--conversation starter after the blackout
The lights flicker. Then dim. Then suddenly the bulbs all go dark and the appliances cease humming and the screens blink out and the house is silent, all the noise of electrified modern life now stilled.
This past Saturday night in the small town I call home it was a chilled March evening, oh so windy, made all that much colder by the fact many of my neighbors were without power after the wicked northeaster that hit New England like a bomb. They and more than 300,000 other Bay Staters, more than a million folks on the east coast, were powerless, lacking electricity, the invisible current upon which modern life depends. And when the juice doesn't flow: no lights. No cable TV or internet service either. For many no landline telephone. Or water, if you need a pump for H2O, which I do. Or heat, if you don't have a fireplace or wood stove or generator.
For hours, or a day, or even days, we were in the dark, without the basics of modern civilization that we all so easily take for granted. It really does seems like magic: to flick a light switch and a room is instantly illuminated. Open a tap and water runs freely. Click a remote or mouse and connect to everything, anything. Pick up the phone and the buzz of dial tone assures. Open the fridge and the food is ice cold. Turn a thermostat. "Tic, tic, tic", the heat rising to warm winter worn bodies.
Until none of that happens. Until the lights go out.
I'm old enough to have fuzzy memories of the big blackout of 1965. On that Tuesday evening, the 9th of November, thirty million people in the northeast United States and Canada, lost power due to a glitch in the electrical grid. For 13 hours one of the most densely populated parts of mother Earth was pitch black. Unlike a 1977 blackout in New York city, when wide spread looting and crime broke out, in 1965 the lowest level of crime ever recorded, marked that full moon illuminated night. There was even a spike in births nine months later. You've got find something to do when the power goes out!
It is humbling, scary even, to consider just how fully and completely dependent we are in 2018, upon the power that powers almost every device and convenience that marks life for us moderns. I didn't lose electricity but as I write this, I am still without phone, internet or TV service. I'd like to report I'm reveling in this technology Sabbath, quietly sitting cardigan clad in a comfy chair, reading an actual book, scribbling away with pencil on a yellow legal pad.
To be thus released was novel at first. No annoying sales calls. No wasting so much time getting sucked into the black hole of web surfing. No flicking through the channels on the TV to pass the time. Save for the one week a year when I travel to a corner of New England that still lacks a strong cell signal, I've been plugged in for more than twenty years. So unplugged is kind of fun.
Until it is not.
After 48 hours I confess I'm "jonesing" for my screens. Suffering a bit of withdrawal. No Netflix or surfing the news or Facebook. No television shows to soothe my distracted brain after a long day at work. No emails to answer or ringing house phone to pick up. Now I wait for the technician from Verizon to arrive, pray and hope that this latter day magician will work her mystical spells, re-animate my comatose technology.
A guy can dream, right?
But until then I'm off the grid, blank, back to analog. I'm newly aware of how grateful I am for all my technology, for the miraculous and even magical ways our devices connect us, one to another, and out into the world. How much we can actually do with these machines! Yet God willing, if I am wise, perhaps I can learn to have a bit more technology balance when I'm back on. To maybe not be so ruled by my screens. Sound familiar? So too I am just thankful for electricity, for the wire that snakes into my home, that works without fail 99.9 percent of the time. Thank you Thomas Edison. Amazing. Or maybe God is just trying to teach me that I need to depend more on a real higher power and less on human created forms of power and technology. And so given I still have no technology to interrupt my thinking, I'm wondering....
Where were you when the lights went out?