Whoa. What Just Happened?

We lost power at our house on Wednesday afternoon.

We felt pretty smug about it. After all, we’ve been doing Day Without Electricity for years now, and we know how to get along without. When the power hadn’t been restored by Thursday morning, the little kid was allowed to skip a shower before she was whisked off to school. Thursday morning we were still having an adventure for which we were totally prepared. We felt alternately sorry for everyone around us whose generators were running full-blast (using expensive propane), because they were so pathetically dependent on their electricity to maintain their lifestyles, and smug about our own ability to maintain our comfort. We went about our Thursday business with the confidence of those who know that they are superior to their fellow-humans, but are magnanimous enough not to rub it in.

Thursday night, we heated huge vats of hot water on the stove and put them into the shower, everyone in the family took turns doing the sponge bath dance. Not optimal, but better than nothing. The kid did her homework by the strong, warm light of the kerosene lamps, and we had a hot, home-cooked meal that involved vegetables. We had no internet, and by Thursday night, I could feel myself getting testy. A little bit grumpy. Sorta put-out.

Even though the power was still out on Friday, the kid had to go to school. The Pirate and I ended up driving into San Jose because we had work to do that required internet access and it just couldn’t wait any longer. As we drove back home after lunch, the Pirate and I both said out loud that we were sure that the power would still be out when we got home, although I know that I personally was hoping with every cell in my body that it would be back. I almost cried when we got home and it was still down.We took the little kid over the hill to spend the weekend at her dad’s house, and did the same thing driving back home – saying out loud that we knew the power would still be out, pointing out to each other the fact that there were no lights visible for most of our drive, by still secretly wishing wholeheartedly that we were wrong, and that our power was back on. It wasn’t.

Saturday morning, still no power. At this point, the Pirate and I have decided to do that thing that we almost never do – start up the generator. We do have one. It’s in a box about the size of a loveseat, and sits on a concrete pad out back. It’s the biggest generator we know of, and could easily power our house and those of our neighbors for as long as our 1,000-gallon propane tank held out. The Pirate started it up while I was inside doing other things, and the sight of the ceiling fans whirring to life was momentarily heartening.

And then the generator died.

When I realized that not only did we have no power, but we had no power, my smug abandoned me, and I just felt depressed. I briefly considered just going to bed and burrowing in and waiting out the outage. After all, I have a nice down comforter on my bed, and after a while, it’s comfy-cozy in there, right? Except that the room is dark (it’s been gloomy out) and I can’t do anything like read the stuff I have to cover for grad school or anything. Not only that, but there were plenty of outside chores that needed doing, like digging our driveway out of knee-high leaves.

We went out to a party Saturday evening, and as we left our house, we were gratified to see that the power had been restored to downtown Boulder Creek. Power was creeping closer to our house! It would only be a matter of hours now! On our way home, I noticed just how much power our neighborhood uses – lights on in businesses that were closed – no one needed that power! Why did they have it and just waste it? It felt so unfair! We drove home slowly, noting that now, the houses on our street had power. Every house we could see from the street with lights on was a reason for our hearts to lift just a little more.

The lights stopped half a mile from our house. As I walked into the freezing-cold house (it was in the 30s outside, and maybe 50 inside), I wondered how long without electricity it would take before we made the mental shift from “we can live without” to “we do live without.” When we got home, I decided that I was tired of going to bed all bundled up, trying to read my textbooks by candlelight – I’m no Abraham Lincoln. Instead, we watched videos on my laptop, sitting in the blue glow of its tiny screen, feeling desperately normal.

This morning, at 1:23 by my clock, we were awakened by the lights coming on, and after switching them back off, I slept more soundly than I have in days. We’ve now done an entire month’s worth of days without electricity, and I personally am looking forward to living the modern lifestyle for a while.

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