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  • Dan Marich

Feeling Helpless


There are few things in life that make you feel completely helpless. The power going out is one of them. Your first reaction, especially when it happens in the middle of the night, is to jump up and start flicking switches on and off, as if that will give you the definitive answer to, "What the hell just happened?".


Next, most of us, immediately run to the window to see if the neighbors power is out too. If their house is also dark, then that eliminates one of the two things you would need to do next, check the breaker box. You are, sadly, usually filled with relief when you see their power is also out, because it means this was not caused by anything you might have done.



Growing up, and living most of my life, in the Midwest, power outages are a way of life in that part of the world. They are so commonplace, that most of us eventually succumb to going out and buying a gigantic generator to at least keep, the freezers and refrigerators, running until power is restored. (The Trade Tools Direct, 1500 watt, XP83 max, was my favorite.)


We now live in the desert where, as you might be aware, rain is as scarce as a Chicago Bears Super Bowl championship. We thought our days of worrying about the meat going bad, or the beer getting warm, were over. Who knew that all it takes is for a hummingbird to piss on a powerline for the power to go out.


There we were, at 2:30 in the morning earlier today, looking for flashlights, with working batteries, so we can find the lanterns hidden away in the shed, that don't work because the batteries in them went dead. Earthquake ready we are not apparently.


Linda, bless her heart, found two candles and immediately put them in key locations, the bathrooms. This was wonderful news for me because I suddenly realized I needed to use the bathroom, but it also made me wonder, why she, and her mother, needed candles in the bathroom. Men stand, ladies sit. Why do you need to see where you are going when you are sitting?


Anyway, getting some light going in the house allows you to see your way around and then you realize, what's the point. You can't make coffee, or toast, or nuke some breakfast sandwich in the microwave, so who cares if you can see at 3AM? You might as well go back to bed, except that no power also means the air conditioner is also not running, and it is still the desert where the nights cool off to a comfortable 103. On a good night.


There is nothing more thrilling than sitting on leather furniture, with two broiling, hot, Jack Russell's, next to you, and the front door open, letting in the 81 degree, with 89% humidity, air into the house. Life is good.


Checking the Southern California Electric Company web site, tells me they have no idea the power is out, so I report it to get them kick started. Estimated time for power to be restored, for an event they have no idea is happening yet, is 12:30 PM later today. Clearly they just put nine hours ahead as a go to time no matter what. Around the same time I get an email from the cable/internet company telling me, what I already know, that the cable is out and will be back in service by 5:30 AM.


I'm thinking, how do they know when the power will be back on, when the power company doesn't even know it is out yet? So, based on this information I relay to Linda that power should be back on between 5:30 and 12:30. She grunts acknowledgement and continues to nap with the battery operated fan sitting on her chest.


Suddenly, good news, I am now experiencing crazy legs, for some reason, so add that to my stellar morning. Wondering if it is too early to grab the vodka, I search for some batteries for the lanterns. We have two "D" batteries and I only need 12 so over to the drawer to pull out the store shopping list and add "D" batteries to it.


I let the dogs out so that they can stand on the patio and watch the rain pour down with me as they refuse to take one step into the dog run while it is raining. I note that the gutters seem to be clogged and the rain is just pouring over the sides onto the patio. Back into the house and add clean the gutters to my Monday to do list.


Completely defeated by mother nature, I make another attempt to go back to sleep, and have just about dozed off, when suddenly bings are going off all over the house, and lights are flashing on as the power is joyfully restored. I glance at the clock and it reads 5:23. The cable company is more on top of power outages than the power company.


As I am reflecting back on our complete lack of readiness for an emergency, sipping my first cup of coffee for the day, the gardener pulls up at 7:30 to trim our out of control mesquite tree in the front yard.


A new week has started here in the desert.

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