The Day of No Power

I was meeting with my son’s school teacher when the power went out. It was a blazing hot September day, just two days ago, in the 6th-grade classroom of St. Didacus Catholic School where the windows were wide open and two ceiling fans were turned to their highest setting. I heard a click, then the fans slowed down and stopped. I didn’t know this meant 4 million other people in Southern California had also seen their power go out.

As I left the school I pulled my car into a grid of streets with no working traffic lights. The streets were filled with traffic jams. Cars lined up at uncontrolled intersections and waited their turn to proceed. It was actually pretty civilized, though you would never know when some jerk would just blow through.

The stacks of traffic slowed things down so much that people afoot would simply cross busy streets in the middle of the block and pass between that cars that were creeping along. Cops directed traffic on Montezuma Road.

Darkness fell and the streetlight right outside my house was blessedly dead. But sharp shadows still crossed Collier Avenue, and I realized their were cast by a near-full moon. The moonlight was beautiful, though I would have preferred to see the stars a little better. I guess you’re grateful for whatever you can get when a power outage obliterates the ugly light pollution.

Mitch, who lives three doors down, was having a blackout barbecue that all the neighbors were invited to. People sat in chairs in his front yard and talked as they passed around hamburgers. My kids came home with one but didn’t eat it. One of our cats pushed it off the dining room table and onto the floor.

At one point, I stood in my backyard and looked back at my house and saw, through the windows, a dim interior that was lit by four candles. This, I thought, was how people lived — in this kind of darkness — before electric lights. I tried to resist the thought that it was somehow a better, simpler life.

The blackout lasted 12 hours, and reality returned at 3 a.m. with a burst of lamp light. I was lying awake in the family room of my house when I saw the lights come back on. I walked around the room, turning off the lights and resetting flashing digital clocks on my Bose CD player, my microwave oven and my electric oven with its induction range top. The comforts of modern life… those I definitely have not been able to resist.

The romance of the blackout was over. At 5 a.m. I would go to work to talk on the radio and tell listeners about what they had just been through, as if they didn’t know already.

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One Comment on “The Day of No Power”

  1. lawrence hirsch Says:

    I sure as hell didn’t listen to KPBS because as usual, when anybody coughs or hiccups let alone gets stuck in a power blackout your PUBLIC station just ain’t there.

    Instead of throwing away money on BBC irrelevant programming like the latest “news” from Seaside,UK or cricket scores, etc why can’t KPBS invest in a standby power generator?


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