I returned home after driving like a madman through a torrential rainstorm. Apparently, the weather had taken out a power line, and our entire neighborhood had lost power. At this time, it was still light outside. The air inside the house still retained some of its air conditioned effect, so the muggyness was bearable. The refrigerator had just recently lost its cool, so the food was still fresh. This power outage didn’t seem to be so devastating until I checked my phone.
…and I couldn’t charge it. Nor could I charge my computer, which was down to its last hour or so on reserve battery. Nor could I turn on the TV, or access the internet, which meant that I couldn’t do my homework.
So I went to Barnes and Nobles and sat in the freezing cold, overly air conditioned building for a few hours, tying up the loose ends of my homework. I didn’t think much about the power outage, because I assumed that it would eventually come back on, to my earliest convenience. But it didn’t. By the time I arrived home past 10 PM, it was pitch dark outside. Driving through the woods was eerie, as all of the houses on our street seemed to have lost power as well. No street lights, just the headlights of our car making their way through dense fog, shadows abound.
Our house was pitch dark. My mom lit candles.
Finally, the reality set in. I started to panic. I think it may have been the darkness.
Yes, it must have been the darkness. I could not see, and walking around in my house and opening a door would not change the fact that I could see nothing.
What is it about electricity and power that dominates our lives? It governs our lives; I have come to be almost entirely dependent on it. Without it, I feel limited. I feel my phone’s battery slowly waning, and without internet, I feel disconnected from all of reality.
I grabbed a flashlight, and brought a candle to my room. I was actually prepared to shower by candlelight – forced intimacy with the darkness.
Is this panic that I felt normal? Is it healthy? My parents didn’t seem to mind at all. Driving through the pitch dark and seeing the silhouettes of all the houses without electricity, I imagined that no one was overly upset, aside from maybe the small kids who were still afraid of the dark.
Today, I was powerless.
I remember once when I was really young, probably still in elementary school. It was right around this time of year, except it was a dry storm that took out a power line. The power went out later in the evening, as the sun was just setting. The cars were parked in the garage, and since my sister and I complained of the heat, my dad had to manually open the garage door so we could drive around and grab ice cream, maybe. So we did. We may even have gone to Barnes and Nobles just for kicks, since both my sister and I were fiction addicts at the time. Perhaps a trend is emerging?
When we got back, there was still no power. It was unbearably hot, and the humidity never failed to remind me of it with every drop of sweat.
The power outage lasted hours. It’s hard for a twenty-first century child to fall asleep without the comfort of her AC; needless to say, I was up long after my sister had drifted off. At 2 AM, I complained to my father. He came and sat with me in my room, and tried to explain the phenomenon to me, alleviating the severity of the whole situation. We perched on my bed for a few moments, him pointing at some power box that was visible from my window. Somehow, the street lights were still on.
Then, a miracle occurred. A truck drove down the street, and stopped at the power box. I began excitedly tugging on my dad’s arm, and we watched in anticipation as people in hard hats tinkered with the box. All of the sudden, there was a buzz. The familiar sound of the AC, the whirs and beeps as clocks and ovens reset. The audible sound of comfort.
Maybe the grownups remained calm because they haven’t developed as strong of a reliance on power. My generation has grown up knowing internet and cellphones and TV and refrigerators.
I am genuinely curious as to what was going through the minds of the first people to experience the first power outage. Rage? Fear? Scenes of apocalypse?
Would it have seemed like the reversal of progress? That, after years of development of electricity by people like Edison and Tesla, it would disappear as easily as that?
In my spare time, I’ll look for accounts.
But the fact that I’m writing this and publishing it through the internet obviously means that the power came back on. (It did, just a few moments before I was about to step into the shower. When this happened, I whooped and ran out into the hallway, suddenly powerful)