Reality Check: Lights Are Out Nobody’s Home

My buddy Mike (www.prinephotography.com) took this photo during the blackout while everyone else was partying...

Some will remember it as the power outage of 2011. I found it funny that in the middle of a supposed crisis people were flooding twitter and facebook posting pictures and hashtags of #sdblackout and #sdpoweroutage. Lines at convenience stores were out the door, freeways were packed and people stayed up late to drink all their cold beer and eat all their ice cream before it went bad. School was even canceled. Some turned to their makeshift emergency kits, others partied like they were with Leonard Bernstein, Leonid Breshnev, Lenny Bruce and Lester Bangs.

Let’s be honest. It was a little ridiculous.

I find it a bit ironic, with all our technology, that losing electricity for less than a day had such a great effect. Societies with way less infrastructure deal with outages all the time. They grab candles and move on. San Diego freaks out.

This is one of the first things that Malawi taught Hailey and me. We lost power almost weekly and some of our friends lived in places without any power at all. The week before Easter one of the engineers working on a water turbine died while trying to repair it. Much of Malawi didn’t have power for chunks of the day for two weeks. You learn to live with it, adapt and get on with what you were doing.

Want light after the sun goes out? Fire up the generator. Wanna charge your mobile phone? Take it to a charging station (a shack with wires attached to a car battery). When living with less is the norm, small things don’t seem to bother you. When you have a ton, twenty hours without power causes communal chaos.

Dinner uncooked in an electronic oven? Cook it on a fire. Can’t watch TV? Read a book. Can’t go online? Have a face-to-face conversation (what a concept!). Let’s be realistic about when it is actually appropriate to freak out.

For those of you who thought having no power for a couple hours was a catastrophe, I’m scared to see how you will respond when a real one comes. And those of you that partied all night are probably the same people who wore tin foil on your noggins for a y2k bash years ago. The world didn’t end then. And it didn’t this time either. Perspective can be everything and sometimes we all need a little more.

  • Amy B

    Wow. That is honest but a little harsh Dave. I don’t feel like many peoe freaked out, but people like drama on the Internet. From what I saw around town most people were calm. The roads were supposedly very congested but by most accounts people behaved themselves. I was probably in the latter category you mention as Holden and I were hanging out with Isabel. It ended up that we had a slumber party at the Hagoods with ice cream and a beer. There were also several conversations with the neighbors though.

    I couldn’t help but worry a bit about Michael because I could not get cell phone reception to hear from him. I hope that it helped me appreciate him more and God more for all of the conveniences that I take for granted. Please cut the county some slack. They mostly behaved well and have a decent story to tell. I guess that it is all perspecirve though and you can not help butnotice the striking differences in culture.

  • admin

    Mrs. Beam,
    You are right, what I wrote is a little harsh. I was trying to cope with seeing what I read (some of the links I posted, but I read more), talking with my mom (who was stuck at school with kids late and then directing traffic) and dad (who was excited because he got to fire up his HAM radio) and reconciling those things with our experience in a place where it happens all the time. I just found it odd that a lack of electricity causes such an uproar (even if that uproar is simply increased traffic and lost food). So much of who we are and what we do relies on electricity. We don’t see it as a luxury, instead it’s a necessity. Oh…and I love San Diego County, don’t worry at all about that!

  • Amy Beam

    I get that. We do rely on electricity more than we realize. In Malawi people don’t as it is an every day occurrence to be without it. If there was something they relied on that wasn’t there they would probably take that in stride. Hailey mentioned that they are really accepting of their circumstances. That is something we could all do a little more of I guess. I appreciate your thoughts my friend.

  • MOM

    It was a beautiful night. We reconnected with neighbors, gazed at God’s incredible creation, and TALKED without electronic distraction. Like it or not, we live in a privileged world. It is nice to be reminded that our privileges are often just distractions that stand in the way of the blessings all around. Cut us some slack–you were once us. It will take work to remember being without–but you will be ahead of the game. Your job is to help us have perspective with that which we have no experience.