents. So yeah… no power.

Let me explain a little bit about what I can’t do when the power goes down. Aside from the obvious amenities like lights,TV, computer and phone, I also effectively have no running water, since we have a well. Any time I turn on the tap or flush the toilet I’m gambling that there’ll be enough pressure in the tank to complete the task. There probably won’t. So refilling my drink is a risk. I’m not going to talk about the toilet.

After sitting in the dark and scratching away at this little back lit screen for about, oh, I’d say twenty minutes, I dug out the customer service number for the electric company and plodded out to the garage in sandals and boxers (all the lights are out, who’s gonna see me?) to make the call. And what’s so magic about the garage that allows me to make a phone call in a blackout? A diesel generator? A very large hamster in a wheel? Oh no no.

A rotary phone. Did you know that the phone in your house isn’t tied into the grid? If you’re 25 something years or older you do. All landline phones are independently powered by batteries at the phone company. I’ve always thought that was cool. And if you have a phone that works simply by plugging in that modular jack then you’ve got a phone that works even when the lights don’t. I have one that pre-dates cutting edge touch tone technology. I’m guessing that the customer service number for National Grid (1-800-322-3223) also dates back to the days of rotary phones. Most of it’s numbers are closest to the finger stop. Back in those days, if 911 had been 991 it would have been too much trouble to dial.

The first message you get when calling is the list of towns or areas that are currently experiencing power outages. Mine was not one of them, so I waited on the line until I got an operator and let them know that I, too could not watch the Discovery Channel. They commented that others from my area had reported the same problem and that it was being worked on. About this time the heat and lack of any fans was really getting to me (despite my boxers and sandals ensemble) so I decided to don pants and shirt and take a drive in the car, maybe see the extent of the blackout. At least the car has AC.

The first thing I noticed was that I didn’t have to drive very far to find houses who were cheerfully lighting their driveways and presumably watching their Discovery Channel. Not good. That suggested that my particular blackout was very very small and most likely very very far down the list of priorities for fixin’ it. But, just around the bend of the road was a melee of vehicles with flashing lights just a few houses down on a side street. Lots of police, perhaps a fire truck, possibly an electric company cherry picker. It was hard to tell. My guess was that some poor sap drove into a telephone pole. I continued to drive a wide circuit of the town and came back by the site about 15 minutes later to find the last police cruiser driving off. When I rounded the road back to the house though, the lights were still out. Grrr.

Another call to National Grid found the same message as before. Double Grrr.

So here I am, still not watching the Discovery Channel. It’s hot, muggy, miserable. The drive around town with the AC cranking is now only a distant memory. For a moment I debate going back out to the car to sleep. This is the difference between being hot or cold: when you’re cold, you can always put on another sweater. When you’re hot, you can only take off so much before it becomes inappropriate, illegal or impossible to take off any more. I was as illegal as I was gonna get ans still felt like a corned beef brisket in a slow cooker. Starting to smell like one, too. Fine. Fine, I’ll go to bed. What’s left to do?

Surprisingly, it didn’t take me long to doze off. When I woke up in the early morning and did the math on the flashing clock, I figured that the power had come back on just 20 minutes after I’d turned in. Sonafabitch! I coulda had me some Discovery Channel.


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