It took almost all of 2003, but on December 30—yesterday at 5:00 pm—I found my true love. And the greatest thing about it is that Laurel embraced her also. A threesome! Cool! Also hot, because sparks fly when you touch her in a certain way. Her name? Electricity.
Along with tens of thousands of other people in the mid-Willamette valley, we lost our power about 3:00 am early Monday morning. We got it back at 5:00 pm Tuesday afternoon. So we had some 38 hours to ponder how much Electricity does for us, and how under-appreciated she had been in our lives. Does absence make the heart grow fonder? Oh, yes, especially when it is Electricity who is missing from your home.
The power outage was almost fun for, oh, about six hours. Not counting the time I was asleep, from 3 am to 7 am, it is more accurate to say two hours. In this initial blackout period, I brought in wood for our woodstove, gingerly tested the flue with a few pieces of crumpled newspaper to see if we were going to burn the house down once we got a fire going, as Laurel fully expected (we hadn’t used the woodstove in three or four years, and haven’t had it cleaned for longer than that), and successfully cooked vegetarian sausages in a pan on the top of the stove once the fire got going (and not so successfully burned two pieces of toast by putting them directly on the stove, in the process branding the stove with rectangular bread-shaped marks that reminded me of my idiocy every time I looked at them over the next 32 hours, which was often, given the need to frequently add wood to keep our house temperature in the neighborhood of 58 degrees).
Yes, cooking, and burning, breakfast was fun. It was all downhill, pleasure-wise, from there on out. By Tuesday afternoon, when the power blessedly came back on, our house had become a tangle of generator-linked extension cords, candles, flashlights, battery-powered lights that barely lit anything, unwashed dishes, food that once resided in the refrigerator but now sat outside the front door (so we didn’t have to open the fridge more than was absolutely necessary), five gallon water containers, toilet flushing buckets, jackets/gloves/hats/blankets, and assorted other Emergency Paraphernalia.
On the plus side, our little-used gas generator started after a few pulls of the starter cord. On the minus side, the Man of the House, the Protector of His Woman and Dog, found that the Hines’ three five-gallon gasoline containers contained, at most, not the potential 15 gallons, but more like two and a half (the roads to town were icy and/or closed by downed power lines, so we couldn’t get more gas). This meant that, as in much of Iraq, power could be supplied to our refrigerator, freezer, and water pump only for a few hours a day, since we didn’t know how long the outage would last. Also as in Iraq, we quickly became irritated at the powers-that-be, even though we realized (or hoped, at least) that they had our best interests at heart.
With no TV to watch, and minimal light to read by, my primary entertainment was phoning the PGE automated outage reporting number every hour or so to check on the progress, or, more accurately, non-progress, of the repair work. On my first call I got a real live human being, who it was impossible to become upset with, because she was very nice, and implied that her normal job didn’t involve taking outage reports. But after that I got the usual automated system, which tells you how many customers in your neighborhood are affected (170), and how many calls have been received about the outage (at first, less than 100; by Tuesday afternoon, over 1400—so I wasn’t the only one calling every hour or two).
After a few hours the system also started telling me: “Crews are working to restore power to your area. We expect that power will be restored by…X:XX am/pm.” Thankfully, the computer-generated voice who provided these reports, issued in a marvelously cheery and confident tone that undoubtedly was selected by a consulting firm from countless female cheery-and-confident-voices, wasn’t connected to a real person, because I soon began swearing at the voice, and making threats that would likely have gotten me arrested if they had been heard by a conscious human being, or at least had me referred to an anger-management counselor.
Here’s my advice for PGE: in the future, when a power line goes down, just say something like, “We expect that power will be restored in fourteen years, or before the Second Coming, whichever happens later.” Then customer’s hopes will be dashed from the outset; they will fall into a depressed stupor, visualizing a lifetime of burning toast on their wood stove, gradually going blind from reading by candlelight, and sexlessly sleeping with your increasingly stinky/shower-deprived spouse.
Instead, PGE made the mistake of saying that the power would be on at 10:15 pm Monday night. So, naturally, I counted down the minutes, telling Laurel, “just 20 more minutes…just ten more minutes…just one more minute…OK, the power should be on!” Except, it wasn’t. And then it wasn’t some more. And then the god-damn cheery-and-confident voice told me that it would be on at 11:59 pm. Except it wasn’t. And then the cursed whore’s-daughter told me that it would be on at 1:30 the following afternoon, or so I recall. Except it wasn’t. And so it went, lies piled upon lies piled upon lies, all promulgated from the Enron-infested nest of corporate vipers known as PGE, Pathetic Goddamn Energy company, useless for everything except sending profits back to Texas, draining Oregon dry of essential maintenance and repair crews.
At least this was my attitude until the power came back on. Then I would have kissed those wonderful dedicated guys (and maybe even some gals) who worked such long hours in the darkness and cold to bring back Comedy Central to us. We love you! And even more, we love who you serve, Electricity. We have set up a shrine to this Blessed Goddess who brings light and warmth into our souls, and vow to never let a day go by without singing your praises. May your mysterious grace flow without interruption. And realizing that grace goes hand-in-hand with effort, we also have ten gallons of gas sitting in our garage, so that we may manifest you on our own more fully.