Thursday, September 16, 2010

Let there be light

One of the great things about living in Celebration is being on the Disney electrical grid. Everything is underground, and our power is very reliable. We didn't even lose it during the infamous Charlie/Frances/Jean hurricane trio. I remember bagging ice to send to people in Kissimmee, who were without power for days.

Alas, we may not go down in the big catastrophes, but yesterday we had an outage for no apparent reason. Of course, it had to happen when my cell phone battery was already low. At first I thought it would be a brief, nondescript outage. It happened early in the day, and right when I was in the middle of something important on my laptop, so I hustled off to the library to use their wireless. The electricity was back on by the time I got back home. The rest of the day went smoothly...then boom! We were out again just before 6 p.m. And this time I do mean OUT; I decided to go out and get something to eat, since sitting in a rapidly darkening house was pointless. All of the traffic lights on the way to 192 were out, which made for an interesting drive. Thankfully I'm a fearless, Chicago-trained driver so I made it through the mish-mash of “Whose turn is it anyway?”

I monitored the goings-on in town from my rapidly dying cell phone, which also has internet. Apparently the power was going off and on sporadically. I called home and the answering machine didn't pick up, so I knew East Village was still among the have-nots.

As I was driving home, I noticed people downtown wandering about in desperation. The Thai restaurant had its doors propped open, and I imagined the impact the outage would have on our stores and eateries. I was worried enough about the food in my fridge. I could just imagine worrying about a commercial quantity and all the lost customers.

It was still light enough for me to find candles when I got home. I had just cleared out a bunch of old candles, but fortunately I still had four or five stashed in various spots around the house. I placed them strategically on the kitchen counter so I could toss them in the sink if they caused any hazard. Then I booted up my PC to drain its last bits of power in whatever work I could do while not logged onto the internet.

The power suddenly returned a little under an hour later. Hooray! Or should I really celebrate? After all, people had reported offs and ons. I let myself get suckered in and blew out all the candles. Sure enough, as soon as that task was done, Progress Energy plunged us into the dark again. Ugh.

It reminded me of my childhood, when I was around 6 or 7. Our Chicago neighborhood once lost its power for two or three whole days. I don't know whether it was a tornado or just a terrible storm, but there were downed lines everywhere. We had to make due with unheated canned food, and most of the families on our block would gather together in the living room of the one family that camped because of course they had lanterns. We'd talk, sing, play games, and generally try to make the best of life without power. It felt like a miracle when the juice was finally restored.

I also lost power in my apartment once when I was single and living in the 'burbs. I had a studio apartment behind a house in a very tight-knit neighborhood. Lightning struck a power box; I actually saw it through my front door. So much for the power. Shortly thereafter one of my neighbors (the block busybody, but I mean that in a good way) came over to make sure I had some candles. Fortunately that mess only lasted for a few hours before we were back in business.

Alas, Florida in September is much hotter than Chicago. At least the temperature had moderated by nightfall, but I was still missing the air conditioning. In my apartment I was able to open the windows and front door. In Florida, we don't have screen doors, and our cat SkeiKra would probably burst right through a screen to eat a lizard.

I used up the last of my laptop's juice working on a magazine article, since I had the interview notes saved on my hard drive. Then I huddled by the candles to read a true crime book (in restrospect, probably not the best choice in the eerie darkness that had descended on our entire street).

It was after 9 p.m., and I was starting to believe we'd have no power before bedtime, when suddenly I was dazzled by the warming glow of light bulbs. My poor bird, Truman, who had gone to sleep in his happy hut, must have thought sunrise was here very early, as he promptly woke up and started going about his usual daytime routine.

Of course, my first action was to plug in my nearly dead cell phone and log onto the internet. My work day had been sorely interrupted, since all of my jobs are internet-dependent. I breathed a sigh of relief that at least I'd have some time to try to get caught up before bed.

I know it sounds rather whiny to complain about a few hours without power when people back through history functioned all day, every day without it. I'll readily admit that I'm spoiled by modern life, and this experience just confirmed the fact that I'd made a lousy pioneer.

Check out my coverage of the theme parks in Orlando and beyond by clicking here!

1 comment:

Bob said...

Don't forget you may be able to charge a cell phone in your car, and you might want to buy a small inverter. Those can run a laptop or similar load from the cigarette lighter. I'm in Indian Wells and we have few outages, too, thanks to underground distribution wiring, but it doesn't take much of one to make us appreciate having it, especially the air conditioning! Glad yours was a short one.