The storm blew in with great force and drama, knocking out our electricity within minutes. The temperature plunged from 100 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit but the house remained hot, particularly on the upper floor, with no fans to circulate the air.
Without power, what to do? No TV, no internet. I read a book by flashlight for a while, then I dozed off. I woke in a panic some hours later, in a hot, dark stuffy room that felt like a coffin. I fumbled in the dark for my flashlight, as I struggled to remember who I was and where I was. I took a pillow and a sheet and slept downstairs on the couch, where it was much cooler.
Dawn came, and still no power. I dug an old walkman out of the storage shed and put some batteries in it. Lots of radio stations playing music from 30-40 years ago. Lots of advertisements. I mean, LOTS of advertisements. For businesses and places I had never heard of. Radio stations from other states. People reading from the bible. People telling me I was going to Hell. Classical music. A bunch of Liberals trying to be funny about politics. The radio had a digital tuner, but it lacked a search/scan function, which made changing stations tedious. At last I found a news report: "One million people without power in the state of Ohio, storm had 80 MPH winds, buildings damaged, trees down."
We got out the generator, dusted it off, fueled it up, ran extension cords into the house and to the deep-freezes, to save the food. As long as we had gasoline, we would have SOME electricity. (But how long would we have gasoline?) The freezers ran hotter (on the outside) when hooked up to the generator. I don't know if this was an issue with our generator in particular (it's an older model) or with generators in general.
Water was another concern, but not an immediate one. The water supply to the house is fed by gravity from a storage tank up the hill, which is normally fed by a small spring. However, these are not normal times - we have been experiencing a very severe drought the past few months, and the spring dried up weeks ago. So the tank is filled with well water, which is pumped using electricity. No electricity - no more well water. What about using the generator to power the pump? The generator we have only puts out 110 volts - the pump requires 220 volts. The water tank is fairly small. With conservation, it could last us a week or longer - but it would mean no more water for the garden. (Without electrically-pumped well water we would not have a garden at all this year, that is how dry it has been.)
We had numerous propane tanks and gas camping stoves, so we had the ability to cook as long as the propane held out. Rather than go through the trouble of digging these things out of storage to boil some water for tea, I simply took a caffeine pill. Not as pleasurable as a nice cup of tea, but a convenient substitute for my addiction. We ate cold food - sandwiches, cereal, etc. rather than bother with cooking.
I found myself futilely flipping light switches as I walked from room to room - force of habit. Our house is dark. Not enough windows. Without electricity, merely navigating the house can be treacherous - trying to actually accomplish a task in the darkness - even a simple task such as reading a book - can be quite difficult. Windows are important. Windows allow light (and air!) to enter a building. A lot of builders try to minimize windows, to save money (glass is expensive?) and energy - windows are often considered wasteful, as they let heat escape. In a world without electricity, windows are a godsend. No, windows are a necessity.
I don't have a cellphone. Without electricity, I didn't have any internet, didn't have any television, didn't have any connection to the outside world. I felt strangely cut off from the world. What was happening out there? The radio only made me feel more cut off. Most of the stations seemed to have no humans at all - just robots playing the same tired tunes interspersed with advertisements. When a human did speak, it was often an abrasive, rude "DJ" trying desperately to be funny and hip and failing miserably. Or a two-minute news update. One million people without power, and yet it felt like nobody at any of the radio stations cared one bit - it felt like there wasn't anybody manning the radio stations at all - just soul-less machines.
And then the power came back on. About thirteen hours after it had failed. It wasn't a dire emergency after all. Just a minor inconvenience. Just a blip.
Electricity's always been on. Electricity will always be on.
Except when one day, it is not.