Monday, September 6, 2010

When the Power Goes Out . . .

by Kate

When the power goes out, I get crabby.

Happened last night at 2:30 a.m. But first, the overhead light on our ceiling fan came on at full blast, dragging me out of deep sleep. My first thought was that someone had broken in and was shining a flashlight in my eyes. Then everything went black. Naturally, my writer’s imagination went into overdrive.

My husband was awake by then and assured me that it was a simple power outage. So I stumbled my way to the dresser to get an emergency flashlight to keep by the bed, then went back to sleep only to be awakened half an hour later by the ozone meter beeping. Loudly.

Then it stopped. So hubby and I went back to sleep. Then it started up again, and this time, it wouldn’t stop. I couldn’t get the battery case open so I buried it beneath pillows in the guest room, shut the door, then went back to bed and tried to sleep, except then that darn meter was still audible. Like Poe’s “The Telltale Heart,” I could hear its steady but faint “beep, beep, beep,” even with a pillow over my head.

The fun didn’t stop there. In the morning, there was no coffee. No hot water, either. Even if there had been, I couldn’t wash my hair because I couldn’t use the hair dryer or curling iron. No light in the bathroom. No toaster, no blender, no TV, no Internet. We lit the gas range with a match and made eggs, toasted bread in a skillet, and had tea instead of coffee. It was totally discombobulating.

Next up was the garage door opener. Hubby was able to do it manually, fortunately, or he would have been stuck at home....with me, the crazy lady who really, really wanted to wash her hair.

I could see neighbors standing in the street trying to figure out what had happened, and later learned that our entire neighborhood was out. We still don’t know why. The power finally came on mid-morning, and life went back to normal, but I was left with a sense of foreboding of what could happen if someone evil chose to disable the country’s power suppliers.

What would we do? Certainly, cell phones would help, as would wireless computer connections, for as long as the battery in each device was charged – and then for only as long as they lasted. And then we would be crippled. Businesses couldn’t operate. Electric trains couldn’t run. Cities would grind to a halt. What would we do?

It’s too huge to even wrap one’s mind around. So, on a smaller scale, what electrically powered item would you be most lost without?

29 comments:

Laura K. Curtis said...

One of these days, I'm moving off the grid. I have a little solar charger, and DH keeps threatening to put panels on the roof. If I still lived in TX, I'd do it, but here in NY it won't cover enough of the bill.

Of course, I'd have to leave my house if the electricity ever went out permanently. We have a generator because we live downhill from the sewer line and everything that leaves our house does so via sump pump. No electricity, no sump pump, as we discovered quite quickly after moving in. (How DID the people who used to live in this house manage without a generator? I'll never know.)

Personal item? It would have to be my computer. If you have a computer, you can make phone calls. Of course, I'd be divorced in a week, because my husband's "must have" item would be the TV, without which he would be hard to live with. Especially during baseball season.

Bookwoman said...

I guess it would be my computer. Though, I can access the internet with my iPhone. So maybe the coffee pot. So long as it's light outside or I have some large candles to read by, I'm usually ok for a while without electricity.

Dru said...

Hands down, my computer.

Linda Leszczuk said...

Yup. No contest. My computer.

Linda Leszczuk said...

Just an afterthought - Every household should have a hand crank powered emergency radio for when the power goes out (they're not battery dependent). Many of them have cell phone connectors so you can actually charge your phone through the radio. Not a bad item to have in your car either.

Sheila Connolly said...

Yes, the computer. Although there's a manual typewriter in the attic, but the ribbon is dead.

Funny--in my WIP I have my heroine stuck in her colonial house in a blizzard when the power goes out, and her furnace has already died of old age. But she does have a working fireplace, so she can eat (and I suppose she could bathe out of a pot of hot water, if desperate). I didn't have her worrying about her hair--should she? Oh, did I mention the love interest volunteers to keep her company?

I've always said, if terrorists want to maximize the disruption they inflict, they should target power plants and bridges (train and highway).

Rural View said...

We live out in the country so when the power goes out, we don't have water. That, unfortunately, is my can't do without it necessity. I keep gallon jugs of water in the basement for such eventualities.

Abby said...

I feel your pain. I live on the Chesapeake Bay. It could be sunny one day and all the power will go out in my neighborhood. Its like the slightest wind will knock out our power. No power means no flushing the toilet, no hot shower, no cable tv, no internet for checking favorite book author blogs, and no cooking. Last night we had power but comcast internet & phone service was down but the cable tv was up and running. go figure that one out.

Heather Webber said...

Definitely the computer. And hot water for showers. Don't even want to think about it!

Kate Collins said...

Laura, I wish we could use a lot more solar power and other alternative energy sources. And I have a suspicion that there might be quite a lot of power-loss related divorces, if the outage lasted long enough!

Bookwoman, I also enjoy the occasional loss of electricity and all that entails...candles, talk instead of TV...although I'd prefer it if I could schedule it for a convenient time!

Kate Collins said...

Dru and Linda, I think I'd also have to say I would miss my computer the most. Just like flicking the light switch on a dozen times before you remember it doesn't work, I would probably be sitting down at my computer a dozen times to look something up or check email before I got used to my "disconnection" with the world!

Linda, excellent idea, especially since you'd be able to charge your cell phone that way.

Kate Collins said...

Sheila, I guess it depends on how secure your heroine feels...Abby wouldn't worry, per se; she'd light a few candles on the far side of the room and try to keep her back to them!

Rural View, very good point. Living without our computers or hair dryers is one thing; living without running water is another! Something we so often take for granted.

Kate Collins said...

Abby, I'll bet there are a lot of generators sold in your neck of the woods! As for your experience last night, chalk it up to another unexplainable mystery of life!

Heather, computer and hot water definitely top my list, too. Hairdryer might be a little farther down the list...right before or right after the coffee pot.

PatV said...

If the outage was very long, I'd miss my computer a lot - but even with candles and Coleman lanterns, I'd miss electric light. If I can see, I can knit and that will keep me calm. Husband can read and I don't mind the peace & quiet for awhile. We do have the crank radios and solar chargers for phones, so that helps.

Kaye Killgore said...

Coffee pot, hands down.

RosieJo said...

Just ordered a new Kindle, but as soon as I placed the order I wondered what I would do without something to read if I had to take refuge in a "fall-out shelter". (I am a child of the 50's) Heaven help us all when the power is gone!!

Karen B said...

Have to have my lights on, especially in the winter when it's dark by 4pm. At least then I can still read, play cards, work jigsaw puzzles, etc.

Kate Collins said...

PatV and KarenB, you make a very good point. Electric lighting is crucial to us in so many ways, especially when the darkness sets in early during the winter months.

RosieJo, I never considered that particular downside of having all or most of our reading material on an e-reader! Similar to the library no longer having hard copy card catalogs -- when the computer is down, you can't find books!

Kaye, I really did miss my morning coffee, so I hear you loud and clear. :)

Debra said...

A few weeks ago, I would have said coffee,but this summer I learned the cold-brewed method and all you need for that is time and some kind of filter, even a paper towel works. I guess I would really miss radio but I do have a wind-up one so I guess I'm good.

Kate Collins said...

Debra, that's a good thing to know. Do you heat it up after brewing, or drink it cold?

Kim said...

That's easy - my computer. Luckily for me, I've got an adapter so I can plug my 'puter into my car. Can the attendant pump gas without electricity? This could be a problem.

Mary Jane Maffini said...

For me it's coffee. However, my gas barbecue comes with a side burner so I can boil water if I need it and proceed with old fashioned drip method. Then I'd have the brain power to worry about the computer!

We lived for years in Quebec where our power went off regularly in the winter. That's where I learned that coffee is the key for me.

MJ

Kate Collins said...

Kim, you appear to be in good company! Everyone seems to depend on their computers a great deal. Gas pumps...never thought about that....

Mary Jane, you made me realize that a high-powered, high functioning brain is also a necessary item in an emergency!

Michele L. said...

Hi there Neighbor!

This is Michele from Chesterton, Indiana. We had a blip in our power today. It went out for a minute and then came back on. It sure is frustrating when it does that because we then have to go around the house and reset all our clocks which is 6 in the house. We do have battery clocks but still have some electric ones also.

Sorry to hear that your power was out for a while. That sure is annoying! I would have to say the biggest thing that I can't stand to go without is electricity! WE have sump pumps in our basement. We have had many floods over the years and have learned not to put anything of value on the floor.

Kim said...

Hands down I would miss my Nook when the battery ran out and then of course my computer, for my hubby and son they would be totally paralyzed without the TV

Kim Miller

Kate Collins said...

Michele, it certainly is annoying when you have to reset everything, sometimes more than once! And sump pumps...yes! That can be a huge problem when the power goes out.

Kim, isn't it sad that we depend on our electronic entertainment so much? I guess that's the upside of a power outage...we learn what we take for granted, and we get a chance to learn to live without for a while!

Debra said...

It is a method for making iced-coffee that really reduces bitterness. I do drink a hot coffee in the morning but in your "no power" scenario it sure would be better to have iced, or even tepid coffee rather than none. It was originally posted in the NYTimes, here is a link
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/27/dining/27coff.html?_r=1
I make a pitcher of it and mix it with homemade creamer. That recipe was provided by a Raveller in the Caffeine Addicts gruop.

Linda McDonald said...

I guess I would be bummed to lose the computer in a power outage. Either that or the microwave. My niece lives in Albania and they have power outages on a regular, daily basis. I guess they must get used to it since it is a daily thing.....certainly nothing I ever want to have to get used to.

Aurian said...

My computer, definately. I listen to my music through it, radio or my own stuff. And I read lots of ebooks on it, check my mail and blogs and everything. Hard enough to be on vacation without internet acces next week!