Lost power this morning. Working away, typing, mousing, listening to the internet, Click! Middle ages.

I decided to go to the office, where of course there would be power. That’s the thing about the power going off: it’s still on somewhere else.

Inconceivable it couldn’t be.

But what if it wasn’t?

When the power’s out it takes a few minutes before you stop flicking light switches when you enter a closet or another room, and it makes you realize how much of your daily life is unthinking routine. Get the paper, get down a bowl, get out the cereal - if you canceled the paper you’d still go out the next morning. If you’d put the last bowl in the dishwasher the night before you’d still look in the cupboard. A man who loses his hands will look at a cold weather forecast and wonder where he put his gloves. We’re always behind the curve, before the coffee kicks in.

I got ready for work in the uncanny silence - the house has a ventilation system that’s always on in the background, like the Enterprise engine noise, and it’s nice. Smooth faint vanilla sound. When it’s off I think this is what the house sounded like in its early years. This is what everything sounded like around here, when the area was urban but still pastoral.

It’s creepy.


My subconscious has assimilated the sound of the network-attached storage drives as proof civilization endures. And that I’ve paid my electrical bill. Always a relief to see the traffic lights are out: whew. My automatic payment went through, then. When I got to the nearest controlled intersection, Minnesotans were doing what Minnesotans do: taking turns. No light, no man in a blue uniform and white gloves holding out a stiff hand, tweeting on a whistle; everyone took turns. It is the way of my people.

On most days when the power goes out and I leave the house, I hit the garage door opener button, then think d’oh. Not today: I used the hanging cord to open it manually, backed the car out, went back in, closed it, and locked it with a bolt. That last part is important, lest roaming miscreants find themselves unable to resist the impulse to relieve people of their property. Hey, what could they do? If those people didn’t want to lose their bikes they should have welded the door shut. Besides, I wasn’t intending to steal them. It just happened.

Before I left the house I turned the clock in the basement to noon, so when I returned and the power was back, I could see how long it had been out.

It’ll be back, right?

It has to come back, doesn’t it?

No, of course it doesn’t. It most likely will, but there’s nothing that says it has to. And then where would we be? I’ve always thought I could use my grill outside for cooking up the stuff in the freezer, but when I started the grill last night - first time this season - hardly any gas came out. Just enough for tiny blue flickering flames the size of mayflies. It can’t be the amount of gas in the tank; I can tell by lifting it there’s meals aplenty left in that thing. Can’t be the crud built up on the flame-bar-things, because I’ve scoured them out. No explanation. I’m looking at the thing, thinking: sure, I’m going to send this back for repairs. Don’t even know where to start on that.

Except for google, of course. Found this explanation:

Problem: Low flames on grill, tank is full.

Cause: These newer tanks have a device inside that limits the flow of gas to prevent leaking or accidental discharge of gas from the cylinder. The leak detector mechanism inside the tank shuts off the gas whenever the valve is opened rapidly.

Close the tank valve and remove the tank. Check the gas line for ANY object that could cause blockage. Open all valves on the grill to eliminate any pressure whatsoever. Close all valves and reattach tank. SLOWLY open the tank not over 2 turns. Check for leaks. I just open my tank a tiny bit but that is just me.

Open the tank a tiny bit, but that’s just him. I love that little reveal. Hey, guys, I’m a tiny-tank-opener, but your mileage may vary. So there’s a regulator inside that shuts off the gas when it detects that you really want a lot of gas? So I screwed up cooking supper because the tank thinks I don’t know what I’m doing, or because it thinks there may be some catastrophic failure? Really? Well, that explains why the neighborhood is quiet these days; while back, before they changed the tank nozzles, you’d hear five, seven tanks explode per day, and usually they’d take out a tree and it would fall on the power lines. Sparks and darkness for hours.

No dinner tonight; daughter was out on Mandated Charity Run, which is a good thing. Part of confirmation class requires some volunteer work. They’re going to the church’s retirement home to adopt an Elder, bring rays of light to old folk. My instructions were clear: ask questions. What they used to do, what they remember. If they ask you questions about school or hobbies, be thorough. Here’s the thing: you cannot possibly bore them. If they are old and cranky and don’t to want to be around young people, they’ll be in their rooms with the doors shut. If they’ve signed up to meet you, you cannot - I repeat - possibly bore them.

Unless you talk about Pokemon in motormouthy run-on sentences for ten minutes.


Anyway. Returned from work, power was on. The clock said it had been off for three hours, just long enough to ruin the ice cream. It refreezes, forms crystals, ruins everything: sand in the pudding.

Took daughter to the church, went to Aida to pick up dinner. Talked to the young woman behind the register, had the name of the restaurant explained: the family is from Egypt. She’s been here four years. Likes it fine but on vacation, she loves Alexandria. I noted that I’d just read a book that took place in Alexandria. Two thousand years ago during the Roman occupation, but still. While I was waiting for the gyros the conversation moved to Mediterranean locales, cruises, and I mentioned the Disney ship; her eyes went wide, as if to think of such a thing. I assured her that it wasn’t what people think, it’s quite elegant and refined and restrained, for the most part, in case she thought it was like Disneyworld -

“But I love Disneyworld!” she said. She’d gone there a year before. First time. She said she’d seen the castle on TV, thought they made it look big and magical through the usual TV special effects - and then she got there and saw it, and it was better than she could ever have imagined. “I stayed all night until everyone had to go,” she said.

She loved Disneyland.

And Alexandria. There’s nothing strange about loving both. All cities are fantasy projections, at least if they’re any good. I just love the pull of Disneyworld to someone who grew up in Egypt.

Drove home. Hit the garage door button. Didn’t go up. Dang: I hadn’t connected it up correctly, I guess. Went up the stairs, into the house. Lights out; clock dark; microwave readout blank. Again? Again.

Lest you think we have slipped into third-world status here, let me relate what my wife learned from some Xcel energy guys packing up their gear: tree-trimmers. Sloppy tree-trimmers had dropped branches that took out the power in the neighborhood twice.

They’re not really tree-trimmers. They work for the Ice Cream trust.


















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