Blackout? Yeah, What of It?

August 24th, 2010 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

wiresdownOur first blackout in the new neighborhood of a year was truly a stumble down Remembrance Road. While we are still in Boston, we heard that our Hyde Park digs have nowhere near as many electrical problems as Jamaica Plain.

From 21 years of experience in the former, I had gotten ready though. Just after 1 p.m., our power poofed. It happened to be our youngest’s birthday. While he’s a teen and has never been prone to tantrums, we do have our family rituals, including all gathering, handing over presents, candles and cake and such.

Because of the JP history:

  • I use an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) for my computers. I had time to close my open applications and save my work.
  • I knew where the big candles and their holders were. If it continued into dark, we’d still be able to see each other, the food and the presents. The minimal gear was on the table while it was still light.
  • I had options for cooking. While I had planned a feast that required considerable electricity, I had options here too. The house came with an electric range, not my favorite, but OK. Our outside grill is propane and I could make nearly everything except chili rellenos. I had vegetarian dishes with protein for our oldest to cover in case I could not fry the chilies.

It turned out that a large tree had taken down power lines, a pole and a transformer. An abutting neighbor kept calling NStar to hear later and later estimates of lights-on.

Before 5 and just when I was ready to crack the fridge to remove the materials for my adjusted feast, we got juice again.

While I would like to think it is my maturity, I suspect my equanimity came from two decades of losing power seemingly with every storm. Hot and wet. Icy. Heavy snow. Big wind. Pick your storm and our part of JP lost electricity. Sometimes it was an hour, others up to two days and spoiled food.

Manufactured Empathy

So here we are in a second-tier U.S. city with a wee taste of third-world problems. Wont as we can be to extrapolating to an unearned empathy, our worst isn’t even bad.

As a UU, I understand how we liberal and progressive types love to identify with those who suffer. It is an endearing trait, an effort to maintain our humanity and humility in the face of our overwhelming plenty and comfort.

It’s also a sham.

Scan the papers and net for Pakistan, without any necessities for many millions…for Iraq and Afghanistan with power an hour or two or six at indeterminate times in extreme weather…and even not so long ago in post-Katrina New Orleans.

I briefly flashed on two members of a UU church we were attending when I shattered my leg last year. It required a pretty serious operation, including a knee-to-ankle rod in a tibia, intense, prolonged pain, morphine, and walker, crutches and cane for months. Those two told me they knew exactly what I experienced because they or someone they knew had cracked a small bone in a foot. I scanned each face for the mildest hint of irony or sadistic humor, but found neither.

We can manufacture our empathy with minimal materials.

Here yesterday, had we lost power for a couple of days, as has happened in our own Bean Town, we would have coped too. My wife would have headed down to her corporate offices before dawn to do her pre-market-opening work. We would have bought some blocks of ice and kept what we could in coolers, as we did a few times in JP. We were already prepared for an inconvenienced birthday party. We would have managed, knowing it was temporary, whether that meant minutes, hours or days.

Let us keep our perspective on our troubles. Blackout yes, but millions, no billions, would swap with us.

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