Monday, January 7, 2008

The Power of Electricity

After hearing two stories today of people close to me suffering through days of power outages over the weekend due to the big windy storm that hit us here in northern California, I started reminiscing about the ones I've lived through. I know "lived through" sounds dramatic, but, sheesh, when you have kids going out of their minds in boredom and are cooking yet another meal on the wood stove, it does seem like life and death. Or maybe I'm just a wimp; that's a possibility too.

One time in particular stands out for me. We live in the Sierras and it seems that sometimes even the threat of a snowflake knocks our power out, so we're kind of used to going a few hours or even most of a day without power on a fairly regular basis during the winter. We keep our Coleman lanterns at the ready on top of the fridge and the kids sleep with their flashlights.

This one year in particular we were hit with a ton of snow all at once right before Christmas. It was incredibly festive. We even cross country skied in the backyard. Of course the power went out. No big deal, until it stayed out for 5...longggg...days.

I was working at the time at our historic town's little general store, which was a small 100 year old building with almost no windows. At first it was humorous to hand customers a flashlight to do their shopping with as they came through the door. On day 3 it wasn't funny or cute anymore. I felt like I was a coal miner, so dark and dreary were my days cooped up in the little store.

I saw everyone's humor diminishing, from "isn't this kind of fun and rustic", to "please just put us out of our misery". Many folks were trying to make crazy deals with anyone who had a propane hot water heater to finagle a shower. We had a friend who was the housekeeper at a local inn and she got us in one of their little chalets for a shower. People really get rather desperate when they haven't had a proper bath in several days. And oh, how incredibly good it does feel to finally get that hot shower!

Well not only did I have crazy-bored kids, a dreary and dark place of work, and the challenge of cooking meals on the wood stove, I also had a 30 gallon tank of tropical fish I was trying to keep alive. I would scoop water out and pour it back in several times a day to keep their water aerated and I also started heating up river rocks on the wood stove and putting them in the water to keep the temperature up.

Finally Christmas eve dawned and still no power in sight. The last report we'd heard was that a major line was down somewhere deep in the woods and crews were still trying to get to it through the drifts of snow. My Christmas spirit was fading fast. I had had to look at my dark Christmas tree for 5 days and it was just making me more depressed. The thought of facing Christmas morning without our tree lights was just too much for me to bear. That night we left to go down to the next town and get a decent meal and the kids happened to ask what I wanted for Christmas. I said "I want the power to come back on!"

When we returned that evening and pulled into the driveway, we could see the tree lights sparkling at us through the windows. The kids shouted, "You got what you wanted for Christmas!" and indeed I did. To the average person it was the restoration of modern conveniences, but to me it was a Christmas miracle which was the restoration of my Christmas Spirit!

And none of my fish died. The end!


Sue said...

Awwww, I was so happy when I read the last bit.

I hate it when the power goes out. The uncertainty of it. Not knowing when it will be back. I can handle adventure, if I know when the adventure will end. And certainly not for five days.

Great storytelling...

Holly said...

I've never had to do without power for longer than a few hours. I'm such a wimp! I'm glad your story had a good ending. We had a nasty wind storm here last week and we don't have a fireplace. So, I was a bit worried about losing power, since it was about 28 degrees. Fortunately we didn't, but it's still scary. Did this last storm affect you badly?

Moody said...

By yet another miracle we didn't lose our power during this last storm, but there are still people in the valley who are out. Who'd a thunk we'd get so lucky? Certainly not me!

Hick said...

Ha! Great story. Our elevation is a little lower than yours so we don't get the amount of snow you have. However, the power goes out several times a year and normally it only lasts a day at the most. Even as I type, the lights are flickering...

oh great, hopefully it won't go ou