Monday, September 5, 2011

Thanks Irene.

I am electrified. Literally.  We have power at our house for the first time in a week. Hurricane Irene meandered up the coast, taking her own sweet time and reeking havoc everywhere she went, until finally arriving on our doorstep last Saturday evening.  Within two hours of the start of what would be about a 10 hour process, a tree was already down in the back yard and we had lost power.  We were under-prepared for some reason; warnings that she was coming our way were posted well in advance of her arrival but it seemed uncool to panic too soon so we didn't panic at all.  It turned out our generator was broken and our power was lost right at the start of the storm, as if God was saying, "you should've listened to Bob," (cheers Bob Maxim, NBC30 weatherman extraordinaire).  At least we had filled the bathtub with water since we couldn't pump from the well with no power.

As a dark day and an even darker night passed, batteries became depleted, non-perishable food was rapidly devoured (I under-purchased on that front too), so we began to seek comfort in the outside, namely Hamburger Hill.  This famous strip in Groton serves burgers upon burgers from Wendy's, Burger King, MacDonalds and the like, and surely would be back up and running in no time.  Hallelujah-Wendy's was open.... and had a line about half a mile long outside.  We heard rumor that a Dunkin Donuts was open and evidently so did everyone else.  There was a flock of people down the street waiting for coffee too.  I opted for Dunkin and amazingly found an outlet to recharge my phone.  Sitting, sipping, waiting, I watched the masses file in and out with varying degrees of relief to have finally found some caffeine (even though, in truth, it had been less than 24 hours for most).  Occasionally, someone I thought I knew came in. A glance and a nod told me I was right but where did I know them from?  Some might walk over and say hello and we reconnected as if we were old friends, reminiscing about some event where we had crossed paths.  Others just nodded and moved on with their day.

A few days later, still in the dark and powerless, I met a friend in Starbucks at about 8pm, a time that is usually quiet and winding down for the evening.  Not that night.  Teams of people were jostling for seats and outlets, some with irritation and some with philosophical resignation that they would just have to wait.  The mood overall was jolly.   I saw acquaintances exchanging pleasantries and some sitting down together for a more solid engagement.  Outlets were stuffed full at all times; PCs and Macs, phones, notebooks flashing in the background. Yes, in the background.  Whilst many had come it to try to get some work done or check their Facebook, virtually everyone ended up closing their laptops and talking to another person in the flesh.    The irony did not escape me.  The desperation of dead batteries and no virtual connection, led all these people to the Starbucks charging stations where they found real life conversation.  At 10pm, Starbucks began to move us out, offering free tea to go.  There was a reluctance to leave even though all gadgets were by now, up and raring to go.   Some said they would be sad when the power came back and I knew what they meant.  The sense of shared fate and camaraderie in the cafe that night was palpable and the buzz of conversation had never been more alive. This is what coffee shops were meant for I thought as I walked out; connecting and sharing.  I wondered why we have to have a little disaster for us to get back to that.  Maybe because virtual is just so easy.

Our power has been back for almost two days now.  At first we turned on few lights, and didn't even look towards the TV let alone turn it on.  No games on the computer, little sound except for Kyle and Jake on electric guitars.  I began to wonder if somehow we might be permanently changed.  But then reality crept back.  Washing machine fully cranked, gaming back in full swing, computers buzzing all around, TV still not on but it won't be long... 
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