Apologies if this column seems frivolous, considering the difficult time many of us are having surviving through the ongoing heat wave and blackout. My power remained out as of Wednesday evening (five full days).
But if you don't laugh, you might have to cry. Here are the six worst things and the six best things about an extended blackout during a heat wave:
1. You realize that you're irrevocably attached to air conditioning, and even more so with the climate heating up in recent years. During my childhood in Northeast Ohio, our upper-middle-class home never had A/C, so I never missed what I didn't have. But now I'm spoiled; it would be very difficult to survive a SE Ohio heat wave without some form of refrigerated cooling. (Granted, the ability to use fans would make it a lot more tolerable.)
2. It's difficult to keep your temper in check when sweat's dripping into your eyeballs, your clothes are sticking to your body like one big soggy postage stamp, and keeping beer cold requires the skills of a NASA technician. For a nice, well-mannered human being to metamorphose into a bitchy, cranky malcontent, just crank up the temperature to 97, add three parts of moisture to one part air, and you're there. I'm pretty sure Jack Nicholson's main problem in "The Shining" was a malfunctioning thermostat.
3. Dogs and cats start acting skittish and distrustful when your home's climate-control system evaporates. The cats in particular – they'll pace around, their shoulders hunched, their bellies low, giving you the stink-eye for violating the basic pet-owner compact: You feed them, clean up their messes, pay a fortune to keep them bug-free, and keep the indoor climate comfortable, and in exchange… they let you pet them (that's really about it).
4. You learn that when you need it the most, ice is impossible to find. And there's no way to make it without electrical power or a time machine to January. Don't be surprised if a bag of ice played a central role in many of the numerous domestic disputes erupting hereabouts over the past few days.
5. You have to throw out all that essential food that's been in the freezer since the last multi-day blackout five years ago. Who'd have known an ancient pork loin from Kroger, vintage 2009, was buried in the bottom of the freezer?
6. Generators suck if you don't have one. They're noisy and obnoxious, and nullify one of the only really nice environmental factors about a power blackout – the quiet.
But I don't begrudge the folks who have them. I'd certainly be blasting our neighborhood's peace and quiet if I had a generator.
is one of those issues that exhibits the huge importance of perspective, similar
to the completely opposite perspectives if you're a pedestrian or a driver in
1. Beer – if you can keep it cold – tastes better during these end times than during normal times. And it's easy to disregard that oft-repeated "scientific fact" that beer doesn't quench your thirst. I refuse to believe this, though I'm pretty sure the quenching effect increases with quantity.
2. While the hot, muggy temps can make you cranky and mean, they also can make you mellow and chill. Play some reggae on your iPhone, sink into a dreamy state of lassitude, and laugh at your neighbors wasting their time picking up sticks. Like who cares, dude?
3. I know this may seem like a cliché, but being deprived of computers and TVs for a few days really is a refreshing switch. Sunday night, my wife and I sat on the deck after the after-storm cool-down, and just talked, chilled to some tunes (Jonathan Edwards' "Athens County" among them), and shared a glass or two of wine (very thirst-quenching!). You know, after this blackout is over – and things very quickly revert to the pre-blackout status quo – we'll be sad that our quiet evenings are over. (Am I really that stupid? We'll see.)
4. It's been an interesting experience adapting to the new reality. It took us a couple rough days without power before we started changing our routines, taking various small steps to adjust to the new climate regime. But it's much easier now than just two days ago.
One of the big changes I've adapted to is going to bed earlier. After it gets dark, trying to read by candlelight or flashlight is a drag, and it doesn't take more than a half hour or so to pack it in. Then I'm up at the crack of dawn. It feels like being a freaking dairy farmer.
5. No matter how miserable this heat wave blackout can get, it's still not as miserable as trying to survive in a freezing house during a mid-winter blackout. I tried to spend the night in our house during the ice storm blackout a few years ago, but failed utterly. The worst part was those damn cats tip-towing around in the shadows beyond the wavering candlelight, their nails clicking on the parquet floor tiles. I felt like I'd been inserted into an "Alien" movie.
6. This particular power outage hasn't been accompanied by a wave of zombie attacks. This is probably the best thing about the Great Blackout of 2012.