The Night the Lights Went Out: Romanticizing the Blackout

13 Jan

During the recent cold snap, I heard from a number of my social media friends who found themselves snowed in and dealing with first-world deprivations of all kinds. No cable. Dodgy internet coverage. Insufficient liquor supplies. I don’t mean to make light of the first-world deprivations – I certainly wouldn’t want to be snowed in with too many houseguests and not enough Pinnacle cake vodka. The winter weather really knows how to hit below the belt.

But when it comes to serious consequences, few things matter like losing the power.

We had an epic ice storm here years ago that left some of my friends without power for two weeks. (I was out of town with too many other houseguests and not enough cake vodka.) My buddies still tell stories of the long days they spent without electronic distractions and modern conveniences, and they all seem to be emotionally undamaged by the experience now. Still, I wonder if the 21st century blackout is … well … gentler than its predecessors.

Once, in the winter blackouts of yore, you could count on candlelight and maybe a nice warm fire on the hearth. Maybe you’d have a nice glass of brandy – suitable for sharing – and then perhaps an early trip to bed – also suitable for sharing. For some of us, the old-school blackout was a wonderful excuse for getting unplugged. In my former life, when I had Job From Hell, I often quietly wished for a blackout to enforce the boundaries I couldn’t quite enforce for myself.

Today’s power outage is a little different. LEDs have replaced candles with the least sexy lighting available (although you won’t have to squint at that book you’ve been meaning to read). If you’ve got a full charge on your various portables – you know, the ones they won’t let you use on the plane – you might not even notice the power’s out. Except that it’s a little chilly.

I’ll admit that my perspective is a little skewed. I’ve gotten spoiled by years of living near a hospital. I don’t remember the last time any power outage lasted longer than eight hours at my house. It’s easy for me to long for a nice, relaxing power outage when it doesn’t have time to get all that uncomfortable. After two weeks with no power, I can promise you that I’m not going to be nostalgic about the candlelight anymore; I’m going to want a nice long shower before a good night’s sleep with all the lights on. I would probably be a little freaked out by a long-term power outage – did anyone else see American Blackout on the National Geographic Channel?

Hmm. Maybe the modern power outage is more of a menace than I remember. Even so, I can still see the benefit of an unplugged evening or two every so often.

In the summertime.

**Alexa Day is enjoying electricity just fine, thank you very much. Look for her here once a month, or check her out on Facebook.

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