We recently spent six days without power, and the experience has left me with a new respect for the pioneers.
Was the worst part going without lights? No, we had some old-fashioned hurricane lamps for that. We walked around the house after dark, and it looked like we were in a Dickens tale brought to life.
Was the worst part going without the electric stove and microwave? No, I could cook on the outdoor grill. I’m much better at it now. There are some things that were a challenge – say, pasta – but we didn’t starve to death.
Was living without a fridge and a freezer the worst part? No. Except for throwing away a lot of stuff that should have been thrown away a few years ago – half-empty bottles of novelty condiments, such as garlic-peach jam, and moldy cheese rinds – I wouldn’t say it was a crushing loss. Plus, the freezer got a good defrosting.
When future archaeologists dig up the remains of our civilization thousands of years from now, there is no doubt that abandoned freezers will be some of their most treasured finds.
“Why did they chop up their dead and wrap them in small pieces and place them in these large, white, metal coffins?” they might wonder after discovering a freezer long after all food had turned to dust. “All we are finding is bones and pizza boxes and something called ‘vanilla ice cream.’ Was that something they put on their faces? Was the other food put in there to give the dead something to eat in the afterlife? What does ‘pepperoni’ mean?”
Was the worst part going without cellphone chargers, iPods, iPads, routers, DVRs, TV, wireless speakers, backup drives, printers, air conditioners, treadmills, the washer and the dryer? No.
The second-worst part was going without coffee. When will someone make a battery-powered coffeemaker?
Lucky for me, I have an adapter in my car that plugs into the cigarette lighter and has a standard three-prong plug at the other end. After two mornings without coffee, I finally took the coffeemaker out to the car and made coffee in the passenger seat.
I learned several handy things from this. First, turn on the car, or you might drain the battery the way I did. Second, don’t put the coffee machine on the passenger seat. What a mess.
It also hit me that every car is a generator. A lot of people run out and buy generators when the power goes out. And what do they use to go get those gas-run generators? Their 300-horsepower, gas-run car. Surely there must be some simple way to turn the car in the driveway into a generator for the home when needed. After all, isn’t that what an RV does?
But the worst thing about having no power was no flush toilets, as our water comes from an electrically powered well. (If it had been winter, the worst thing might have been having no heat.) We suddenly found all kinds of reasons to leave the house. We went to the movies a lot that week. Without a fridge, we had to go to the grocery store a lot and use its facilities. We ate breakfast, lunch and dinner out frequently.
The only restrooms we would never use were at gas stations. Remember when gas stations used to brag about their clean restrooms? That has gone the way of checking your oil and washing your windshield. Sometimes I wonder where the cashiers go to the bathroom. Certainly not where they work, or they would notice there are no paper towels, the sink looks like someone was panning for gold in it and the toilet, well, welcome to the Third World.
Finally, the power came back on and things got back to normal. But we’ve had more frequent and longer power outages the last few years than I remember. Maybe this is the new normal.
Jim Mullen’s new book “Now in Paperback” is now in paperback. You can reach him at jimmullenbooks.com.