TornadoWe all know it. We take people for granted. They come into our lives, whether by birth, or through mutual friends, or through circumstances that only God could have arranged, and we don’t realize just how much we rely on seeing them, on spending time with them, on having them in our lives. We look forward to seeing their face, and we never give it a second thought to pick up the phone and call them to tell them how our day went, or about something we saw that immediately made us think of them. We don’t think about how our lives would be without them, because we don’t ever imagine our lives without them. As far as we’re concerned, they’ve always been there.

Today’s blog, however, is not about people. It’s about things. And one particular thing … in particular. I never realized just how much we rely on electricity in our daily lives! It touches everything we do, whether we realize it or not, and quite frankly, it’s almost impossible to live anymore without it! It sure was evident to me last night.

But let me start from the beginning.

There I was, sitting at my desk at work, minding my own business, when all of a sudden I found myself perplexed by the coming storm. Being on the 17th floor of an office building, it was eerie watching the black cloud swarm over the city engulfing everything in its path. Thunder! Lightning! Pouring rain! Flashing electricity while I’m innocently trying to get my job done. But it’s just too much to handle. I stepped away from my desk and walked closer to the window, joining the gaggle of secretaries and paralegals and attorneys staring out at the blackness. And then we heard it. The sirens. It was the city-wide “Take cover or we’re all gonna die!!!” sirens. We stare at each other. Someone yells “It’s a tornado warning!” from one of the inner offices. We turn and press our noses against the glass windows that are now heaving in and out with the ferocity of the wind – and I swear I saw a woman on a bicycle with a basket on the front flying past the windows. I hear someone muttering “I’ve never seen rain fall UP before.” Someone else points out that debris we can just barely see outside the window is swirling in a circular motion, and I hear my own voice asking the silly question, “and why are we’re continuing to stand at the window?”

Some of us retreated to the basement of the building until it passed (frankly, I think we just needed the break); others retreated to inner offices and conference rooms to continue working. Within 15 minutes, it was all over and all gone.

But oh, my story isn’t over yet.

My work day ended and I headed home for the night until I had to pick up my partner from the train station. When I got home, the garage door opened verrrrrrry slowly. I knew something was wrong – after all the nearest traffic signal wasn’t working, so there must have been a power outage. Sure enough the garage door was on battery power.

I opened the garage door to the back yard, and it was like the scene from the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy steps out of her house into Munchkinland for the first time. Only it wasn’t the beautiful Technicolor yellow-brick road of Munchkinland I saw, but the aftermath of what appeared to be a tornado (sans the missing roof, thankfully). I entered the house and sure enough the power was out. According to the neighbors, it was to be restored by 7:00 pm, but I wasn’t going to hold my breath. Good thing, too, because they never did restore power until the next morning.

So this is where I start realizing just how much we rely on electricity in our day-to-day lives, and just how much I was missing my old friend! After sitting in the silent, dark, warm living room, I ran back out to pick up my partner from the train station, and listen to his “oo’s” and “ah’s” and “holy craps” as we approached the “battle zone.” We stared at the tree limbs and branches lying in both the back and front yards, he tried to fix the battered tomato plant that was now horizontal, and tried to decide what to do about dinner. Since there was no more air conditioning, cooking was out of the question. So was lighting candles for light! While we were trying to decide, I mix my gin and tonic (thankfully that required no electricity to make or consume – I was even able to get into the freezer, grab the required number of ice cubes and get the freezer door closed before losing even a single degree) and we go sit on the front porch with our neighbors to bemoan the destruction and the lack of electricity.

Eventually, we decided that instead of calling the local pizza joint, we’d just settle for the American staple for when you don’t know what to eat – peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. My partner was also in and out of the refrigerator with the jelly so fast, I think we should make it an Olympic event. “Ice Catching” and “Jelly Snatching” at its best.

So there we sit eating our sandwiches in the ever darkening room, experiencing that total silence you rarely experience anymore except when you’re out in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of winter, in the middle of a snow storm, in the middle of the night. Pure, unadulterated silence. No whirring of the air filter; no hum of the refrigerator; no ka-BAM of the central air turning on (okay, maybe we should have that looked at…). Can’t use the cell phone to surf the web because the battery is only at about 50% and it has to last until morning to be my alarm clock. And without the wireless internet working, there’s no Wi-Fi for surfing, answering emails, watching movies, or listening to music. There’s no light by which to read a physical book, but I do have my Kindle app. The only problem is my iPad is almost dead and needs to be recharged.

By 9:00 we’re tired and the power hasn’t come back on yet (See? I told you they wouldn’t get it on by 7:00!). We open the windows (something I avoid like the plague because of allergies, but tonight there’s no avoiding it), turn a fan on high (so if the power does come on during the night, the sound will wake us), and lie on top of the sheets on the bed waiting for sleep to overtake us, hoping and praying that my mobile phone will last the night and wake us up at 6:00 am. There is no fan, no moving air at all. Just the sound of crickets outside and the occasional siren responding to yet another looting, I’m sure.

Then the dreams begin. They’re all basically the same. I roll over and realize the fan is running and gleefully think, “The power’s back on!” only to actually wake up and the power’s not on. I roll over and hear the ka-BAM of the central air turning on and gleefully think, “The power’s back on!” only to actually wake up and the power’s not on. Tossing and turning; waking up in a dream and then actually waking up with an “oh Crap!” when I realize the power’s really not on.

Finally, the kicker at what I believe was about 5:30 – the unmistakable sound of my phone gasping its last breath before dying. CRAP! Oh well. Guess I’ll just end up late for work without an alarm. Then I rolled over and heard the fan start running – only this time I actually felt the air coming from it! Could it be?? Indeed the power had returned. I reached over and plugged in my mobile phone and watched it power back up, then drifted back to sleep. About 2 minutes later, my 6:00 alarm sounded, and the nightmare was over.

This is precisely the reason we don’t do “camping.” By the Grace of God, hotels, air conditioning, and room service were invented for a reason. Maybe the next time we’ll just spend a night at the local Marriott.