Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Power Hungry

Did you see that VCU-George Mason game Monday night? What a great finish. With the CAA Championship on the line, the sixth-seeded Patriots were trying to reignite the glory of last year's run to the Final Four. Trailing by five points with less than two minutes to play, Rams guard Eric Maynor got two steals and scored seven points to give Virginia Commonwealth a two-point lead with 40 seconds to play. Jim Larranaga called George Mason's last timeout to plot his endgame strategy. And then the power went out. Not at the arena. In my house. After a couple seconds, we got that brief flicker of lights and hope, and then, darkness again.

Ah, the old power outage. When I was a kid, these happened now and then during a thunderstorm and immediately sent us scrambling for candles and flashlights. There were plenty of the former because my mother insisted on dining by candlelight - every night. The latter were a little tougher to come by because with eight kids in the house, somebody was always using a flashlight to search for a marble that had rolled under a dresser, or to explore unlit crawl spaces, or to make spooky faces. Once we found adequate illumination, the next concern for my parents was the perishable food. I don't remember heat being an issue because it wasn't ever very cold when we lost power, I guess, but the Doc recalls her father heating bricks by the fireplace, wrapping them in towels and putting them in the beds to keep warm.

As an adult homeowner, the drill has changed a little bit. Because we are on a well and septic system, no electricity means no well pump, which means you've got what's left in the tank in the basement, or about two toilet flushes. Usually, I remember this very important fact right after I instinctively flush.

Our first power loss in the house we now live in was quite memorable because it lasted several days and because my mother-in-law was staying with us. We had moved in about a month before so this was her first visit to see our "grownup" home. She arrived at about the same time we caught the fringe of a hurricane that knocked the whole region for a loop. Needless to say, she was quite impressed, what with our having no water and no air conditioning for almost a week in late August. She remarked that maybe we should look into getting a whole-house generator system installed as a backup, so that we would not be as inconvenienced the next time this happened. She also asked about replacing the homemade steps from the garage into the house, which were a tad steep. We agreed with her 100% and now, eight years later, we still have no generator and the same steps.

It fascinates me how a lack of power can leave you feeling so, well, powerless. One second, I have 100 channels at my fingertips, as much information as my high-speed internet cable can handle, and the next second, silent darkness, and the next second, screaming kids. Actually, the kids were fine. They have learned to adjust to this scenario much better than when they used to open the freezer every few minutes, saying, "The fridge is working! It's still cold in here!"

Still, in an instant, the entire premise of the evening has changed. There should be a flashlight in the drawer next to the fridge, but there should also be well-planned escape routes in the event of a fire and I should floss every day, but I know there are matches above the fireplace, and, hey, what's this, a flashlight in the drawer by the fridge, and it works. Wow, big Boy Scout points for that one. Okay, next mission, get kids to bed. Since it was close to 9:00, this process was already well underway, and once I convinced my nine-year old that the electric candle was not a fire hazard and my seven-year old that he still had to brush his teeth because the toothbrushes run on batteries, we were pretty much done.

Normally this is the point in the evening where the Doc passes out on the coach as I idly flip from college to professional basketball games, occasionally skipping around the movie channels and various Law and Order options (but never any of the CSI's). Instead, after I try to make sure all the lights are switched off, we retire to bed. Two-and-a-half hours later, I am awakened by a few lights that I missed as the power comes back on.

The next day, we are all well rested, and if I missed a couple basketball games and other breathlessly reported local news stories, I don't feel like I suffered much. Don't get me wrong, I like my conveniences and obviously if you are reading this, you enjoy them, too. But it was a nice break.

By the way, VCU won the game.


Jay said...

As Junger said in The Perfect Storm: "Suddenly, they were back in the 19th century."

brianvinci said...

To the former voice of Big Red Women's Basketball,

I liked this blog, but I like any of your blogs that are not ENTIRELY focused on basketball and American Idol.

BTW, go to Home Depot and have them install a Generac. You can afford it.

Bill Fitzgerald said...

Fortunately, I woke up right back in the comfort of the 21st.

But what would it cost me in masculine self-image to let yet another man with tools come into my home and further expose my inadequacies? I think I'd rather sit and suffer in cold, silent darkness.