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Out Go The Lights

Without electricity for 24 hours seemed like a lifetime

By Al Carlos Hernandez
Published on LatinoLA: January 4, 2003


Out Go The Lights


We live by the coast. A few weeks ago during a series of major storms, our power went out for 24 hours, and I realized that life is barbaric without electricity.

Modern Americans are soft. If we ever had to endure long days and nights without power, we could become the meanest, ugliest, most feared warriors on earth. Days, months, weeks living in a cave could turn almost anybody into a homemade sandal-wearing zealot.

My wife woke me at 3 am or so in the morning to tell me that the power went off. I interpreted her comments as, wake up and go to sleep. Besides, how do you know that the power went off if you were sleeping? We don?t have an electric blanket we are Latinos.

She said, ?The red light of the alarm clock is off.? So I said, let?s go back to sleep until it comes back on. She said, ?But then we won?t know what time it is.? So I said, "Then don?t wake me up and we will have a really good excuse for being late for work." She reminded me that she owned her own business and I worked at home so the whole conversation was moot. Since I was the man, it was my responsibility to do something about this household crisis situation, so I did.

I decisively went back to sleep.

She jumped out of bed, found a powerful flashlight, located her watch and monitored the time. I looked up only to see her shining the flashlight on her face. I got so scared it seemed my spirit left me for a few minutes. I screamed like one of those women Viking opera singers, with hubcap bras and woke up all of the dogs in the neighborhood.

Mi Vida laughed herself to sleep while I laid awake waiting for the lights to come on, so I could turn them off.

We got up, she went to work but the power was still off. She called her shop downtown on her cell phone. They had power. For her it was all-good, she could do her hair and makeup when she got there.

Not a stranger to having my power shut off for purely financial reasons back in the day, I knew the gas stove would work, so I was on an immediate diet of tortillas and tea. I don?t drink instant coffee. I?m kind of addicted to exotic designer crank bean coffee concoctions. Many will agree instant coffee is brown hot water.

Power was off all morning, so I went to a coffee place miles away to get my real deal java juice, read all the newspapers, went to buy several more flashlights and it was 9 am.

When afternoon came and it started to get dark this whole energy-less day, Fred Flintstone, Osama and his Mama Flashlight candle thing was getting on my nerves. As dusk fell I had to light candles in the major rooms, and guided myself around with a flashlight clandestine, like a cat burglar, despondent in the unique observation that most of my stuff wasn?t worth grabbing and running with. The good news was the hamburger places in an adjoining town was open. We dined on burgers and fries under candlelight without much sabor because ketchup under dim lighting looks whack, and come to think of it so do burgers.

We cuddled in front of the fireplace, kept warm and engaged in calming conversation. The fire was almost hypnotic. It wasn?t until later did I realize that I sat in front of the fireplace with the big screen TV remote like a dork, poised to change the station in the hopes of locating ESPN.

In resignation we went to bed around 8:30. We had nothing else to do! I realize now why back in the Little House on the Prairie days they had so many kids, woke up at 5 am to irritate the chickens, and glad hand the cows.

We fell into a deep sleep only to be awakened exactly 24 hours from the time the power quit. The red digital clock started blinking, and in an instant we were back to normal, although it was the middle of the night.

I learned several things from this episode; someone controls the power, and as Americans without power, we render ourselves helpless. We are too dependant on creature comforts and need to be more prepared should real disaster strike.

?You can discover what your enemy fears most by observing the means he uses to frighten you.?

-Eric Hoffer











About Al Carlos Hernandez:
Al Carlos is a national columnist.




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