We just lived an old joke.
We were informed shortly ahead of time that on an upcoming Sunday, they would be turning off the electricity. When that Sunday arrived and they did, we immediately went “What was that!”
We thought we had blown a fuse. (Warning To The “Heading Towards Old”: “Short-term memory – Don’t count on it.” Advises a man known to touch the bristles of his toothbrush to check if he has already brushed. Helpful Hint: If they are still wet, you have.)
The information concerning the upcoming “shutdown” explained that our electricity would be off for only an hour. As it turned out, however, with were without lights, landline telephones and other electrical amenities for an entire day.
Not long enough for the refrigerator food to go bad. But long enough to drive some people (mentioning no names at this juncture) to the precipice of madness.
Or seemingly close to that locale.
The experience began harmlessly enough. I was practicing the piano when the lights went out. No problem there. Not that I was so conversant with my piano homework that I could play flawlessly in the dark. The electricity was turned off at twelve noon.
When I was done, however, I did, out of habit or stupidity – take your pick, though my personal preference is the former – flip off the light switch (to surprisingly no consequence) in the “Piano Room.” (Which is actually our basement “Family Room.” I did not want to leave the mistaken impression of “Ooh, they have a ‘Piano Room.’”)
Okay – one hour with no electricity. (Or so we originally believed.) No television. No Internet. A dormant Bose FM-radio/CD player, which, for an hour, would be entertaining us with neither.
Okay, I could read. Courtesy of the afternoon sunlight, imminating in through the windows. (I figured if there is a word “emanating”, why not a word “imminating”? That’s stupid? Hey, “emigrating,” “immigrating”, okay?)
I picked the brightest room in the house, and I lay down – the “brightest room” being a bedroom – for a read.
The book I selected – which I had already started and was thoroughly enjoying – was “‘The Daily Show’ – The Book” – a compilation of “First Person” experiences offered by participants who had at some point worked on that wonderful comic illuminator of duplicity and deceit. (I would say the book cribbed the template of my “Cowboy Book” but my “Cowboy Book” has never been published, so never mind. Except that my “Cowboy Book” came before it. After the SNL book whose template I cribbed, so never mind again.)
The thing is, with that kind of a book – like reading the phone book from beginning to end, or the dictionary, anything without an actual storyline – you can only read so many “First-person” experiences at one sitting. (Or, more accurately here, one “lying.”)
The problem was that, with no electricity, there was little available otherwise to do. We could have left the house, I suppose, as the blackout was specifically localized, but we were tired from numerous weekday nights out and our Sunday afternoon plan was to stay home, and who was the electric company to alter our itinerary?
Trudging optionlessly ahead, I read way more of “‘The Daily Show’ – The Book” than I wanted to, covering two presidential “election cycles” – 2000 and 2004 – and continuing on to the 2006 “mid-terms”, though with diminishing enthusiasm. But what could I do? It was keep reading or take a nap.
I finally gave up and took a nap. (Or as my three year-old version of daughter Anna once explained, I deliberately “goed” myself to sleep.)
When I awoke, the day’s daylight was rapidly receding. I returned to my book, keenly aware that time was precipitously running out. I felt like a pioneer of yore, reading by natural sunlight, and quite soon, I imagined, only by candlelight. Me and Daniel Boone, reading the same way. Cool.
Where was Dr. M during this limiting blight to our alternatives? Playing “Solitaire” on her iPad, electronic devices being immune to blackouts, which is how, via an outgoing cellphone “S.O.S.” we learned that the interruption in our electricity had been extended to eight hours.
Or so they told us. These were the same people, remember, who had assured us that it would only be one hour. What if they were lying to us? What if they had no idea themselves? What if there was an irreparable difficulty with the “grid” and our relied-on electricity would not ever be coming back?
At least that was my fulminating concern. Like the hypochondriac presenting recognizable symptoms – and therefore not entirely crazy – I was reacting to a demonstrable happenstance. Illogically, perhaps, but the eventuality was possible.
The “Electronic Age” as we knew it might conceivably be over!
And what then? The end of “civil society”? Panic in the streets? Survival of The Fittest? The Bubonic Plague?
The “Dark Ages” are upon us! Our Toto electronic toilet seat won’t work. I know because I stood in front of it and nothing happened!
I realized – or at least the sane part of me did - that I was like a kid placed in a closet for a necessary “Time out” but the closet was not locked and I could walk out whenever I wanted to. Still, the anxiety felt palpable. Like I was actually locked in that closet!
We had tickets to a play. (We decided to leave early – because there was nothing to do at home – arriving at the theater an hour-and-a-half before “Curtain.”)
I went upstairs to change my clothes, unsure if they actually matched, as I was dressing in the dark. As I imagined they did in “Cave Times.” Though with fewer haberdashial alternatives.
Before driving out, a 72 year-old man climbed a ladder to reach the elevated switch enabling us to open our electric garage door “manually”, mirroring a similar procedure employed in “Cave Times” if they had had cars. I am telling you, it was a nightmare!
Driving back to our neighborhood after the play, we kept our eyes peeled for telltale signs that the electricity was back on, dreading the alternative of going to bed without television. Fortunately, we discovered it was.
I began to breathe normally again. Life as we knew it had thankfully returned. But it hadn’t been easy.
Even though it actually was.