Wednesday, October 31, 2012

First World Problems

This morning, I woke to the chirping of my phone alarm at 5:40 am.

The house was cold and dark, illuminated only by a single 3 watt bulb slowly draining a large 12 volt battery.   I popped out of bed, put on shoes and a vest, and shuffled through the house, working my way around the extension cords.  I kicked on the compact florescent lamp connected to the battery, and the center of the house filled with warm light.

Then, into the kitchen.  Checking the interior temperature, I saw that it was 55 degrees in the house, and thirty nine degrees outside.  Not bad.

Then it was out the side door and around to the front of the house.  There, I fired up our little Honda generator.  Choke out.  Throttle control off.  Ignition on.  It started quickly and then settled into an easy thrumming idle.  Light poured out of the kitchen bay window beside me.

I went back into the house, and plugged an electric spaceheater into the high-capacity cord.  Warm air began filling my older son's room.  Time to get up, I said, turning on the battery-powered lamp by his bedside.

Then it was back to the kitchen.  I loaded wood into the fireplace, and got a nice little fire going.

The big guy slouched sleepily into the fire-warmed kitchen, and got himself some breakfast.  With him out of his room, I went and powered down the spaceheater.   This freed up enough wattage to run our insanely power-gluttonous coffeemaker for the few minutes it took to make the morning's go-juice.   Once done, I poured the steaming hot coffee into a thermos, turned off the coffeemaker, and got the heater going again so son number one could dress.

Then it was out back to grab more wood from the woodpile.   The big guy, dressed like Dr. Horrible and ready for school, loped out of the house at around six thirty.   I moved the spaceheater to the little guy's room, brought him the lantern, and coaxed him to wakefulness.  He stirred with his usual piteous moans.

"Still no power?" he queried.  "Nope," said I, and then I went back to the kitchen to tend the fire and nurse my coffee.

Then there was a fluttering, a clicking, and a humming, and the power grid for our neighborhood came back online after thirty-six hours.  The house filled with light.  The furnace kicked in.  The Wifi poured data invisibly into the ether.

Had it been rough?  Hardly.

For those thirty six hours, we'd lived as if we were rich in the third world.

We had power as we needed.  We had refrigeration, and lights, and heat.  We had television, transportation, and phones, and clean running water.  Relative to most of humanity, we were still living like kings.

It's best not to forget that.