Thursday, June 23, 2011

In The Dark

We've just spent the past 48 hours without electricity after a powerful storm rolled through our area on Tuesday evening and knocked down trees, branches and power lines.

The first 24 hours in the dark are always kind of fun. We dig out our No Electricity Box that contains candles, flashlights, oil for our old oil lamp and a Coleman camping lantern. The kids light candles all over the house and my husband and I fret about someone starting a fire. It's like camping out, and we joke about how hard it would have been to live 150 years ago. We wonder how we would have spent the time and marvel that people functioned as well as they did. I always marvel at the fact that it's only around 150 years we've been living with better lighting in our homes.

The kids wonder what to do and think it's a great boon to dig out the board games for entertainment. They actually read real dead tree books and interact with each other face to face instead of via text. And when things get really boring, they - gasp! - head outside to take a walk or play a game of basketball. Both my husband and I think perhaps it would be a good thing for the electricity to go down a few times a month.

The second 24 hours aren't so much fun. The storm hit just as I was in the middle of cleaning up the kitchen after dinner, so I had a dishwasher full of dirty dishes. I also hadn't yet run the garbage disposal which meant one of my sinks wouldn't drain well and I worried about odor.

Also, after two days, the laundry had begun to pile up. My daughter and I headed to the laundro-mat this morning. I have to say, there is something nice about investing two solid hours to get ALL of the laundry clean, dried, folded and sorted rather than the days-long process of doing one load at a time. Maybe not as convenient, but now I don't have to worry if we'll run out of clean towels until at least the end of the weekend.

Then there is the problem with charging. Cell phones. iPods. iPads. We have charging units that work off a running car engine, but you can only drive around so much. For years now my husband has been saying we need to get rid of our land line phone since we all have cells. But it's times like this when I feel vindicated for pushing back - once all the cell phone batteries run out, we're completely incommunicado. 

Not so cool was emptying out my fridge and freezer. I didn't bother trying to salvage any of it save some condiments, potatoes, onions and a bit of chicken that had remained frozen. I hauled six full garbage bags to the bin and felt tremendous levels of guilt for all of the bottles and plastics I failed to recycle. Without a working garbage disposal, there was no way to properly empty and rinse out the bottles to save them, so I threw things out whole. I hope future generations will forgive me.

As time consuming (and expensive!) as it was to purge the fridge, it's amazing how nice it is to start from scratch with an empty and clean unit. I've made my husband vow that we will not buy anything to put into it that we don't plan to use within a day or two because I'm not going to clutter it up again with half a dozen half-empty bottles of BBQ sauce or 13 varieties of salad dressing and ice cream sundae toppings. Gone, also, are those "experiments" we always manage to pick up at Trader Joe's or other high-end grocery stores, things that sound good on the label but either aren't a big hit or don't get used often enough such that three years later we still have a 3/4-full jar of roasted red pepper and artichoke tapinade buried in the darkest corners. Either we love it, we eat it all up or we hated it and out it goes immediately.

While I was the first one doing the happy dance when ComEd finally managed to give us back the power, I have to say that living in the dark has some real benefits. Last night, after eating dinner out (couldn't cook!), the entire family sat down and played a game together. We had a lot of fun, and my husband and I remembered how we'd always planned to have a family game night once or twice a month. Usually, we all go our own ways to plug ourselves into whatever electronic entertainment we've chosen for the evening, and no one wants to be bothered to spend time laughing and talking together.

Makes me wonder if the decline in western culture and the bonds of family might not be the fault of the light bulb. Way to go, Mr. Edison.

BTW, if you are looking for a fun, family game, I recommend Apples to Apples. While the Family Edition is great for older kids (and my kids do fall in the right age group), I actually thought the Junior Edition was more fun. But it's a great game that provokes lots of laughs.