Did I Say That?: Surviving a powerless world in the wake of Tropical Storm Iasias
When I was a rebellious free spirit during the ’60s, I had a fantasy. In the tradition of Euell Gibbons, Daniel Boone and Henry David Thoreau, I was going to leave it all behind, go into the woods and “live off the grid.” I gave up that dream after almost five days without electricity.
I’m still recuperating from Tropical Storm Isaias and life without power, phone, water and Internet. Most people can get by without a shower, but without the Internet? No can do.
I can’t live without electricity — that divinely inspired invention of Thomas Edison, which was discovered by Ben Franklin when he almost got electrocuted flying his kite. I’ve learned to love the grid.
There’s only one thing worse than no power — no power on a sweltering summer day. Life as we knew it changed. We swore a lot, we drove to other towns to find ice and food, we faced life-and-death situations trying to get through intersections with no stoplights.
Everyone had a horror story to share, and if they didn’t have one, they were among the fortunate few who didn’t lose power, so in retaliation we took their wallets, their car keys and anything else we could grab to make them as miserable as us.
Every evening, we checked the “outage list” to see if the restoration effort made any progress. The bad news was that 97 percent of our town had no power. The good news was it went down to 15 percent in five days. The bad news was we were among the 15 percent.
You have no idea how demoralizing it is to see people living two streets away from you with every light on in the house, plasma screen TVs and stereos blaring, and air conditioners cranked up ... while you’re wallowing in misery.
It was a week of false hopes, lying in bed, praying for a breeze and listening to the annoying clatter of generators owned by our privileged neighbors who wouldn’t share their watts. I was often tempted to sneak out at night and steal a generator ... or maybe just turn it off.
When we finally saw UI trucks, we didn’t know whether to greet them with pitchforks and torches or leis and Bundt cakes. We thought our liberators had arrived, but they either kept driving or stopped to “assess the situation” — that’s a professional term — and then kept driving.
For years to come, we’ll be telling tales about Tropical Storm Whatshisname. I’ll recall the time I waited in a 20-car line at the dump so I could throw out hundreds of dollars of food because someone — my wife says it was me, but I say it was her — put a bag of ice in the freezer and it leaked all over the place.
It was no fun waking up in the middle of the night for a snack and stumbling barefoot in the dark through a pool of water. How did we ever get out of college without knowing the fundamental principles of melting ice cubes, i.e. the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which clearly states that ice cubes have a tendency to melt and eventually they melt all over everything.
We longed for the simple pleasures of life — a hot shower, a hot meal, Google. Then, after much misery, the fateful moment came when the Wizard of UI flipped the switch behind the magic curtain and gave our neighborhood back its electricity. People were dancing in the streets, but I danced only a short time because I wanted to crank up the ole AC and spend my night in wild abandon on the Internet.
In conclusion, I just want to say that at times like this I often ask, “WWTD? What would Thoreau do?” Is he looking down from Walden Pond in the Sky and snickering at me because I’m a slave to modern technology and electricity?
Let’s be honest. When he went to live in the woods, he could have used a good Internet provider. A little air conditioning would have helped too.
Joe Pisani can be reached at email@example.com.