Darned dependable power grid: not one outage this summer at our Minneapolis house. There’s nothing the prepper dad loves more than getting out the flashlights and lamps and battery chargers and the ol’ Monopoly board. It’ll be fun! For about a half an hour.
But no, the power has to stay on. Every day that freeze-dried stroganoff emergency food gets closer to its expiration date. C’mon, power company. This stuff goes bad in just 10 more years.
Last week I got a notification on my phone from the power company: There was an outage in my neighborhood, and my house — it gave the exact address — might be affected. Think about that: In olden times, when the power went out, you’d call them to say, “My power is out,” and they’d say “thank you,” when they had every right to say, “Oh, gosh, is that what the flashing lights and sirens in the control room are about? Thanks. We’d have never known.”
A few minutes later, I got another text, from my home internet network. I use a Google system to extend my Wi-Fi, because who wouldn’t want to give an unaccountable secretive corporation access to your internet in exchange for imperceptibly faster loading videos while you’re in the bathroom?
The message said my home internet was offline. I winced: The internet-connected radio would be dead, so the dog would not be comforted by the wry but also studiously concerned voices of NPR reporters. Poor guy.
For the next two hours, I kept thinking about the meat in the freezer, and if my wife had called, I’d have started the conversation with, “Why do we have a Costco membership? There’s just two of us now.” And if she’d asked if I was OK, I’d have said, “I’m OK. It’s the meat I’m worried about.” But to be fair, I say that often, so she probably wouldn’t even have noticed.
As I googled how long a freezer can be unplugged before everything rots, I started thinking about how I would have been perfectly happy not to know the power was out. It’s like getting a text message from the gas company saying “a gas leak has been detected in your area,” which is something I also often say around the house since we changed the dog’s diet.
Finally I got another text telling me the power would be restored shortly. It said “Cause: Lightning.” I once again marveled at the modern world: Before you just sat like you were waiting in line to buy license plate tabs, hoping your turn was coming next, but now you get updates and explanations.
But hold on: lightning? The sky was a lovely autumn blue without a hint of storms. Now I’m thinking that someone at the power company fell asleep and his slumber drool shorted out the control panel.
Whatever the cause, the power was on when I got home. The dog was excited, either by my return or because he thought I might be able to finish the news about the troubles in Sudan — he’d been so invested, then NPR went dead. The clocks were blinking in panic and seemed relieved when they could grab on to some numbers again.
Checked the ice cream: firm. Checked the meat: hard. Checked the freeze-dried stroganoff: still getting closer to its expiration date.
Later my wife asked why we were having the stroganoff for dinner. “I got a text,” I said. “It’s a long story.”