Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Give Me Electricity or Give Me Death--Almost Literally.

This morning, just as I was about to start making the magical elixir of life, aka a pot of coffee, I heard it.

The click.

Then the beep of my carbon monoxide detector as it lost power. Then the silence. The power was out.

Those who know me are familiar with what happens next. I, literally, flip out. 

When the kids were little and my mother was around, I would control my irrational behavior to a point--participating in the family activities of lighting candles, telling stories in the dark and passing out whatever ice cream treat was in the freezer before it melted.

I could take this up to a point but would soon punctuate the festivities with bursts of hysteria, "What if the power never comes back on?" was a favorite refrain. Sometimes I would actually burst into tears as I suffered almost immediate withdrawal from the busy whirring of appliances. I'd hover by the television, trying to will it back to life like Uri Geller used to bend a fork.

I'd threaten to check into a motel. Run away. Put the house up for sale. Return to the city where this only happens once a decade. When the kids got older, we'd manually heave open the garage door and drive all over the neighborhood, curious to see where the line of darkness ended and blessed normalcy began again.

Today, upon hearing the dreaded click of disconnection and then the ensuing silence that settled about the house like a heavy blanket, I stood and blinked in disbelief. My cable box, dead and unlit, stared back.

The sun is brightly shining. There is no ice storm. No gale force winds. No lightening. Why, I asked the universe, WHY????

Since the phone goes dead when the power is off, I must resort to using my cell to call the power company. Since I forgot to recharge it, the cell is also dead. I do more staring. What to do?

I tear out into the garage and--get this--turn on the engine of the car to plug in the phone and make the call with the motor running. I never said I was smart, remember?

Of course, I have opened the small door (can't open the big doors since they are electrically operated) but by the time I get through to the cheerful automated whore on the other end, I have used up every combination of foul word mathematically possible and am, literally, starting to get nauseous from the carbon monoxide.

Usually it's a simple phone call.

Years ago, a caller would receive a little good-natured sympathy from a human at the end of the line but, lately, it's an electronic voice.

Today the voice has all the info wrong---address, phone number--so I wonder if I have been turned off as a result of mistaken identity. But I can't stay on the phone much longer. If there had been a parakeet in the garage, he would have already been feet up.

As the fumes build, I call Seth and ask him to make the phone call from work, running out to the driveway where I breathe fresh air to clear my lungs. I realize that I won't be able to post my blog, flush the toilet or wash my face (the water pumps are all electric) or brew coffee. I feel the old hysteria rising as I head back inside.

Just as I am about to start chewing on coffee beans and sniffing Sharpies, I start to feel calmer.

Suddenly the quiet of the house is less a threat than a tangible peacefulness. I am confused by this as rarely do I react to anything with calmness. My personal immaturity is legendary.

But the rage continues to dissipate and I pick up a book that I've been reading half-heartedly since last week.

Buzzy climbs into my lap and we sit for about an hour. The book transports me as Buzzy makes little running motions in his sleep (he is chasing a mouse-sized Justin Bieber in a dream, no doubt).

When the electricity clicks back on, I am startled. Back to my routine now, the enforced dreaminess of the power-outage is over....

Thank God. It wasn't as bad as I thought but this ain't Little House on the friggin' Praire, now is it?? Time for Cash Cab and coffee.

What? Did you think I was going soft on you, people? Not likely.


  1. Sniffing Sharpies? Is that what I need to do? And I was just going to drink myself into calmness.

    You want to amble over to my house and help stuff 5,000 bags? It'll help you forget how pissed off you were about the power.

  2. It is nice to have a laugh today - thank you. I hate those pre-recorded messages you get these days - they always bring out the sailor in me and give me a chance to try out my extensive supply of swear words.

  3. Yes, Michele....sniffing Sharpies makes most things more bearable....and if I were nearby, you know I'd help you stuff those bags!

  4. Janet! I am so glad to hear from you. I left you a comment yesterday because I was worried about you!!!

    Are you far fom the damage?

  5. Katie--you are young enough to still salvage a life from a coffee addiction! Save yourself!

  6. Hard to commit, but this post MIGHT be my favorite so far. Again, I can't commit because I love them all, but this was a goodie. :-)

  7. Thanks for worrying Susan - you are very kind. We are a long way away from the quake zone - thankfully. But, NZ is so small and there are so few of us that everyone knows someone who is affected. There are miracles happening, but some God-awful stuff too - often side-by-side

  8. Thanks, Maria! My son Charlie liked this one, too!

    And Janet, the footage from NZ was so upsetting. We are praying for your country. And for Libya--what a crazy news day.

  9. Hey Susan, Check with Seth to find out how but you can open an electric garage door in a power outage, you just need to pull the thingy. FYI, if there is a next time (and for your sake I hope there isn't one) you needn't put your life in jeopardy to make a phone call. Oh, and, I also think that you don't have to turn the car all the way on for the charging port to be active.

  10. Mary! After reading this--and genuinely fearing he had married a maniac--he showed me how to open the garage door...I was too hysterical to try charging at a less lethal level but I was too far gone....thanks for the comment and for reading!