Sunday, December 26, 2004

After Christmas Update!

This morning the power went out around 6 AM. It was kind of unnerving. But not unexpected.

The power had fluctuated around 4 AM. I knew about it because the alarm clock goes off (it has a battery back-up) whenever there's a power outage. It was very brief as the power was back on by the time I got out of bed.

Around 5 I finally, officially, got up. After so many years in the military, I'm so used to getting up at Oh-Dark-Thirty, that I can't hardly sleep in. And I like to get up on the days that Mary has to go to work and make coffee for her. And me. I need coffee.

At any rate, around 6 the power went out. I'd been going through my email and had MSTK3 playing on TV when it got dark. Really dark. I've been in places without light before, but if your outside, there's usually starlight or street lamps. Not today. The power outage was so widespread that even the street lights went out, as I found out later.

This wasn't the first time that we'd lost power in Fontana and, as a result, we keep flashlights in every room. I felt my way around and found one. A good thing, too. Mary was trying to get ready for work when the lights went out! I took the flashlight into the bathroom and together we lit candles.

Fortunately, we're Catholic and Catholics have lots of candles. Still, for someone used to artificial light, it's very dim and very nerve-racking. We have candelabra, but hesitate to use them. I mean, what if the cat knocks them over and starts a fire? These are the worries we have about using fire as illumination.

I was also concerned that the outage would last for a long time. The last time we lost electricity it took three days for SCE to get things working again. That was pretty exciting. It was in the middle of one of the wind-storms that passes for winter in Southern California. A tree blew over into the main feed for my side of the street, caught fire, and burned it's way right through the power lines.

The fire department put out the fire but couldn't do anything about the lines. SCE sent a crew out to cut away the tree, but they had other priorities (such as hospitals) and couldn't repair the line until a couple of days later.

I still had to go to work (like staying home would change anything) and I showered there and recharged the battery in my laptop and Ipaq. I told people I was growing a beard since, without my electric shaver, I was starting to look like a wino.

It was hardest on the kids who really didn't have any experience of life without electricity. I came home one night and Mary was reading to the kids by candle-light. It was early, around 6 PM, and they'd had dinner at their grandparents, who still had electricity. They also had cleaned up there and were spared the cold showers I'd endured. Mary was just trying to calm them down and get ready for bed.

But Christy wasn't having any of it. She knew something was up and didn't like it one bit. Her house was dark and the TV didn't work! She was getting whiny and wanted everyone to know it. She grabbed me around the legs and said, "Daddy, when are the lights going to come back on?" That's hard to hear when you're a Dad and your baby is worried.

I grabbed a flashlight and went to the garage where I kept my camping gear. Digging through the boxes I located my small, black-and-white, hand-held, portable TV set. I replaced the batteries and checked the tuning. It still worked.

I walked back into the living-room with the Simpsons blaring out of the tiny speaker. You'd have thought I was Moses walking down from the mountain! The kids grabbed the tiny TV out of my hand and clustered around it like freezing hikers around a campfire.

It was one of my proudest moments.

Christy and Mary went to sleep in my bedroom with the portable TV running, the talking-heads on the news were discussing the power outage and saying that all would soon be well. I wandered back to the den, read by candle-light, and fell asleep feeling very pleased with myself.

I worried that today would be another of those days. It was getting cold (well, cold for California) and the heat depended on the electricity. The spring-like days of yesterday were passing into more typical cloudy and rainy days. It was hardly a crisis, but, as a Dad, I still worry.

The power came on around 7:30 and I was so glad! I call Mary and let her know that the power was on. She was relieved as well.

So it's been a great couple of days - sunny weather and cloud-filled skies.

This is winter in SoCal!

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