Friday, August 15, 2003

Who turned out the lights?

The big northeastern blackout (which didn't affect me in the least because I was hundreds of miles away--hahaha! Sorry) is kind of odd. Back in 1965 (way before my time) there was a huge blackout that knocked out, I believe, the entire east coast of the US and maybe Canada. What I can't understand is why after 38 years is the power grid still set up in such a way that it would be possible for one foul-up, accident, etc. to blackout substantial areas of the continental US and Canada. I don't get it, but it wouldn't be the first time I didn't get something.

I've spent two or three times in my life with no power for two or three days. The charm wears off remarkably fast. Once when I was probably thirteen or so, a bad ice-storm knocked down powerlines, and we spent the next two or three days living like the Amish. We had a woodstove to keep warm and even cook on, and we had oil lamps to see what we were doing at night. The worst part was not being able to flush the toilets, the less said about this the better.

A few years ago a tornado touched down (although no one actually saw it) and ripped up some telephone poles, leaving us with no power in the middle of summer for at least two days. Some of my memories of this event are trying and failing to read Don Quixote by battery-powered lamp light, and hunting mosquitoes with a flashlight in one hand and a fly-swatter in the other. But my main memory is dreaming that the power and central air-conditioning were back on, waking up to find it had all been a dream, and then going back to sleep and dreaming the same thing again. The unconscious mind can be a cruel master.

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