I apologize for repeating this story. As I’ve gotten older, I’m repeating stories at social gatherings more often, much to the annoyance of those that have heard them before. As for writing them down, we’ve been busy with other things around here, but I know some of you like these tales and may have missed one or two, so here’s what happened in the autumn of 2015.
I’ve gotten off to a slow start this week, as Mrs. G. and I were out of town enjoying the fall colors, waterfalls, and drop dead gorgeous scenery and weather of the Finger Lakes region of New York. The Finger Lakes are a series of slender lakes, each one slightly prettier than the next, and located about eighty miles from my house. I’m not completely sure of the geology of it all, but there are also some magnificent stream-fed waterfalls in the region. It’s so scenic that one could toss a camera into the air and take a good picture. I always wondered how people live in areas such as this and find the motivation to leave their backyard.
So far, there has been no argument with other states about the term “finger lakes,” unlike the rivalry between Michigan and Wisconsin, both of which vaguely resemble a mitten. Michiganders proudly declared themselves the mitten state first, so maybe they should take this to Judge Judy and get on with more important things, such as why the west side of Montana resembles a profile of Richard Nixon. They might also consider taking this to Italy, since their entire country resembles a boot. Maybe they’ve had quarrels with other footwear-shaped countries and would be interested in comparing notes.
Anyhow, we had a great time; so I sat down to write about it early this morning. I got comfortable with a cup of rooibos and started to write about some of the stuff that happened when the power suddenly went out. There were no preemptive stutters or spits of lighting to herald in this electrical impoliteness either, no siree Bob. One second everything was civilized and modern and the next, it was the early 1800s with people looking for their whale oil lanterns.
“Crap,” I said out loud. I was almost done with the first draft of my travelogue, and nothing was saved. “Well, there goes that Pulitzer,” I said to myself, and set off to check the rest of the house to make sure it wasn’t the office alone that went dark. That made no sense whatsoever, but I had blocked out a few hours for writing, so now I was looking for something to do. It was forty-two degrees outside so the windows were closed, but as I walked through the dead house, I could still hear the faint sound of engines.
Most of my neighbors have huge backup generators that engage automatically if the power goes out, which seems to me to be a rather large investment for something that happens so seldom. It’s the same “what if?” line of thinking that would compel someone to keep a boat in the driveway in case it floods. I’ve lived here for ten years, and if I had to guess, we’ve lost power a half-dozen times for anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. There’s nothing in our refrigerator that holds that much value, and we have a backup sump pump, a gas stove for cooking and a gas fireplace for heat, plus Mrs. G.’s six hundred autumnally scented candles for light. I think we’re covered for everything short of a nuclear winter. I’ll let my apocalyptic neighbors grind away while we light some candles. So far, I’m reasonably sure that I’m ahead of the game, plus I don’t have something that resembles a discarded chest freezer next to the house.
The only other non-backup-generator resident on the street took her unplugged situation a bit further than I did, and walked over to check if we had power. After we compared matching electrical notes, we chatted for about fifteen minutes out in the driveway. Being without power makes people much more neighborly, I think. The generator people were still inside watching TV as if nothing had happened, while I and my neighbor were chatting outside on an otherwise brilliant day. I was still outside talking with my neighbor when Mrs. G. got up and figured out that we had no power. I came back inside and lit the stove burners with a match to boil water for tea and to make some pancakes. Being without power made me hungry.
It was kind of nice in a weird way. The Today Show came and went, Mrs. G. and I both had a nice breakfast, and I read a magazine. After a few hours, the power came back on the moment I hit the last step up from the dark basement.
Back in business.
All of a sudden, there it was. Switches that were habitually flicked on earlier now brought about a dozen lights to life as if by magic, while digital appliance clocks blinked urgently in the kitchen. The printer also started chugging along as if possessed; digitally scolding me that the power was not turned off correctly, all the while going through a conniption fit that only Canon understands. I checked the computer and it was fine, but the essay on which I was working was swallowed up by the darkness, the only casualty from our little blip away from the power grid. Sorry about that, Pulitzer committee, but hey—the pancakes were excellent.