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Powerless

The whole time I was standing in the supermarket trying not to crawl under my shopping cart or die of embarrassment, I kept thinking that soon enough the day would end. I would go home and go straight to bed just so it could not be Wednesday, December 1, 2003 2004 anymore. And the whole time that the machine kept spitting out my debit card and even when I ran over to the ATM and produced a slip that said I had way more than enough money in my account to cover the grocery bill and even when I realized my bank had fucked up in some serious, shame-inducing way, I kept my hopes high by reminding myself that the day had to end at some point, it just couldn't go on forever. And even my daughter refused to understand the situation was just a technical glitch and no, we weren't poor, we weren't going to starve to death because mommy has no food money and would you please stop making a scene, I know you're doing it on purpose, even when I called home to see if we had cash laying around but no one answered the phone and I had to leave my cart of groceries at the counter while I drove to my mother's house (braving the five million mph winds that were threatening to knock down every street light and telephone pole) and dragged her back to the store with me so she could use her AmEx to pay from my freaking food, most food items being of the "I'm sick and I need comfort food" variety like frozen pizza and a chocolate coffee eggnog cake and some Ring Dings and thank jeebus I had some fruit in the cart so my mother didn't give me a lecture on how my kids were going to suffer from malnutrition, through all that I kept repeating the mantra, it's almost over. It's almost over. Groceries packed in car, mom dropped off, on our way home, where I would leave the putting away of the food and the making of dinner to the husband because the previous hour, topped with still feeling flu-ish and just having a miserable day in general, made me want to crawl into bed at 6pm. So imagine my surprise and horror when I turned the corner onto my block and realized that the entire west side of my street (the side on which I reside, of course), was bathed in complete darkness. No street lights, no Christmas lights, not a single speck of brightness emanating from any of the houses. When I got out of the car, I noticed a peculiar yet familiar smell. Ah, I love the smell of a burning transformer in the evening. Smells like.....HELL! This is what I get after I spent the last hour and most of the day combating all kinds of evil karma and twisty, knife-wielding fate? This is the thanks I get? It is times like this that I curse my atheism because it leaves me with no god to damn, no one to cry to about being forsaken. So I gave the finger to Mother Nature and brought the mostly frozen groceries into a mostly dark house (the husband had placed a few candles throughout) and shoved all of the cold food into a mostly getting warm freezer while I fought back bitter tears of self pity. It's only 5:30 at this point. Of course, this being December, it's pitch black at 5:30. I make the suggestion that we all just go to bed. I think everyone looks at me like I'm crazy but I can't be sure because it's, well, dark. So we try to pretend it's just a normal day. DJ watches Shrek 2 on the laptop. Natalie tries to do homework by candlelight. Justin is trying his best to calm me down, as I am still fuming over the whole shame in the supermarket thing. He offers me the bottle of Jack Daniels. I decline. My rage, frustration and general flu-like symptoms will keep me feeling as though I'm on a three day crack binge, thanks anyhow. The contentment of the rest of my family (including my sister and brother in law upstairs) lasts about fifteen minutes. Natalie can't concentrate on her homework because the flickering of the candles is distracting her and she keeps finding herself staring into the flames, getting sleepy....sleeeeeeeepy...so very sleepy. I snap my fingers and tell her to act like a chicken. She rolls her eyes. Do chickens roll their eyes? Maybe teenage girl chickens do. The Shrek entertainment is over because the laptop battery is at a critical low point. Much like me. The house is cold. I'm hungry. We have no heat and no way to cook dinner because both our stove and our heat is run by electricity. Now, I know you Florida people are thinking I can't believe she's complaining about being without power for a little bit, does she remember hurricane season? I was HUNGRY. And COLD. And I tell you, if it wasn't for the little incident in the supermarket and the feeling like crap thing, I really would have handled this a lot better. Maybe I would have suggested a backyard campfire with roasted marshmallows for dinner and a few ghost stories. But as it were, I found myself instead drinking a Jack and warm Coke and staring out of the living room window. Everyone across the street had lights. Bright, blazing lights in their kitchen and living room windows. Merry Christmas lights. Porch lights. Giant Santas glowing on the front lawn. They were mocking us. I just knew it. They had all gotten together and came up with a brilliant plan to make fun of our plight and so they all turned on every single piece of lighting equipment in and outside of their homes. They were in their houses, laughing at us, eating warm food and turning up their heat and taking hot showers. It was the their side of the street against ours. East side v. West side. And I was gonna pop a cap in their asses. So I devised a plan in which we would go into their homes, knock them all unconscious with blunt instruments and string extension cords from their homes to ours. We'd make them pay for mocking us with their electricity. And so, standing there behind my curtain, I envisioned the lot of us from the East Siiiiiide (gotta say it like Cartman) running out into the street, decorated with war paint and brandishing torches, declaring war on our West Siiiiide neighbors. No Blood for Power! Sigh. A futile fantasy, I know. My next best option was to stage a naked protest to the electric company in the middle of the street. We would stand there, stripped down and chanting slogans, until the LIPA trucks came and restored our side of the street to its rightful, lit up glory. I harbored these fantasies - and even went so far as to fashion a makeshift torch - until 10pm, when the power finally came back on. Ah. Heat, warm food and hot water do so much to take one back from the frayed ends of sanity. I went to bed at 10:10 and as I drifted off I wondered if maybe the previous night's dream about the supermarket wasn't an omen. Perhaps I should learn something from this whole episode. Let's see.....Ah, I got it. 1) Always keep the laptop battery charged because you never know when you'll need to have six people gather around a tiny screen to watch a movie you've all seen ten times. 2) Don't try to buy $144 worth of comfort food at once because bad food karma will get you. See, it was all fate's way of keeping from eating five frozen pizzas for dinner. Yes, five hours without electricity. I am a wimp, I know.

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Comments

You're not a wimp.

Only one time have I ever experienced a grocery store screw up in trying to run my card through - but I still remember feeling humiliated and put-upon as the useless cashier insisted that the problem MUST be on my end - and then she refused to take a check from me.

Grrr. It's infuriating when technology that we've come to depend on doesn't work right, and it's no fun feeling helpless when something goes wrong with it.

Weds Dec 1 is over. Be thankful. And now you appreciate that electricity and comfort food even more, right?

Feel better. At least you aged the story a full year (12/1/03) so its quickly on its way to be blocked from memory

Chocolate coffee eggnog cake? Ew.

If the lights ever go down on my side of the street, but not the other side, there is a transformer box about to be introduced to Mr.Round...7.62 to his friends. Because on my side of the street everyone owns their homes, while the other side are all renting blaggards who never clean their sidewalks, cut their lawns, properly dispose of their garbage, and generally screw with my biggest piece of equity in unspeakable ways, which means I am always looking for reasons to mess with their lives.

If I go dark, everybody is breaking out the candles!

(PS: Ditto, sortapundit, that sounds flat out vile!

Ok, the coffee in the cake refers not to flavoring, but the fact that it's a coffee (i.e., crumb) cake. With eggnog. And chocolate.

There, does that look so bad?

you are not a wimp.

I freak out when the power goes out, too - it's the not-knowing when it will be back that gets to me. I call the automated "hey, idiots, my power is out" line again and again until the automated answerer starts hanging up on me.

Earlier this fall, I endured a week without heat because my idiot former-furnace guy claimed the problem I was having was bigger than it actually was. When I finally got a second furnace guy in, he was able to fix it right. But for that whole week I was angry and distracted and borderline weepy.

I know there's some kind of parable about appreciating what we've got in there, but I just remember how damned mad I was at the first furnace guy and his "special" electrician who never showed up when he said he would.

I've had both of these things happen. The first -- the grocery store -- was trying to buy $40 of food as a college student, and finding out my direct deposit wouldn't go through until midnight. So I just slunk out of there -- said I was going to my car to get some cash -- and never went back to that particular store. Not a difficult task, since I wasn't particularly enamored of shopping at Food Lion anyway.

The other -- the power thing -- was during Hurricane Andrew. My city has several power grids. The morning after, at about 8:00, the grid with the Publix and the shopping center (and the south half of my 'hood) came back on. My grid -- on the north side of the canal -- stayed off until about 6:00pm, just after my dad had finished making everything for dinner on our grill. (Propane, in case Hank Hill is reading, although it did have an electric range-top as well.)

Of course, my friend Mike's power grid -- the one with the city government buildings in it -- stayed off until Thursday. Just goes to show you where the city's priorities were.

I've never been certain exactly what eggnog is. We don't see it too much over here in the UK. It just sounds vile.

Now, I know you Florida people are thinking I can't believe she's complaining about being without power for a little bit, does she remember hurricane season?

Sheesh...when you're hungry and cold, you're HUNGRY and COLD! Doesn't matter where or when you live. I get irate when it's just me and things like this happen. I can't imagine having a family and trying to keep it together. I wish I had your patience.

kimberly and ricki are wrong. you are a whimp. Do you own a gas or charcoal grill? you're set, steaks, kabobs, burgers, you can even grill veggies on there if you're somekind of vegan dirt worshipper. I went down to Port Orange FL to visit a buddy a while back. I was there for an entire week without power. We ate fish and chicken everynight, kept the beer on ice in the cooler and the freezer closed. Not a single food item was lost due to spoilage. Not to mention the fact that you could've WALKED ACROSS THE STREET and sought warmth with some neighbors. Or are you the crazy lady no one wants to hang out with?

Shank: We have a charcoal bbq. You try keeping one of those lit in 80mph winds. Also, it was kind of freezing outside.

Also, my neighbors are crazy. Not me.

Try living without power in the heat of the summer (well, a Kentucky summer, so not that big of a deal) while your neighbors are luxuriating in their air conditioned homes and drinking frosty beverages from their working fridges. And driving all over the freaking city looking for ice of either the wet or dry varieties to try to keep the food from spoiling (save the ice cream first!) and seeing all the great places with power. I ended up sending the family away for a mini-vacation so I could stay at the office late, late, late. That sucks, although not as much as a hurricane, I suppose. My grocery store story turned out better, but the reason it turned out better was a little scary to me. We were at the Safeway, and their system kicked back our check because the bank had screwed up the week before and bounced a check to someone else. The bank fessed up, honored the check and repaid the fees, but the Safeway system still said Go Away Evil Check Kiter. So we pleaded for help, and the manager pulled up our file on the store database, took one look at how much we had spent there over the past several years and instructed the minion to take the check forthwith. Just how much one has to spend at Safeway to get in the "take the check when the computer says we're check bouncers and without even inquiring from the bank whether we have funds to cover it" category, I'm not sure I want to know.

And using a barbeque grill as a substitute during a power outage is rarely a good idea, given that it tends to make your house blow up and stuff.

Michele, when I was a kid I had to keep the charcoal grill lit in 100mph winds, uphill in the snow both ways! Without SHOES!
mmm...or something. glad your power came back on, sucks that all your neighbors are crazy.

moving is a pain in the ass and all, but if the neighbors are insane shut-ins and you live on a hellmouth (remember, the flocks of black birds?)maybe it's time to consider relocating to another street? Preferrable the east siiiiiide since it seems less prone to isolated outages.

That's why I'm glad I have a gas stove; while I'm not sure the oven works right without power, the stovetop certainly does.

If you don't have one, you might consider some sort of portable gas or liquid fueled cooking device. Ala a camping stove, say. Very handy for emergencies, though admittedly useless for making pizza. But they CAN cook your mac and cheese!

"Now, I know you Florida people are thinking I can't believe she's complaining about being without power for a little bit, does she remember hurricane season?"

We Floridians aren't thinking that - we're thinking "Why the hell does anyone live up there anyway?!?"

Hang in there!

had that thing happen with the register card reader.....stupid thing.

But I can't help but wonder, if the ATM let you get a balance, why didn't you just get the cash from the ATM?