When the lights go down

Last night, for the first time I can remember in a long, long time, the unthinkable happened. And no, it wasn’t that dreaded alien invasion I’ve been predicting for years now. Nor was it an nearby meteor strike, an unexpected visit from Publisher’s Clearing House or President Obama stopping by for a cup of coffee and a discussion of current affairs (which is a good thing because brewing up a pot would have been difficult). You see (wait for it), last night the power went out.

Now, I’m no stranger to living “off the grid,” so to speak. In fact, I’ve had several opportunities over the years to enjoy life without electricity. Specifically, a pair of stints at my and my father’s former residence on Pratt Road (I say former because I no longer have ownership of the old house – damn those back taxes).

Those were the days, let me tell you. Years before I began writing for our hometown daily, I actually spent an entire summer at 326 Pratt Road with no power. No running water, stove, refrigerator, air conditioner, television, video game system, computer or anything else you can think of that requires a 220 volt circuit to operate.

Like Superman with a bad case of kryptonite poisoning, I was powerless.

Believe it or not, though, it really didn’t bother me all that much at the time. I had plenty of books, a large supply of candles, lots of blankets for those occasional chilly summer nights and – if nothing else – my guitar to keep me company. Food, I’ll admit, was definitely a bit of a problem. Let’s just say I certainly had my fill of hot dogs that summer, as they were the easiest thing to cook over my nightly campfire. What was I supposed to do? Filet mignon on a stick just doesn’t do it for me. And if nothing else, a close friend of mine – video-gamer extraordinaire, master chef and all-around great guy Jaylmo – would hook me up with a hot meal (not of the hot dog variety) on occasion.

Beyond any shadow of a doubt, it was a summer I’ll never forget. And when I think back on it, I have to laugh at myself.

Last night, however, was funny for an entirely different reason.

Following a 30-minute rain delay and the eventual cancellation of the Infield Flies’ 6:30 p.m. softball game (a group of us have had a team for the past three seasons down at Weiler Park), I scooted over to my significant other’s house for a visit. She and the kids are not what you’d call big fans of thunderstorms, you see, and last night’s storm – if you somehow missed it – was ... impressive. On my way there, however, I noticed that several traffic lights were out, the street lights remained unlit and, like an scene from the Twilight Zone, every house along the East River Road seemed abandoned, no lights spilling from the windows or front porches.

It’s funny, because – when I was a kid – no power meant a chance for the folks and I to sit down around a bunch of candles for a game of cards, Sorry, Yahtzee or Monopoly. Sometimes we even skipped the games and had some family time. And if I happened to be up in my room, there was always my secret flashlight, typically utilized after I was sent to bed so I could read until I fell asleep (sorry mom, but you know all too well my obsession with reading). What I’ve discovered, though, is that – like so much else – things have changed with the advent of modern technology.

“Why can’t I play on the computer?”

“Sorry buddy, there’s no power, the computer won’t work.”

“What about the TV, what are we going to do about the TV?”

“I guess we’ll just have to live without it for awhile.”

“Is the refrigerator working? Won’t the ice cream melt?”

“Hopefully the power will be back on soon.”

“What if it never comes back on, though?”

“Well, I think we’d probably survive, at least for a day or two.”

“With no TV?”

And so on, and so forth. I think you get my meaning.

It’s not that kids these days (at least most of them) are really all that different than I was at their age. It’s just that so much has changed. What with cell phones (how science fiction they seem to me when I think of the old rotary dial telephones), laptops, the Internet and our fascination with social networking, it’s no wonder kids get that blank look of utter confusion and dread on their face when the power goes down.

Personally, I found last night’s outage downright comical. And – as I’ve said before (and will probably say again) – the more things change, the more the stay the same. And why is that? Because, in the 45 minutes to an hour it took for the electric to come back on, we did the unthinkable.

We lit some candles, sat around the table just like the old days ... and simply spent some time together.

Follow me on Twitter ... @evesunbrian.

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