It’s finally summer. Time for early morning walks to beat the heat. Time for hikes through the woods at Lapham Peak State Park. Time for languid afternoons on the patio with a good book. Time to reap the fruits of labor as the garden plants and flowers become more robust. Time for crackling summer storms…
And power outages.
I’m sitting here writing this in the semi-dark. The sun is just about to come up. Mom Nature is laughing at us pitiful human beings who think we’re in control. So, the sunrise is a bit of a spit-in-your-eye. See? Nature doesn’t get power outages. Yeah, yeah, we get it. Patience is a virtue, we’re told. Annie says the sun’ll come out tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar. But until then, we stew in the dark.
How tied we are to our creative and very useful inventions and discoveries! Electricity was out there in the wild all the time. All we had to do was tame it. Thank you, Thomas Edison and Ben Franklin and… Well, I could look it up, but, guess what? The power is still out.
Looking it up used to mean hotfooting it to the library, or to the shelves in the den (remember dens?) where the encyclopedia volumes rested. Wow! What a concept! Just as when using the internet, we could go down a rabbit hole while looking up, say, who else is credited with taming electricity. Volume E could divert us with fascinating facts about elephants or ears or Einstein or… See? There it happened again! Can’t look up more, because the power’s out. And my parents’ encyclopedia bit the dust decades ago.
No power? No lights. That is a real grind if the power goes out early in the evening. Of course, that takes out the television and sundry other items of entertainment. It’s actually not that bad to play Clue by candlelight. Monopoly becomes atmospheric when those dastardly players take all your money because they’ve gone on a real estate rampage after finally acquiring Park Place and…is it Broadway? I’ll look… No, I won’t. Anyway, they load ‘em up with hotels and houses, and everybody else goes broke. Board games work under lantern light. So do ghost stories. Reading? Not so much. Lincoln may have read by firelight, but for me, that only increases the chances that my ophthalmologist will be able to send her children to an Ivy League college. (See that ophthalmologist there? I spelled it wrong three times, and each time Spell Check caught it. But how to look it up without power? I went to the only dictionary in the house: my English-German dictionary. I now know how to spell it in German as well: Augenarzt, literally, “eye doctor.” Of course, I could now also choose Ophthalmologe. Which one would you choose?)
No power? No clothes washer or dryer. Those poor pioneer women, down by the creek at first. That probably graduated to a big copper basin (Is that what they were called? I’ll look it… Oh, never mind.), such as my grandmother had. Heat the water on the wood stove, dump into the wash tub (Aha! There’s the word!), then do it again and again. Then do the same with rinse water. If they lived in a town that had electricity (Thank you Edison? And others.), they could graduate to a wringer washer. We had one of those when I was a kid. The agitator did all the work, although we had a long stick to poke the clothes down when they rose too much to the surface, or got tangled. Then hand feed them through a wringer…which often caught fingers and squeezed them out too. Ouch! But the best part was hanging the clothes outside to dry. Well, the hanging part wasn’t the best. But the reward was that the fragrance of the sun and the breeze imbued everything. I still love to hang the sheets outside. Making the bed is a frolic with sun-kissed sheets. I just wish the aroma lasted longer.
I guess power outages aren’t all bad. Unless you have to worry about sump pumps not working and basements flooding as a result (heaven forbid the power’s out that long!), or medical equipment that needs power to operate (that’s a real heaven-forbid, although I suspect that generators are close at hand, ready to fill the gap).
Power outages spur folks to campfires with food in foil packets and s’mores to round out the meal. Maybe a bit of hauling out the old camping songs. Or, to go up one rung on the civilization ladder, cook on the grill. If it’s winter, maybe sleeping bags in the living room in front of the fireplace. Maybe star-gazing if the storm is gone and the skies pristine.
That all sounds fine and good. But I still want my power back on reasonably quickly. I want to brush my teeth and flush the toilets!
It’s still off, by the way. Heading towards six hours now… Excuse me, while I go call the electric company again.
Update: Power was out 11 hours! But now I’d be happy for a summer storm. It’s as dry as the Sahara out there, with no rain for far too long!