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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Power Dance-

The predicted Storm of the Century was still a prediction. As usual, we had not really prepared. We were waiting, knowing we would lose power. Whenever Mother Nature sneezes, we lose power. Though we are not particularly out "in the sticks," our little node on the power grid seems to be delicate.

Delicate, and low on the list of places to fix. We commonly experience three to seven days of power outages every year. If we had any of the wisdom I like to think of myself as having, we would be better prepared. We seldom are.

So, we wait. The storm hits. Not much of a much, but the power does go out. Six or seven hours later, it comes back on. We had been mostly sitting around, those of us who don't work or who had work cancelled. A lot of napping. The kids weren't yet going nuts. We knew that would come later. Then this surprise. They got the power back on quickly!

Turn on the TV for the kids! Rush to the computer! Post to Facebook! Ack! Both uninterpretable power supplies are screaming! It went out again! So, the evening progressed, and everyone went to bed early.

Next day, time to "prepare." Maybe it should just be called "pare," since we missed the window for "pre." Somehow that just doesn't make sense. Anyway, we start by setting up camp stoves and trying to use what food we could before the refrigerator no longer is cold enough.

As evening comes on, the children are beginning to recognize that a life without power is something foreign. It is not fun, and the fact that it is different does not offset the fact that it sucks. Manic moments give way to generalized wailing and gnashing of teeth.

I go out, plotting my course based on the unusual traffic patterns. Too many cars where they ought not to be, moving slowly. My path is fast, because nobody is going that way. My objective: food and ice. I had the ice chest in the truck for transporting the ice. The food would be hamburger buns and some chips so we could consume some frozen burgers before they became useless.

My objective secured, buns in the truck and ice in the chest, and I head back. I try to follow my carefully planned route back, but the strangeness in traffic patterns holds true this way. Backed up. Moving slowly. I reroute through back roads, try another way. Slow. Slow. Slow.

I am nearly home, and only had one near miss, almost kissing bumpers with a mini-SUV. Mini-SUV. Strange concept, really, but I don't have time to think about it. I have to get home with the supplies. Visions of the Donner Party might or might not have passed through my mind as I waded through the strange traffic.

It should not be still bumper-to-bumper here. What's wrong? Flashing blue lights ahead. Deputy waving flashlight. CHP officer waving flashlight. My road is blocked off! Power company trucks, several of them, groaning in the dark. I am redirected into a church parking lot.

An hour, maybe, the Chippy said. Cars roll through the parking lot, seeking egress an an alternative route. I get out and talk to the deputy. My alternative routes are all closed. I hike to Safeway and buy a sandwich. I bring it back and eat it in my truck. I have water in the truck, to drink with my sandwich.

I call home. Nobody there knows how to use the camp stove. Still no "pre" in our "prepared." They eat cereal while I have a tailgate party with the dozens waiting in the parking lot. Actually, I exchange a few words in passing, eat my sandwich and then break into the bag of chips I had purchased for dinner.

Finally we can go. The downed power lines are off of the street, the power company people and police have been exemplary in performing their difficult duties, and I am on my way home.

Once there we move what can be salvaged from the refrigerator to the ice chest, and muddle on through the night. Those of us who read do so by candle light. The rest count the hours. Early to bed, since all of us know how to sleep and it is a very attractive option.

Next day. Or has it been a week? More reading. Another food run, just something to get us through. The kids are restless, but over time they seem to be adjusting. Grandma reading to them. Playing with toys. Wanting to blow out the candles, not understanding that our light is coming from those little flames.

The house is surprisingly dark even in the daytime. The hillside that protects us from much of the wind also diminishes out access to light. The 1960's inattention to passive power conservation did not lead to a sound 21st century design. We are burning a lot of candles, and camp stove propane.

The candles are our only "pre" in "prepared." We have a lot of them. They are cheap at Ikea, and some had been purchased mostly for decoration. Whatever the case, I have read most of my current book by the candle light.

Being disconnected from the electronic world we begin to adjust. Not all that bad, really. The children are enjoying being read to, and are finding things to do. Nobody is going completely crazy. At least, not yet.

Another evening. The prospect of "early to bed" is just being contemplated when the lights come on. Too late, really, to get on the computer and try and make up for three down days. Facebook will have to wait.

"The power's on!" shouts my grandson Lucas, bounding out of a back bedroom. He begins dancing in the hallway, infecting his brother and sister with the joy of electricity. "The power's on!" they chant, doing the Power Dance.

Addicted to electricity? Probably. Still, there were quiet moments. The warm light of the candle on the pages of my book was rather pleasant. Really.

Do I long for another era, a quieter time? Absolutely not. The power's on, and I feel like dancing!

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