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Geffner: Scenes From a Weston Power Outage

Weston, Conn., Day 1 of Power Outage:

“Where were you when the lights went out?”

“Well, they were out already. It was 3:30 a.m.”

“Okay then, where were you when all the humming stopped and all you could hear was the ear-splitting sound of the alarm system, which no one knew how to turn off?”

“In bed, of course.”

“What did you think?”

“Oh no! The power really DID go out.”

“What did you do?”

“Text messaged my friend Laura, who was sitting vigil. She had power still. She texted back, ‘Are you sleeping in the basement?’ Hadn’t thought of that.”

“What did you do then?”

“Go find batteries to put into the radio.”

“You did?”

“Well, no. Really, I nagged my husband, who went downstairs to the kitchen with a flashlight to the fridge – which was still acting like a fridge (still in denial) – to get batteries.”

“Then what?”

“Tried to go back to sleep.”

“And did you?”

“Not so much. My 5-year-old had questions, lots of questions.”

“Such as?”

“You expect me to remember? It was 4 a.m.”

Day 2

Writing by flashlight. Husband’s fear of burning down the house has overruled any romantic notions one might possibly have had of a candle-lit existence. New ideal: not running out of batteries.

We’ve BBQ’d all of the freezer food. It’s cooler still inside the fridge than out. They say, just leave it closed – which makes a lot of sense, if you don’t need to eat.

Day 3

Just like the pioneers, we’re rinsing out our dirty dishes in a plastic tub down by the stream in our backyard. What say? They had no plastic out on the frontier? Okay, okay, let’s do a Google search on that. But wait! Oh yeah, we can’t do that. We don’t have electricity.

It’s time to face reality: It isn’t any cooler inside of the fridge than out.

Day 4

Our Jack and Jill go down the hill to fetch a pail of water — every day, three times a day, so we can flush the toilets.

My son says you have to wear a bathing suit to take a shower at the middle school. I scoff.  The locker room is empty when my daughter and I start to shower. We are in our birthday suits. A friendly family joins us in their floral, one-piece bathing suits. We act like we don’t notice we are naked, and they kindly go along, as if we are two little emperors who have no clothes.

My son – who showers fast – waits in the hall. When we come out, he smiles his knowing smile and says, “I told you so.”

Time to abandon hope and empty out the food we left inside the crisper.

Day 5

A Tenth Commandment for our times: Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s electricity; neither shalt thou envy him his generator.

Unplug the fridge! Stop believing you can eat out every meal until the power comes back on. Stop waiting for the power: Purchase bags of ice, cold cuts and milk, and keep them in a cooler.

Day 6

The electric toothbrush has run out of charge. It’s only a matter of time now before we’re reduced to using dry paste on a hand-held brush and having to swallow without a rinse.

Buy a new bag of ice; refill the cooler.

Day 7

POWER! The first thing I did was wash my hands using the kitchen sink, then … wash my hands again. Next, I availed myself of indoor plumbing, FLUSHED, then … washed my hands using the bathroom sink.

I pulled a cooler full of melted ice out of the car and fished around in it for yogurt, cantaloupe and humus, made the kids a snack, then lovingly restored these items to a shelf in our – that’s right! – FRIGID refrigerator.

Oh, the joy of leftovers, the luxury of not having to make sure one uses the diner restroom before going home, the ease of accessing email addresses with a swift click of a mouse.

Life’s simple blessings are abundant and I know now why, in certain faiths, a prayer is said each time we wash our hands, or eat a meal, or – too much information? – do those things we do before we flush ….

I could sing praise of electricity all day, but there is laundry to be done again, dishes to wash, water to wash them with, 600 emails to be read and answered, and the life we left on hold one week ago powered back ON — allowing school to start, sports to be played, work to be done and holidays to happen.

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