Living (Briefly) without Electricity

Itís not a real winter in these parts without one good ice stormóthe kind that covers all the trees with a clear-crystal-candy coating, stops all the traffic, and invariably, knocks out the power for a while. Which is an important reminder of just how close to primitive chaos we would be without a steady supply of that electric juice. In fact, I wrote this blog post on a paper tablet (gasp!) using a pen (shocking!).

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When the electricity goes out there are essential things that become impossible to do. I canít use my coffeemaker; I canít use my oven (the stovetop is gas, and the fridge and freezer are on a backup generator, thankfully).† I canít compulsively check my email or play music on iTunes. Obviously, I canít turn on any lights or check accuweather.com or huffingtonpost.com to see if the world has ended or not.† Even my phone will only work for a while (and doesnít work very well where I live anyway) without being recharged.

Here is what I worry about: Will the electricity come back on in time for my next coffee fix? (If not, I do have a backup system that requires more work.) Will we be able to watch American Idol? (I donít worry about having enough food, since I tend to stock up a lot and could last at least a few weeks if we had to.)

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And here is what I am thankful for: Candles. Real books. Needlepoint and other crafts. A gas stovetop. A fireplace. Real paper. Real pens and pencils. Maybe a deck of cards or a puzzle, if we are feeling ambitious.

But here is what I noticed most after an hour or two of only natural light and no distractions. The universe shrinks measurably. Who I can communicate with is reduced from infinite to a few. I become oblivious to cyclones on the other side of the planet and revolts thousands of miles away. Itís both a relief and a frightening prospectóthat we are vulnerable, so dependent on such a fragile system. A thing we take for granted every day.

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Sometimes, I think about what the world might be like a thousand years from now. If there is some catastrophe that eliminates the power supply or the knowledge that enables digital reality, think of all the things that will be lostóall our online photos, our Word documents, our ebooks, and our email. It will be worse than the alleged burning of the library in Alexandria. This is why, every once in a while, itís good to print things out. Write real letters. Make real photo albums, not just virtual ones. Keep a diary on paper. You never know what will be unearthed from protected pockets beneath the rubble of our current existence.

And in the meantime, the electricity comes back on and there will be an American Idol viewing this evening, thank goodness!

88 comments

Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener5 years ago

Makes life more how it should be in my opinion!

Miroslav Benka
Miroslav Benka5 years ago

If u have time plz take look movie world after people or earth after people and u will realize that any of our documents wont last so no point of making copies and saving them

Pamela H.
Pamela H.5 years ago

One good thing about life before electricity was that we didn't all go around sleep deprived. We rose with the sun and slept soon after the sun went down because there is only so much you can do by firelight.

Dawn Cribb
Dawn Cribb5 years ago

I like this article :)

Joyce Squillante
Joyce S.5 years ago

Printing things out wastes paper, haha.
Jk. Thanks for posting.

Vera Y.
Vera Yuno5 years ago

it is an "everyday" where i live.....

Alyssa Riley
Alyssa Riley5 years ago

I think the same things when my electricity goes out. Well done!

ana p.
ana p.5 years ago

VERY INTERESTING!
THANK YOU!

Trish K.
Trish K.5 years ago

It's tough to take a week with no lights and no heat. I does get lonely too. I can get warm in the car and drive to a restaurant if the roads arent' covered with ice and wires. I can charge my cell phone in the car. It's something I don't want to do again.

Charles G.
Wilde Thange5 years ago

Yes but more than a few hours and it starts getting serious... particularly if you are an at risk individual.... having a grid that could in hours plunge society back into the dark ages is not something to take lightly. Similarly with global just in delivery being cut off for a few days in a society with no localization redunantcy is even more disastrous. We have to teke our human survivability a bit more seriously . Instead we want to devote too much of our resources into wars of destruction and rebuilding, evade disaster relief until enough people die to make it less difficult to handle, and acdcumualtion of wealth in the few... these things soak up the resources that are necesary to have redundancy in our system to protect and preserve livse in great and small disasters and preparedness for them...