Saturday, July 7, 2012

Totally In the Dark

If you read the papers--or if you have friends or family in the Greater Washington DC who, like me,  tend to revel in complaining about the weather--you'll know by now that at the end of June we got one helluva storm here in Ol' Virginny, followed by a blackout.  While losing electricity can be a sort of adventure, a chance to live all "old-timey" and eat by candlelight, the fact that this one came in the midst of a heat wave was....problematic. The fact that it lasted for days was nerve fraying.

Within 12 hours, civilization here in the Hard Core 'Burbs (such as it is) started to crumble.  Housewives in their Lululemon yoga pants all but came to blows at the local Harris Teeter when the ice supplies ran low.  Gas station owners raised their prices per gallon by about $0.40 virtually overnight, and they could get away with it because so few had any power and the lines were reminiscent of 1973. Traffic lights were out, and rather than come to a stop local Virginians adopted a "might makes right" attitude with SUVs barreling through intersections at an awe-inspiring death-defying 40 miles per hour.

We retreated to the basement, hiding from searing heat during the day and sleeping on makeshift beds formed out of sofa cushions at night.  The dog was panting and looking at us beseechingly, "Really, you guys can open the dog food cans but you can't do anything about this damn heat?"  One night as I lay there suffocating under a wet blanket of humid air I thought about how millions and millions of people all over the planet live like this every day; subject to increasingly violent and unpredictable weather they suffer through without refrigeration, without air conditioning, without coffee makers for the love of god.  I silently acknowledged how very lucky I am to live when and where I do.

But because I am a very good multitasker, in addition to this compassion for others less fortunate I was able to feel a deep and abiding pity for myself.   It is this ability to redirect my attention to my own suffering that makes me a true American, I think. I proved that I am not equal to our pioneer forefathers.  Hell, I wouldn't have lasted long in about 1950. Also, any plans I may have been entertaining about becoming Amish have gone out the window--the solidly-closed-to-seal-in-the-air-conditioning window. Now, a week later, we once again can contribute to global warming by keeping our own living space cool, we are slowly refilling the refrigerator with expensive foodstuffs, and with the cushions back on the sofa the dog can once again take up all the space while we watch our stories on the Tee Vee.  And I am able to boot up the computer and do the monthly report for June.  Enjoy!

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