Wednesday, June 23, 2010


The big city runs on electricity. This obvious fact tends to get lost in the hurley burley of everyday life as we go about our usual daily business of endlessly trying to make ends meet (a trick I've never fully managed to accomplish). However I have learned out of necessity to become an accomplished juggler, robbing Peter to pay Paul and robbing Paul to pay this overdue bill and that. This morning however I was once again rudly reminded of just how dependent we all are on the uninterrupted supply of energy to our homes.

This first week of summer we are caught in the grip of the first heat wave of the season, temperatures in the high nineties for at least the past three days with plenty more of the same to come. Today it is expected to hit 97 degrees. Heat warnings have been issued by the authorities. Stay indoors they say; stay cool they say; drink plenty of liquids; check up on elderly neighbors. All good advice that depends on the single most important resource - electricity.

I went to bed last night with the small window air conditioner in my bedroom humming along nicely providing enough cool air to allow me to actually fall asleep. I awoke this morning very early and noticed an absence of any sound whatsoever. No AC; no fan; At first I thought it was all my fault (what else is new?). Had I forgotten to pay the electric bill again? Did I ignore a shut off notice again? (I get so many utility shut off warnings that I have become indifferent to them; like the little boy who cried wolf too often, the utility companies have to have boots on the ground, and send a hard hatted workman banging at my door in order to get my attention. I'm not proud of this behavior; but it happens often enough whenever my financial juggling act is not enough to turn the trick and/or the utility company finally decides enough is enough and my bluff gets called).

In a panic, I jumped out of bed (in a manner of speaking, my aching knees permitting) and vaulted down to the basement flashlight in hand to check the breaker box to see if any switches had been knocked off line. To my relief the problem was not there, I was not at fault. The problem had to be external; In a flash (again, relatively speaking) I ran to the upstairs bedroom window to see what I could see. Hmmmm. Buses were running (a very good sign, especially as I had to be at work today for a very important meeting and I depend entirely on public transportation). However, the traffic lights were off and the street lights as well. I concluded that the whole neighborhood had lost electrical power. Oddly relieved that the problem was only a neighborhood power outage (and again, not my fault!) I prepared for my work day by going about my usual morning rituals (shaving in the dark with cold water!) As I was about to leave the house I suddenly heard the bubbling sound of my acquarium air pump kicking back into action! The power had been restored. Hallaluyah! I was soooooooo relieved. All the food in my refrigerator wasn't going to spoil after all. I would once again have air conditioning (especially during this dreadful heat wave!). I felt renewed, even born again! I was humbled though. All that was needed to expose my vulnerability and fragility was for the electric power to be out of commission (for whatever reason; perhaps a transformer somewhere in the grid had been hit by lightening). The good news was that the power was back on and all was once again right with the world. May it always be so!

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