“It was a dark and stormy night…”
One evening a few springs back I was watching The Maltese Falcon while organizing files on my laptop and vwoosh…. suddenly all was dark (except the laptop which reverted to battery mode.) I slipped on some boots, grabbed a flashlight and went out to the road. In all directions, darkness.
It wasn’t a fuse, so we were powerless to do anything about it, but it set in motion a number thoughts. First, that I was glad it was early spring and not mid-winter where temps can be minus twenty or thirty at night. Second, at what point will the frozen goods in the freezers need to be dealt with?
In 1979 I spent a year in Puerto Rico where blackouts and brownouts were a weekly routine. The infrastructure we take for granted here in the U.S. was not yet a reliable part of life elsewhere, something I didn’t know due to my limited experience with such things.
In fact, there was a lot I didn’t know about Puerto Rico, that many Americans probably didn’t, though I did know my favorite baseball player, Roberto Clemente of the Pittsburgh Pirates, was from Puerto Rico. I also knew that the country was under U.S. jurisdiction, and not a free country.
I did not know, however, that Puerto Rico had four political parties. Two wanted the country to break free of the U.S. and become independent. One of these wanted a Capitalist democracy and the other a socialist state. Their third political party wanted Puerto Rico to become the 51st state as part of the the U.S. and the last group wanted to keep the status quo, which was good for those in power and not so good for the fifty percent who were unemployed.
It was this last group that held the power, and so it is that Puerto Rico remains a “subject” of the U.S. Actually, though, people born in Puerto Rico are considered U.S. citizens who can vote.
My thoughts flew to Puerto Rico because whenever the power went out, the refrigerators and freezers had to be left closed. If the power remained off for eight hours they would then be opened and we’d all eat the semi-melted ice cream, and cook the meat. The younger people liked the ice cream part and when five or six hours had passed, they were very attentive to the passage of time. At eight hours, everyone in the compound was in the kitchen.
Last night here in Duluth, we weren’t sure how long the power would be off. About a half hour after going to bed all the lights came back on, and the radio. Up we jumped, to take care of everything needing attention.
The following morning I went online to find a news story about it, but couldn’t find anything. I did find other power outage stories though. A falling telephone pole had snapped some electrical lines and put out the power in a section of Salt Lake City. The city of Niles had a brief power outage, as did the Whittier Middle School on Monday, which sent kids home early. There were also power outages due to winds in Monterrey County, CA, and a pickup truck that hit a pole somewhere else.
We take these things for granted, our roads and electricity and cell phones. Our infrastructure, however, didn’t appear out of nowhere. Last night we had candles and a lamp to light the house. This is how it had been done for centuries until Edison came along. In the grand scheme of things, our modern era has been but a blip on the most recent page of history. Where it will end up is anyone’s guess, but for now, I like it when they keep the power on.
Originally published at pioneerproductions.blogspot.com