Thought Fodder
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Power Outage (in more ways than one)


Thought Fodder

This morning, a little after 8 a.m., the power went out in our little hamlet. Flicker of the lights, beep of the smoke detectors, thought it might come back right away, but no.

Time to call the power company. Ah, but the home phone has an electric base, so there was no way to call out from it. Naturally, the internet and television were inoperable as well. Good thing we get a paper bill from the power company so I had a phone number handy.

We did have cell phones, both with very low batteries. No way to charge them, but I managed to get a call in to the power company and discovered that at least 200 homes in our area were without power. It sounded like they were looking for a blown transformer. No idea how long the situation would last.

We hoped not long.

Being without a furnace in the middle of winter in Minnesota is not a happy situation. Thankfully we’re not in the throes of the cold snap we had a week or so ago. (If you’re not from Minnesota, you may think that if we’ve got snow, we’ve got to be miserable with cold. For a Minnesotan, if it stays well below zero (-10 to -15 below), then we’re cold. If it’s 20-30 degrees above zero, we consider it balmy. We were at around 22 degrees today.)

The gas stove wasn’t working either, but only because it uses electricity to spark the pilot light. Hubby was able to go old-skool with it, turning on the gas and lighting it with a match because he hadn’t yet made his coffee. Without the electric coffee grinder, he had to crush the beans by hand, which made the grounds not fine enough for a decent cup of coffee. We joked that he was having South Dakota coffee today, so weak that it’s like waving a coffee bean at water and leaving it at that.

Electricity returned within an hour.

I took the dog for a walk and chatted with the neighbor, who was out shoveling. (Did I mention it was snowing? We’ve gotten 6-7 inches today.) I asked the neighbor if his power had gone out. It had. He said, “Don’t you just feel helpless without power?” And I thought that was a most profound, if inadvertent thing to say. Why, yes, if we don’t have power (and not just the electrical type), we feel helpless.

Hubby and I had discussed how dependent we are on all of our “automatic” utilities and how interconnected some of them have become. We are old enough to remember when telephones were separate from electrical services. If we’d had an old-fashioned hard-wired phone, we could have dialed out even without power.

We ran a bunch of errands all over town today, asking at each place if they had lost power. Everyone we talked to had, so this was not a limited power outage. An hour without power is an inconvenience, but it certainly makes you grateful for a service you rarely have to think about and all of the people and facilities that provide that service. It also makes you imagine what you’d have to do if the power went out for an extended period of time.

Break out the matches and firewood.