Friday, September 09, 2011

And The Land Was Dark

3:30 and not a creature is stirring after the Great San Diego Blackout of 2011. Of course, there are sounds, all the important ones: the fan over my head, the HEPA filter, and the oh-so-reassuring hum of my computer. Not sure why I'm up.

It was a weird evening, but ultimately, a nice one. It started around 3:45 p.m. while I was puzzling over Pinterest (why do I not understand the internet?) and my computer went black with a sickening snap. Then I noticed the A/C was gone, too. Uh-oh. It was quiet for a moment, until Jarrah realized there was no TV, either. I told her we were having a brown-out.

"What's a brown-out?"

"'s when everyone uses their A/C at the same time and it makes the power go out for a minute." Even as I said this, I realized I wasn't quite sure what I was talking about.

A minute passed. Then five. Then 30. It started getting hotter and hotter. Not a great day to lose our A/C. I worried about the stuff in the fridge.

I turned on my laptop. No wi-fi. (David laughed at me later, not sure why I thought there would be wi-fi.) I called David. Phone didn't work. This was my CELL phone, people. I texted him, and my friend Robyn, to see if I was crazy. Not crazy. Her power was out, too. Wow. Also David's, up in Solana Beach. WHA?

This was obviously big. Jarrah was over it. "Can I use your computer?"

"It doesn't work. Blackout."

I explained that soon we'd be in the dark, with only torches for light. I could tell this didn't penetrate. We'll just turn on the lights if it's dark, her face said.

David texted, sporadically, when they went through. He'd left work early, but traffic was terrible and all the signals were out. It ended up taking him two hours for a drive that's typically 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, Jarrah and I were sweating, and I clung to my phone like a life raft. I couldn't call anyone, and I had no internet, but occasionally I got a text with some illumination about the outside world. It felt odd, and exciting.

When David got home, I realized we could cook the chicken I'd bought that afternoon outside. It was getting dark, but I lit some candles and set about chopping veggies, shredding lettuce and mixing dressing for my famous Chinese Chicken Salad. I could tell I was making all kinds of messes that I couldn't really see. I started pulling random stuff out of the fridge and offering it to Jarrah, figuring it would go bad soon.

She said the situation "creeped her out" and we were not to leave her alone in any rooms. Fair enough. Dinner was held up for about an hour while David contemplated attaching a cable to his car to run my boom box, which takes a boatload of "D" batteries that we didn't have. Rats. Cables in the garage; garage not opening. "Good thing we don't keep our emergency preparedness kit in there. Not that we have one." I remarked.

David said he was going to the store for batteries. "What if it's a lawless world out there?" "Then I'll come right back." "BE CAREFUL, DADDY!" shrieked Jarrah.

Supermarket was closed, as expected. But he cheerfully reported that the liquor store on the corner was doing a bang-up business, illuminated by car headlights and a single candle. They were out of batteries already, but happy to sell him--cash only--a few bottles of water WITH A HUNDRED PERCENT MARK-UP. He found this funny; I found it appalling. "They're preying upon our neediness?"

Dinner was dark, and good. As we ate, we listened to an emergency broadcast powered by the batteries from our torches. As predicted, schools were closed the next day, and various San Diego luminaries praised their fellow citizens for banding together in this "unprecedented" event. References to the 2003 and 2007 wildfires abounded. Eventually, they started the thing where they welcome the mayor's sister's fifth-grade teacher to the mike to talk about what this blackout would mean for our impatiens. That's when I suggested we conserve the batteries.

We held flashlights for Jarrah while she brushed her teeth, and discovered a Chinese lantern (thank you, Mary!) that would do as a battery-powered night light. Took her a while, but she eventually fell asleep.

David told me it was much cooler in the California room (screened porch.) We sat out there, and listened to the silence. He asked if I wanted an ice cream cone, and I said I didn't think I could eat dessert without TV to eat it with. We decided we could use five minutes of our hot water reserve to cool off before bed. Taking a shower by candlelight is not a bad thing.

We were cozy in bed discussing the pros and cons of my Kindle book light when the power started up. "Oh," I said. It was a strange moment. Kind of like, Oh. I didn't know I was actually sorta enjoying that. And now it's over. Back to reality.

Couldn't resist a quick perusal of Facebook on David's iPhone under the covers. Pretty much what I expected. Lots of people reporting the power was out. It was nearly 11:00.

And I realized, for the first time in months, we were completely relaxed. All was quiet. Nothing to do.

We went to sleep. About as low-tech as you can get.


Jen said...

Great post! Sounds like you all had an adventure. Hope things cool off soon, though. :-)

Anonymous said...

I'm glad--but not surprised--that David has the sense to come right back home if the world had turned lawless during the power outage!! That line made me snort coffee through my nose!

It sounds as if that outage had some far-reaching consequences in southern CA.

I hope that Jarrah enjoys her day off from school!