Monday, June 22, 2009

Lessons from a 48-hour power outage

Some severe thunderstorms came through the Chicagoland area last Friday evening, knocking out power for our neighborhood for the next 48 hours. Service wasn't restored until Sunday evening. A few observations on our experience:

- Neighbors are helpful. We brought some of our frozen foods and perishables over to a neighbor's house. They were just a few blocks away, but they had power. So we were grateful for their freezer/fridge's hospitality.

- Neighbors can be annoying. Some neighbors ran generators to create their own power supply. Which was fine, except that they were quite loud and ran late into the night. I don't know if our particular city has noise ordinances, but the experience made me wonder what it means to be good neighbors at such times, how we balance neighborliness and inconvenience.

- So much of our leisure/entertainment depends on electronics. No TV, no DVDs, no videogames. Josiah was charging his new Nintendo DS when the power went out, and he wanted to make sure that it was fully charged before playing it, so he very patiently waited all weekend until we got power back to charge and play it. Elijah kept trying to put videos in the VCR and eventually realized that it just wasn't going to work. So the power outage became a good unplanned fast from electronics. We spent much of our time reading, playing piano, and inventing a blow-up-the-Death-Star board game using checkers and wristbands. And we went to the local bowling alley for Father's Day, which was fun.

- Most non-cooking food choices cost more money. I got annoyed that we had to eat out more than we had planned. It's almost always cheaper to make meals than to buy meals, so it was frustrating to have our options limited to being consumers instead of meal-makers. (Though we did make do with what we could.) On Saturday afternoon we pulled our melting ice cream out of the freezer and told Josiah, "Okay, eat as much as you want."

- Teachable moments. Josiah couldn't sleep because of the neighbor's loud generator and said, "I'm so annoyed when there's no power!" So we told him that actually, many, many people in the world don't have access to power or electricity. We explained that we actually have to pay for power; he hadn't realized that. He said, "I think we should get solar panels for our house."

- It's good to clean out the fridge every few years. After we got power back, we went through the fridge and got rid of all sorts of stuff, including salad dressings and condiments that were probably several years past their expiration dates. Funny how we never think to purge stuff until we need to.

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