In California, we have rolling blackouts. That's because there are too many people
and not enough foresight to go around. Californians spend most of their adult
lives sitting in gridlock for the same reason.
A rolling blackout is when randomly selected areas lose power for one hour
at a time. The amazing part is how the affluent areas are never randomly
In my neighborhood, the signs aren't even in English, so I'm especially
prone to the blackout. Still, it came as a fright when one moment I was gliding
through cyberspace and the next I was a caveman.
Zzzzzzap! Lights out.
The refrigerator stopped buzzing; the clocks stopped ticking. Somewhere
in the distance, a dog barked.
I stared at the blank screen for two minutes. It was like trying to accept
that your car had been stolen. I was the guy standing in the parking lot
saying, "They'll be back. . ."
I hadn't considered the possibility of my computer stopping. I wasn't even
sure it had an off button. The computer was my secretary, my accountant,
my publisher, and sometimes a date on the weekend.
Okay, I thought to myself (as opposed to thinking to someone else). This
is probably a good time for a break.
I opened the refrigerator, and the light didn't come on. It was spooky.
Some things you just count on: the sun rising in the east, poor choices for
President, and the bloody refrigerator light coming on when you open the
In the pantry, I discovered a can of minestrone that I was saving for the
end of the world. I hesitated at first, then figured, Why would I want to
survive the end of the world anyway?
I pressed the lever on my can opener, and it responded not at all. Damn
electric can openers. I considered opening the thing with a knife, then recalled
the stitches following my frozen hot dog fiasco.
So it goes.
I decided to throw a TV dinner into the -- NO MICROWAVE! Was there anything
in this house that did not beep, tick, or buzz?
Okay, Jason, regroup. This can only last so long. What time is it now?
The clock was dead. ALL the clocks were dead. As was the cable box, the
fax machine. . .
I would call time.
No I wouldn't. Cordless phones rely on their bases, which in turn rely on
I walked outside to make sure the sun was on.
I returned to my cave with no computer, no phone, no TV, no TV dinner, no
clock, and did I mention no lights! What was I to do, question the meaning
of my existence? I had to stay busy.
There was that novel I'd been meaning to write for the past 20 years. No,
I'll get to that later.
My thoughts went out to Yahaira. Was she too scrambling beneath this catastrophe?
A siren trailed by outside. Were they going to Yahaira's work because she
was dead, I just knew it.
Settle down, Jason. Take a breath. Remember what your dad used to say: Shut
up and keep your fingers out of your shorts.
I wandered the house noting all the dead devices. The electric blanket.
My foot massager. The vacuum. The Glade Plug-Ins!
My home was impotent, and I, a spoiled American unfit to survive a night
in the woods, was trapped. I paced the halls, flipping the switches just
in case. I marched myself right into a dizzy spell, which required that I
I assumed the Lotus position and resolved to meditate (it's the thinkin'
that drives you nuts). As I struggled to free myself from the mad machine
inside my skull, I heard a noise. It was a joyous, familiar noise coming
from the office.
My computer! It lives!
The other appliances jumped to life as suddenly. On buzzed the refrigerator.
On flashed the clocks. Out came the carcinogenic electromagnetic energy from
the microwave. The white noise was back!
The radio announced that it wasn't a rolling blackout after all. A drunk
man had smashed a local power unit. The drunk man's name is Kurt Baker. I
am suing him for mental damages.