I was at work yesterday when, just after 4, the overhead lights and my computer's screen flickered and went out. The computer immediately started rebooting, and the lights came back on. I stood up and glanced around the office: everyone's computers were rebooting. Except for one guy, who remarked, "Look, my computer stayed on!" We joked that it was some kind of magic, then the computers went down again. This time his went down too. This time they stayed down.
At first, naturally, we figured it was something minor and temporary. "Strange, it's not raining or anything.... probably a bird flew into a generator," something hypothesized. "Maybe a construction worker somewhere cut a line." We looked out the window, and noted that the traffic light outside our window was out too. It looked like we might be down awhile. We started wandering around the office, turning off power strips. One of the guys said he was going to his car, to listen to the radio. We stood around, waiting, joking, waiting for somebody to tell give us status information.
The car-radio guy came back up and said, "Look like this is pretty major. Boston and New York are both without power. The whole northeast." We scoffed at the idea...no way! It's just not possible for such a large area to be affected. I said I thought it was just the media being alarmist. But at the same time, the phones were down. The cell phone networks were totally jammed, and nobody could get through to anybody. We felt isolated, and we got nervous. It's natural after all, given what happened almost 2 years ago. What had happened? How bad was it? A national emergency? An attack? I looked out the window at the blue sky, an airplane flying by, wondering, "Has it happened again? Are we affected too this time?"
There was no point in keeping the office open, since the power and the phones were not working. The place was getting hotter and more stuffy by the minute....but I looked out the window and saw the grid-locked freeway. I saw the cars struggling their way through the unmanaged intersections, watching near-miss after near-miss. The roads didn't look very inviting. Still, the office was even less inviting. It was hot, and there was absolutely nothing to do there. I reasoned that at least my car had air conditioning and a radio. I could sit in comfort and listen to the news, find out what was going on, as I inched my way home.
It took me over an hour to make my normally 15-minute drive. But I was lucky: I had half a tank of gas, and I'd just had my oil changed. My AC worked fine, and since I took the freeway I didn't have to worry about the traffic lights being out. I arrived home safely. By then I'd heard the details on the news, and I was no longer worried about an attack. It was no surprise to find my own power out as well, so I grabbed a book and headed out to my hammock to enjoy the rest of the daylight.
When it got too dark to read outside, I came indoors. I lit candles and my oil lamp, and I continued reading while eating some cold leftovers out of my defrosting refrigerator. Sure the fish and orzo would have been better warmed up, but it wasn't bad cold. It was a peaceful way to end the day, and I read late into the evening.
Around 11pm, I decided to go for a walk. It was fascinating, strolling through my dark neighborhood. I could barely see the sidewalk. I'd forgotten how dark night can be. Through a few windows I could see flickering candles. Occasionally a car would drive by, its harsh headlights hurting my candle-accustomed eyes. I reached a park and marveled at the stars. Even through the haze of intense humidity, I could see far more than normal. The moon shone a bright orange, along with an orange star near by. It was lovely and peaceful, dark and lonely. Crickets overwhelmed the sound of traffic. Just 20 minutes north of downtown Detroit, my suburb had turned into the country.