Commentary 20 Feb 2009 07:53 am
Below is my Feb. 19 column from The Alliance Review:
When the power went out early last Thursday morning, I summoned my Inner Pioneer.
Like some grizzled hermit stuck too long in a cave, Inner P emerged blinking and squinting into the modern world. Fellow hermits almost had to carry him to the surface in a pinewood box. Survival instinct isn’t really his thing.
The electricity fizzle woke me up, not because anything dramatic happened like a transformer shooting sparks outside, but because the big blue beacon on top of the TV in the bedroom went dark. Some people call this beacon an alarm clock, but that’s only because they’ve never tried to sleep in the same room with it. Sometimes I feel like I’m in a prison movie, where every so often the guard on top the wall shines a spotlight across the yard, except that Big Blue gives off a steady stream of blue-light special all night long.
Anyway, Inner P and I went looking for light. We Schilligs aren’t big on preparation, so even though the wind had been howling for the last 12 hours and sober-faced TV weather guys had warned of just such an eventuality, our candles were scattered around what felt like a three-county area as I fumbled in the dark.
I found a few waxy nubs in the dining room and a few more in the family room. Then I set out in search of a lighter, which I had a vague recollection of seeing in an all-purpose (don’t call it junk!) drawer in the kitchen. My pajama pockets filled with candles, I headed for the kitchen, holding my arms out straight to avoid bumping into things, like open cupboard doors or low-flying sparrows.
In the drawer, beneath pencils, pens, a tire gauge and a few sewing needles (ouch), my fingers found the lighter. Surprisingly, it worked. More surprisingly, I didn’t set myself on fire lighting the candles.
Next was connecting with the outside world. Forget a battery-operated radio; remember, Inner P is woefully unprepared. Because I have digital phone service, I didn’t have a dial tone on the land line. (This is not on the list of benefits when you sign up.) My cell phone offered the time, but nothing more. I needed news of the world — specifically, if school was delayed.
For this, I turned to my daughter’s iPhone, the Boy Scout knife of the modern age. It does everything, from giving restaurant recommendations to looking up how to spell “supercilious.” Rumor has it, if you put it on a choking man’s throat, it will perform a tracheotomy.
I didn’t need anything that dire, just an Internet connection. Unfortunately, because my daughter sleeps with her phone under her pillow the way a paranoid old lady sleeps with her life savings and a baseball bat, and because fathers are threatened with dismemberment or death for entering their teenagers’ bedrooms, I couldn’t get to the wonder device.
So for news, I went to the car radio. While I was there, I decided to drive around and see if the power outage affected only my little patch of the world, or the whole city. This is a bad idea, not just because if the power is out then the traffic lights don’t work, but because you will be on the road with a bunch of dumb people like me.
In this instance, the road was filled with tree branches, shingles and trashcan lids, making the short trip more like the slalom run at a ski resort, except tree limbs don’t bend like little flags on a mountain.
What I learned was that the outage did affect only my little patch of the world — one I share with about 2,000 other people in Alliance who need to get off my patch. By the time I came home, Wonder Phone (and a sleepy daughter) had confirmed a two-hour delay.
And that’s where I am right now, pounding out this column on a laptop with rapidly dwindling battery power, my fingers numb because the temperature is dropping. (Inner P doesn’t own gloves.) I feel like the last survivor in a zombie movie, working desperately to record one final message to mankind before the creatures break down the door and drag me away.
If that happens, I’m offering them Inner P as a diversion while I grab the iPhone and use it as a flame thrower. Zombies just hate iPhone flame throwers.