Sometimes I forget what it sounds like when everything is turned off. That is what happened the other day when I came home from my morning run. When I opened the basement door to check on the laundry, I heard the phone ringing. This was odd, since the timing of phone calls coming into our landline usually precludes me having to answer the basement phone, but I picked it up anyway. The voice on the other end of the line was recorded. It was Hillary Clinton, asking me to join her in her quest to make America as good as it possibly can be. Or something like that. I hung up without making much more of it, since there was laundry to fold.
The music that had been pouring into one ear from my iPod stopped when I got upstairs and silenced it, anticipating that I would be standing in front of the cooling pile of clothes, watching the cable television shows that I might otherwise have missed. But there was no little red light in the lower right hand corner of my TV urging me to turn it on. I walked into the bathroom and noticed that there was no little green light on the handle of my Sonicare toothbrush, reassuring me that it was charged up and ready to go. In the kitchen there was no hum from the coils of the refrigerator and the clock on the microwave had gone to black.
My immediate reaction was to blame my son, the user of so much of our electricity, and as he had just recently returned home, I was quick to assign blame to him for this lack of power. I grabbed the keys to the basement where this whole enterprise had begun and muttered to myself mildly unkind things while my son slept. When I reached the breakers below, I noticed that none of them had been tripped. I made a note to apologize to my son for thinking those power thoughts about him.
Back upstairs, I busied myself with the laundry, noting that the good news was that everything was dry before we couldn't make it so. It was a breezy day and the sun was out, so I reckoned that we might have been able to dry things out on the line, but it would have taken more time. When I finished, I sat very still and noticed the quiet. Without all those circuits blaring away in their boxes and in the walls, I could hear the clocks ticking. I could hear the birds chirping and the kids playing outside. I went out on my front porch and a young father from next door asked if our power was out too. I told him it was, and he sighed. He held his little boy in his arms and I watched him wonder what to do with his son who was accustomed to being entertained by various electronic means. Go for a walk, sing a song, I suggested. "Like in the pioneer days." We laughed and waited for the next thing to happen. We waited for electricity to be discovered again.