Thursday, July 21, 2005
Almost the Blackout-iversary, Teflon Brownout Today
UPDATE: I'm an idiot. I read through yesterday's Carnival of Education more than twice just for browsing before noticing my NEA post had made it in. Thanks to The Education Wonks for hosting, and if you want a great potpourri of the macro to the micro, the sublime to the ridiculous in education, check out these posts.
UPDATE 2: crap, Crap, CRAP! Just heard about the new London bombings. Is this supposed to make us more complacent or madder? Makes me want to find my infidel's Beatle boots and go kick the 3 Cs out of the responsible someones.
The above picture from Shag was just to prove I could. I followed the same exact process the first two times I tried, but this time it worked. Oh well. I have a couple of great, non time-sensitive topics queued up for posts, but I want to write a bit that's intelligent(ish) around them, and I'll need more spare brains than I have available, so here's what I've got today.
1) The afternoon of August 14th, 2001, when I'd been living in Manhattan for about a week and the piles of cardboard boxes were still high, the power went out around 4pm. Reports later called it the biggest blackout in American history (of course, it hit Toronto, too), but my personal odyssey didn't last much longer than 26 hours. Sure, food was spoiled and it took a while for local stores- which carry just-in-time inventory concepts to an extreme- to recover and replenish, but the worst only lasted from one afternoon to another. Still, it was a very long day. When uncertainty is king, time drags.
Being on the 28th floor, it was an ordeal to get down to the street by the steep concrete stairs, especially for the dogs' needs. Also the internal stairs were Sheol-black, and holding a dog in my arms meant a flashlight in my mouth. We could more easily manage the 4 floors up to the roof, but the pooches were freaked out enough about the new surroundings and the newly vague concept of "outside", which now meant not just outside our door, but outside the hallway, elevator, lobby, and front walk. Experimentation proved they wouldn't relieve themselves on the top of the building. So, quad-busting trips down and up with the shortest-legged dog in arms. The biggest problem was lack of water. We had some drinking water in the fridge, but we hadn't immediately filled the tub to aid toiletry or washing hands or sponging the pervasive stickiness, so that meant more up and down to street level where flushing pressure was provided by non-electric forces and the aquifer.
Mostly, we stayed on our balcony with binoculars and the battery-powered shower radio, listening for updates and predictions and watching the fleets of military and news helicopters. We could have camped downstairs, I suppose. Everyone was on their most generous behavior, but if community spirit prevailed, so did ad hoc partying. Since we live among so many bars and restaurants and delis, it was a little wild and wooly at the darkness of street level with the mass quaffing of beer and ice cream before it got overly warm. Also, the police and fire trucks ran up and down the avenues with their spotlights and sirens blazing and blaring to dissuade miscreants which added another jarring vibe to the whole thing. From our balcony, we could see the lit candles in other high rises around us. Across the surreal darkness of the cityscape, the twinkles were beautiful little demonstrations of life and solidarity. I wish I'd had a camera capable of rendering it. I'll have to replay the memory to make sure it sticks.
After a poor night's sleep, the next day we found a pizzeria cooking the last of its already-made pies in its gas oven. We snapped one up, and there wasn't even any price gouging. We took it to a bar serving beverages in plastic cups with a token scatter of pebbles from their last melting pile of crushed ice. After gobbling some slices, we shared the rest with the other schmoes. By 6pm, the Mayor had annouced his house's power was back on and Gracie Mansion is geographically close to us. By 6:30ish, we were electrified, too. Welcome back flushing toilets! I was very glad the cause wasn't some more nefarious thing and that the restoration was so efficient. It was an adventure, and I was impressed by my fellow citizens' response, but I don't want a repeat.
Yesterday, slipped under every door and placarded in the lobby was an admonition to residents to avoid brownouts today in the 5 boroughs by restricting electricity use between noon and 6pm. So, today our blinds are closed like it's a sickroom. There's no A/C on in the bedroom and the new, more efficient unit in the living room is set to low, and I'm sitting close to it. I have all the unrequired appliances off save the electric alarm clock, this computer (which may qualify as an essential device) and the stove nightlight I need to see in my windowless kitchen. I can live with all of it as long as the bathroom works, but I wish I didn't feel so fragile and interdependent. My prayer intentions for the day are for a breakthrough in technology that will provide cheap, renewable, clean, and plentiful energy to the world. 'Cause I love me some electricity. Can't bossa nova if the records won't spin.
2) Those grasping Luddites, the exTORTion lawyers, are suing Du Pont for $5 billion over non-existent chemical exposure from Teflon-coated cookware. I wish they'd get jobs picking up highway litter or something else of public benefit.
(UPDATE: Michael Fumento, the author of the link above, is a discredited creep. Your humble author still believes the litigation is without merit or basis. However, I must alert you that this article link may be dead, as this man was, quite unfortunately, a paid mouthpiece.)