Why I will be out of juice the next time the power goes out

  • Article by: JAMES LILEKS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 20, 2013 - 9:59 PM

I am, at present, sitting in the dark outside, typing on a laptop with 32 percent power. June bugs are divebombing the screen, which is like being attacked by angry severed thumbs.

The power went off for no apparent reason around 9:45 p.m. The nice robot lady on the phone at the juice factory says it will return at midnight.

I think they say that because that’s the time all the clocks in the house will show when the power comes back on.

Right now I have enough batteries to move around the house without barking a shin on a table that seized this opportunity to change its position — no one’s looking, this is our chance! Who’s with me? Ottoman, you in? — but in the future I will not have enough batteries, because of recent changes to the Minnesota tax laws.

Let me back up. Earlier in the day, as if sensing the grid would collapse because a squirrel wondered what that wire tasted like, I checked the Home Emergency Preparedness kit. I’m serious. I noticed several things.

1. The windup radio would be better if it sang the public-disaster news to the tune of “Pop Goes the Weasel.”

A six-mile front is moving your way / the temperature will soon drop / straight-line winds will uproot your trees / Off goes your rooftop!

2. The emergency food supplies appeared to be put up during the days when you felt bad because you didn’t have enough plastic sheets and duct tape. I’m here to answer the question “can jerky expire?” Eventually, yes. First hint: Does not look like meat, but a stiff ’n’ moldy non-pliable fur-slab. Second hint: Really, you need a hint after that?

Also, the tuna was elderly when “Lost” concluded its first season. What was I thinking? Power goes down, kid says: Yea, we can eat the ice cream, and I say No! Everyone in the basement for tuna and crackers, and stay away from the windows! Anyone sees we have supplies, we could get looted. When things fall apart, money’s useless and Triscuits are like gold.

But they have power across the street, Dad. Things haven’t fallen apart.

Maybe they have a generator! C’mon, let’s go take their Triscuits!

3. One of the emergency lamps had suffered SBIS, or Sudden Battery Incontinence Syndrome. The terminals were encrusted with nasty white stuff, which means the battery leaked.

(Side note: I can still recall the taste from childhood — a bright metallic tang, like foil on fillings. Maybe it was just the times, but nearly every kid grew up knowing what leaking batteries tasted like. A dare may have been involved, or just curiosity: Well, this so-called acid isn’t eating away my flesh down to bone, so it can’t hurt my tongue.)

Good thing I have backup batteries aplenty. But this will change because Amazon has killed its Associates Program in Minnesota because of the new tax bill.

I suppose that needs explaining.

If you have a little website and offer links to products on Amazon, you get a tiny cut. Every few months they send you a gift card you can use to buy things on Amazon. Because the Legislature decided to tax Internet activity, Amazon said, “Well, we’re done here,” and cut off all the Minnesota associates like me.

What did I use the gift cards for? Batteries. No one likes to buy batteries. They’re like tires for your car: something expensive that provides hardly any benefit. I have an emergency flashlight capable of blinding the Hubble, if I point it in the right direction; it eats D-cells like those Brachs caramels your grandma used to have, except for the orange-flavored ones. No one ate those.

Anyway, when I get some money from Amazon, I buy batteries, a statement that defines “middle-aged man who takes his excitement where he can get it” better than anything.

Does this take money away from local retailers? I suppose, but I never buy them in the store anymore. They’re cheaper online. No, I’m not buying cheap Chinese knockoffs with names like Durecall, or Evareddy. The real things. (You know, Roy-o-Vacs.) They cost more at the store because people who buy them at retail outlets are in need of fresh ones now, and pay the price. People who buy them online and wait for delivery are thinking ahead.

Well, the laptop’s down to 12 percent, so I’d better wrap it up. Just wanted to note that if the power goes out in two years and my flashlights are dead, it’s the Legislature’s fault, because I stopped ordering to backstop emergencies.

However, tomorrow I will have two fresh bruises on my shin from walking into a flowerpot I forgot about by the back steps. That is not entirely the Legislature’s fault, even though they tabled the Shin Protection Act, which would have required luminescent paint around the rim of any pot likely to cause injury if impacted in the dark.

We’ll call that one even.

jlileks@startribune.com • 612-673-7858

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