My review this month is on Blackout, written by John Rocco.
Last week there was an enormous power outage in Southern California. For about 10 hours—basically from the time we got home from school/work until way past bed time, we were in a blackout state—and so were countless thousands down to Baja California and east all the way to Arizona.
It’s a strange sensation and not too entirely awful as long as it ends at some point. I couldn’t stop thinking about those poor hurricane ravaged people in Missouri and various other places that were without power for far longer than 10 hours. To be honest, the only semi-brutal part of it was that we were in the midst of quite a heat wave (which I thought caused the outage in the first place, but turns out not to have been the case). In fact, that was the first indicator as it was still light out, so I just thought the air conditioner was on the fritz. It took me awhile to figure out we had no power because I wasn’t cooking yet and everyone was still working on homework, so the TV, wii, etc. were not yet allowed. But then as the sun slowly set and the reality of the situation sunk in for my younger daughter, she sort-of started to panic.
“Wait, what? No T.V? Okay, I’ll just go on the computer.”
“No that’s not going to work either.” Is your i-Pod charged? What about your DS?”
“No, they aren’t charged…oh my God…” (wild eyes now…little beads of sweat on upper lip…)
“That’s okay, we can read,” I say happily.
“I already did my 20 minutes for my reading log,” she says as though I’m talking about hard labor on a chain gang—not a big reader, that one. It kills me.
“We could do a puzzle,” I say hopefully.
“Nah, maybe I’ll just go sharpen some pencils,” (which is something she does sometimes for recreation, I am aware that that is not normal.)
So she starts to trudge toward the pencil sharpener. I’m holding my breath, waiting for her to realize that her last resort is an electrical appliance as well.
“AAAAAhhhhhh! Wait! So nothing works? What about my Hot Pockets?”
“Yeah, those are going to have to be cold pockets tonight.”
“Mac n’ Cheese?”
“Not gonna happen. I could make you a P.B.& J. ?”
“Oh nevermind. I’ll just have some cheese puffs. Maybe I’ll go try to find a puzzle. How will we be able to see the pieces?”
(Great question, since I can barely see them half the time as it is.)
“Candles! It’ll be fun!”
She goes and lays down on the sofa for awhile and sorta moans periodically.
The big one did not come totally unglued as she is somewhat more adventurous, but she was extremely edgy about the fact that she could not complete her homework as it was all on the computer. She put herself in charge of gathering candles and lanterns (which we had plenty of—being both a camping and military family).
We had plenty of light, and when Dad finally got home, he busted out an old transistor radio so we could hear what was going on. So we all sat around, just like a family in the 50’s listening to a radio program. (To be fair, he had his i-Pad too, so we weren’t completely cut off…and we had a couple cell phones with spotty reception.)
So, not an emergency by any stretch of the imagination, but my husband did have sort of an awful commute home with traffic lights out and accidents all over the place—some commuters left their cars on the road to walk home rather than wait it out and/ or put themselves in unnecessary danger.
We did wind up doing some puzzles and a few crafts and eventually just went to bed early because there’s only so much you can do. The power surged on at some point after midnight so all was back to normal in the morning. We re-set the clocks and started our days.
There was a fleeting moment after we’d been without air conditioning for over an hour that I had that heart clutching thought “Al Qaeda got to the power grid.” It was probably because it was just before the 10 year anniversary of 9/11 and I had terrorists on the brain. A lot of people have speculated/hypothesized that that would be the way to take America down. In the same way that crashing planes into the World Trade Center brought a city and a financial center to its knees, crashing our “nerve systems”—the entire world wide web and making it impossible for anyone to work or communicate or even function—that could be the end. If you can organize a revolution via twitter, then if we take away those capabilities and those networks, what happens to us as a country? As a society? I’ll admit, I got the fear for a little while.
In Rocco’s gorgeously illustrated book—it’s a city blackout which is a very different thing altogether—from what we here experienced which was a very suburban version of the same thing. But, in Rocco’s story…the dark evening turns into a rooftop party with the stars as disco lights and normally less than communicative neighbors suddenly thrust together in “dire” straits.
I wish I could say that we had a lovely pioneer evening and everyone was thrilled to get back to nature and back to the things that matter, but to be quite honest, it wasn’t that great. I thought long and hard about it and I think we are at least one generation removed. Our kids are too young to remember a time before…well, before, anything! There is no “simpler” time for them, and we, as the older generation, still have memories of that, a little bit. Is it sad? I don’t know. Maybe. If it is, it’s probably a wasted emotion. It’s only going to get worse…or better…depending on how you look at it.
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