Before I opened my eyes this morning, I heard the bleep of my phone’s text announcement. I thought the text might be from my friend Tee, who is an early riser and texter. She knows me to be the same. I quickly glanced at the clock, thinking I had overslept, only to be greeted by a blank slate. I could hear the pinging of rain drops on the window behind my head. “Power’s out!” I announced to my husband. He seemed to think rain coupled with a power outage was a good reason to stay in bed. I could not be lulled back to sleep when the power was out and there was a text message waiting for me on the phone. Perhaps it was Tee alerting me to the end of the world.
I inched toward the edge of the mattress, slid my feet over the side and sat up. My phone bleeped again, alluringly nudging me to get up and be informed. I grabbed the phone and noticed it was just after 6. The early morning text and its twin message was from Duke Energy, that bastion of power and privilege here in the western mountains and probably the whole state. Power was out, only in my neighborhood, I was informed, and wouldn’t be back until the estimated time of 10:15. Changing their minds, the helpful folk at Duke Energy decided, in their second text, it would be more like 11 before power was restored.
A couple texts later, I was told that this was the result of a motor vehicle slamming full force into the power pole at the entrance to our neighborhood and maybe 12:30 would be a better estimated repaired time. Hah! It happened, no doubt, at what I call the block of destruction. This is a stretch along the main drag outside our cozy little enclave of homes. The road there is a hill, the top of which is just west of an entrance into the hood, and the bottom of which is two miles east, at the river. The entrances (2) to our neighborhood are just below the top of the hill, where the road makes a definite curve. Distracted drivers can’t see that curve until they are over the top of the hill and descending rapidly in a fashion which can only be described as straight toward ruination.
It was raining this morning, a condition in which a bleary-eyed driver might have difficulty negotiating that curve, driving too fast while simultaneously texting his brother-in-law about how this afternoon’s barbeque might need to be postponed. Power poles and cars don’t mix very well when one of them is careening toward the other at top speed on a wet road. This road/hill/curve scenario has a small selection of outcomes. The reckless driver plows into an oncoming car, the hapless vehicle careens into the brick wall in front of a building, or there’s a spectacular smash up into one of the power poles right next to the street.
All of these disasters have happened at various times of the day in numerous weather conditions, but power pole appears to be the target of choice, and truthfully, I can’t blame the sad sap who has to make such a decision, given that they have to make it in the two seconds it takes to realize where they are headed in this particular situation. I am always mystified by the drivers, coming from the opposite direction, who somehow manage to plunge into these same structures while driving uphill before they even get to the curve. We get our electricity from this minute stretch of public roadway, but is there some other sort of evil energy at work here?
Our neighborhood was left without electricity…once again. This is a prime example of how spoiled we are with our TVs, computers, multi-setting tea kettles and hot breakfasts. Humans once lived without these things. They gathered wood and burned it to make their gruel and ham hocks. They pumped water from a well. I dare say there are even people in this age of powered coffee grinders who don’t have electricity at all. Ever. They will never know the pain of losing it when they want to heat up last night’s pizza. We may be spoiled as all get out, but my husband and I still have a few primitive life skills that have seen us through longer time periods off the grid. We’ve been camping. It may seem overkill that we have 4 backpacking stoves between us. My outdoor guy used one only last year on an actual week-long backpacking trip. He fired it up this morning, because if one is to preserve some smidgeon of civilization, tea must be made. We have survived for days after some of the unfriendlier hurricanes took out the power in our Houston home, but we were never without tea.
We realized, of course, that we could drive to any coffee house outside our little collection of streets in West Asheville and have our friendly barista, who already knows my order, brew up a cup of salvation. But it was raining and I did not want to go out. I conferred with a few neighbors about what time we really thought the power might be back on. The Duke website stated it would be 3 pm. After we were past our usual lunch hour, my hungry husband walked up to the site and asked someone in person. “Within the hour,” was the newly predicted estimation. We strategized on possible meal plans should they be way off or were simply trying to placate the rabble of rabid homeowners at their feet.
Past experience has led us to the knowledge that the refrigerator must not be opened during a power outage unless the only thing in there is the only thing you plan to eat. Opening the door raises the temperature of the yummies inside. The freezer might be pretty cold for a full day, but after a week, you can cry over all that wasted food that must be tossed. Our minds leapt to the worst-case scenario; we would have to get in the car in search of meals not made from fuzzy foodstuff left in our fridge all day. Or…we could cook up some pasta on our camp stove and toss it with the tomatoes picked the day before. We were sorely tempted by the pizza lurking in the depths of our fridge. We ate granola bars and I munched on some pumpkin seeds and dried apricots. We decided to give it ‘til 1:30 before moving on to plan B and ordering burritos like everyone else.
When my mind wasn’t on food, I looked for ways to distract myself from delusional doomsday scenarios. I drank my camp tea and opened my closet. Here was a challenge worthy of not just a rainy day, but a no-power, rainy day. I figured this loss of electricity was actually a gift of time. I had been putting off cleaning out the closet and tidying up my studio because electronic things had been calling my name in a much louder voice. I moved from there to organizing our recyclables and planning out my current projects. I needed this day off from the usual practices to allow for some thinking time.
The power returned to us about 1:30, which was indeed within the hour of our asking. I grabbed the pizza from the refrigerator and cranked up the oven so that we could finally get some lunch. I imagined hardy women of the world feeding their families in less-than-ideal conditions. We support our local food bank, but need some education about food practices in the wider world. That thinking time gave me a little bit of pause, at least, to be thankful for my good fortune and to be better informed of global food challenges.
Every time we take our evening walk, we stroll down the block of destruction. It’s just a block, but I tend to scurry along it, always looking backward for that one driver who is not paying attention. I may have to redirect our route while this latest pole-crashing episode is fresh on my mind. That way I can enjoy the view of the mountains and the fresh air instead of worrying about the potential of being squished by a distracted driver. Let’s try going this other way tonight, shall we? After all, I’ve got the power to adapt to life’s changing circumstances—for a little while anyway.
Power onward, my friends,