Diva In A Dark World–How I’m Surviving My First Blackout
Friday night I was jolted awake, like many others, by the loudest crack of thunder I had ever heard. I rolled over to see flashes of lightening shining through my bedroom window like someone flicking a light switch on and off over and over. That’s when I heard the fans stop and my alarm clock go black. The power was out. And so began my first official blackout as a new homeowner, and all of the lessons that come with it.
Of course, the blackout took place during the hottest weekend of 2012 so far, so staying comfortable against stifleing heat and humidity without the benefit of air conditioning or fans was the thought the rushed quickest to my mind. I have never been a fan of air conditioning or drafty breezes anyway, so I figured that would be easiest to live without. But that was at 8 a.m. in the morning on Saturday before the intensity of the heat wave fully took over. And then I thought, OMG! THE FRIDGE! Well, there goes all the Omaha Steaks my husband received for his birthday recently. Immediately I gutted what I could, and sent for reinforcements from, who else, my father (hey I’m still dad’s lil gal) who was kind enough to lend us a few coolers and loads of ice.
That’s when I heard the many voices of my neighbors. As I stepped outside to see what the commotion was I realized the wooden gate to my backyard had been blown clear off its hinges, exposing the trees that had fallen over from my neighbors yard into mine. I walked to the driveway’s end to see half a dozen trees on my street on top of roofs, cars, and power lines. It looked like a hurricane had blown through. And suddenly the cleanup was underway, neighbor helping neighbor to clear away what they could and assessing the damage. I felt helpless.
As soon as I knew plans for the food were in place, I jumped in my car and bolted for the station. I had no idea how widespread the power outage, or the damage, was. Non-functioning traffic lights made it trecherous to navigate intersections along the Black and White Horse Pikes. Police were on the scene at some but not all crossways, but I could tell they were doing the best they could to divert any accidents. I made as many right turns as I safely could, often having to turn around and detour myself when I encountered fallen trees. Pleasantville neighborhoods looked to me at that time to have been the hardest hit, trees broken and uprooted, clearly no match for the straight winds that had passed through. I would eventually encounter much of the same as I traveled around Atlantic County.
I was relieved to find SoJO still on the air, but our online resources compromised. No internet, no cell service, not to mention all of Northfield looked like a ghost town with no operating stores. I gathered as much info as I could regarding the storm and then went in search of the one thing I wished I had gotten the day before–gas.
I could count the number of operating fuel stations on one hand, all with vehicles lined up one pump after the other. I gave up. I took the $20 I had and stocked up on as many non-perishable snacks as it would get me, and looked forward to a life of Pringles and Pop Tarts until I could find more suitable sustainance. Finally, an excuse to eat junk food due to my lack of options.
Back home began the search for candles and batteries as I had learned from neighbors that power was unlikely to be restored for several days. I was just still gazing in awe of what Mother Nature has brought on so viciously and unexpected the night before. It’s also the moment I realized there might be something to those people on TV with Doomsday bunkers. They certainly were more prepared and organized than I. Luckily my uber friendly and naturally caretaking neighbor across the way took pity on us, staging an impromptu barbeque while her husband tracked down a generator. We enjoyed some grub and eventually a bit of cool air once the generator arrived. Night fell, and without TV or any other available entertainment it was bedtime. I couldn’t help but fall asleep sad that I’d probably miss the coverage of the Olympic trials.
I’m a person who could have cared less about not having access to Facebook or Twitter for a few days. The detachment is kind of freeing. But I definitely appreciate electricity. I don’t quite dig roughing it ‘Little House On The Prairie’-style. However, I felt my panic wasn’t about not having power. It was the lack of power I had as far as accessibility to things like the ATM, or gas pumps, coffee, pizza. You understand in the blink of an eye just much we’ve given over to the convenience of technology, and how feeble you are when it all goes dark.
I’m getting along as best as I can getting crafty with hanging flashlights from chandeliers, even pulling a Marilyn Monroe ‘Seven Year Itch’ stunt wrapping my bed sheets in a space bag and shoving them into the ice box. I found relief yesterday through a cold bath and a trip to Regal Cinemas in Camden County for an air conditioned viewing of The Avengers. Today I’ll fiddle with a generator and hope that at least gains me access to an electric light source. I know now that I need to be better prepared and have an emergency kit handy for the next blackout. Maybe I won’t start digging a hole in my backyard for an underground bunker, just keep a bucket or bag where I can get to things like batteries, extra meds and cash, and water at a moments notice. Because the more technology takes over, the harder life will be when we have to go without. Lesson learned.