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December 18, 2001

Season of Darkness

We are entering the wet, windy winter of Oregon, and with it comes power outages. When we lived in Portland (Tigard, really, but we were in one of those Gerrymandered little curlicues belonging to Portland), we would lose power at least once every winter, and if we were lucky, it would last less than a couple of days. More standard would be a power outage which lasted a week.

Since we moved to Tualatin, the land of buried power lines, this has become less of a problem. Now, we seldom experience outages at all, and when we do, they amount to less than an hour, minutes more often. However, Thursday we had the most 'dramatic' outage we've had in awhile. The power went out around 6:45pm, and didn't return until 9:20pm. All the computers shut down, dropping my file download and cutting us off from the Internet (gasp). The television of course ceased to function, sending Kelly into a spiral of despair. She was literally wandering around the house declaiming "this is the worst day of my life!" That's what you get for being addicted to Cartoon Network, kiddo.

At the time, of course, we didn't know how long it would last. Initially, we were expecting maybe a half hour. When that time came and went, Jean called PG&E to find out what the estimate was. It turns out that power had been lost in West Linn, and they were shunting power from Tualatin. Who knows why? Maybe there was a hospital involved. Otherwise, why punish good little ant Tualatin who planned for the winter by burying her power lines, to reward lazy grasshopper West Linn, foolishly leaving his power lines above ground?

So anyway, we were left with an estimate of 8pm for reestablished service. By this time we'd fished out the candles, flashlights and portable radio, I was eating my cold dinner, and Kelly had settled down into a lachrymose murmur of despair. I resolved to finish my dinner.

My main concern during all this was that it was cold outside, and that although our house has gas heat, it uses an electric blower! Doh! So the house was going to get gradually colder the longer the outage persisted. Jean had already put on a large chenille robe. I opted to just remain in my day's clothing, with the option of putting on a jacket if needed. Kelly, in her usual sound judgement, had stripped down to her underpants.

After I finished my dinner and brushed my teeth, it occurred to me that I had a computer that would still work, though not connected to the Internet. I went downstairs, got my iBook, put in the battery, and brought it upstairs. Then I loaded four episodes of Angelic Layer off of a CD-R I had lying on the shelf, and began watching. As soon as the sound of the opening theme music began wafting out of the tinny speaker, Kelly came a running! Cartoons! Cartoons! After two episodes (which Kelly gave the big thumbs up to), it was time for Kelly to go to bed. No bath, sorry, the water would probably be too cool by now.

So I put both the women to bed, and called PG&E again, at Jean's bidding. Current estimate, 11:50pm! Ugghh! So I settled down in the living room to read a book by candlelight. I haven't done that in awhile. Note to myself: a regular hurricane lamp doesn't flicker nearly as much as a flame from a candle in the bottom of a glass bowl.

By this time, the house temperature was down to 67 degrees, though I was lying on the floor in my street clothes feeling quite comfortable. Suddenly, at 9:20 pm, the power surged back on. The television Jean had left on in the basement began chattering, the refrigerator hummed away, and all the other little noises of an elecric household assumed their rightful place in the ambient background. Kelly and Jean both popped out of bed, and it took awhile to get the clocks reset and everyone back to bed.

At this point, I'd insert the obligatory old saw about having a glimpse of our ancestors' lifestyle, but I did all that when I lived on Lake Gogebic in Michigan for several months as a teenager. It sucked then, and it sucks now. Kelly "This is the worst day of my life" Wakefield has no clue...

Posted by dpwakefield at December 18, 2001 09:18 AM