Thursday, June 16, 2022


 The power went out on Sunday afternoon. It's something that happens in Oakland. Hot summer days play havoc with the orderly transmission of electrons through those little wires. Or maybe it was another version of the time when a disgruntled customer shot up a substation providing power and Internet connectivity to half the city. I assume it was a customer. Maybe it was an employee who was looking into more job security and creating some work for himself. 

No matter the reason, I waited on the couch for a few minutes for a quick reset of the situation, gunfire or not. My wife went on a babysitting errand of mercy, and my son was busy with a life that takes him out of the house on Sunday afternoons. It was me, the cat, and no electricity. 

I noticed how still everything was. There were no hums or vibrations from appliances waiting anxiously to spring into service. No wi-fi zipping through the air. Nothing charging on the end of a cord. Just the house settling. It felt as if the air had been left out of the place. Music, or the sound of the TV, were gone. The furry pats of cat feet were the soundtrack. 

I spent some time fiddling with my smart phone, which was clever enough to give me a vague window of the potential resumption of service. After the initial check, I felt compelled to double check because it seemed like the hopelessly proactive thing to do. A third inquiry left me to understand that I was simply using up the bit of electricity stored inside my phone and that I was having no impact whatsoever on the outcome of these events. 

I played a game of solitaire on my phone. I lost. A second game found me playing all the way out, and I was rewarded with a flurry of animated cards not much larger than the eraser at the end of a pencil, but gratifying nonetheless. It was the fourth game that I won when I realized that I was not following my own edict to save battery life, and consciously set the phone down. 

The cat looked at me as if to say, "Can't you just sit still?" Or maybe it was "Why don't you go ahead and feed me as long as you're stuck here without your big screen?" I wandered into the kitchen and took a moment to acknowledge the lack of light inside the refrigerator where the cat food was waiting. Something was happening for the cat, anyway. 

I wandered back to the front of the house, looking out on the street, and pondering yet another game of solitaire or status check. I heard feet much larger than the cat's coming up the front stairs, and at the moment my son reached for the doorknob, I heard bells. The doorbell, specifically. Power had been restored. Our long national nightmare had come to an end. My son and I went back to the kitchen where we used the restored light inside the refrigerator to find ourselves some dinner. 

When my wife returned from her mission of mercy, she found me back on the couch. There were no words to convey the struggle I had endured. Until now, of course. 

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