Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What to Do When the Electricity is Out?

I was at a Toastmasters Meeting yesterday, Tuesday, June 21, 2011.  Toastmasters is an organization dedicated to having meetings that are “learn-by-doing workshop in which participants hone their speaking and leadership skills in a friendly atmosphere.”  One of the sections of the meetings is something called Table Topics.  The Table Topics Master poses a question.  The participants, who have no prior knowledge of the question, must respond ad lib.  It is a great way to improve one’s skills at impromptu discussions and comments.  In this most recent meeting, the Table Topics Master asked this question:  “The electricity is out at your home, how would you pass the time.”  It was a prophetic question.

I was teaching later on the day, in the evening, at the College of Lake County.  When I got out of class at 9 pm, the weather was horrible.  It was windy, raining sideways, and everything about the air and sky had a tornado like eeriness.  Driving was not so bad.  I figured I would get home around 9:40 pm or so and made a mental list of the work I needed to accomplish before turning in.  I was thinking I would sit in front of the TV watching something mindless and peck away on my laptop.  If I was efficient, always a big if, I would be done at 11:30 at the latest.

As I turned into our neighborhood, it looked like a war zone.  There were branches of every size strewn all over the place.  There were a few very large trees down.  Most importantly, the street lights were off and all the homes were dark.  The electricity was out.  Normally, when the power goes out, it either a momentary flicker or it is restored in a few minutes.  This did not feel that way.

We are so used to having electricity all the time that I hit the garage door opener out of habit.  The little red light in my car blinked but the garage door stayed closed.  Ah yes... no electricity.  Upon going into the house, I instinctively hit the light switch to illuminate the laundry room.  Hmm... nothing.  Of course, the electricity was out.  I sat down and ate a piece of fruit by candlelight.  Then I turned my attention to what to do next.

While my laptop was fully charged and theoretically I could work, the files I need were in the cloud of Google Docs.  I needed the inter-net to access those files and to access the inter-net required electricity to run the cable modem and wireless router.  SOL as they used to say.  I thought about watching TV just a micro-second before realizing that that device also required electricity to operate properly. One does not realize that almost everything we do is requires electricity to function. Most everyone I know has never lived without it.

I sat there and took a deep breath.  Shortly, I realized that the Table Topics discussion from earlier that day had suddenly become very prophetic and very real.  I thought about all the things the participants in that discussion suggested.  Their ideas ranged from playing a board game with the family to pulling an Abe Lincoln and reading by candlelight.

So, what did I do?  I went to bed.  I was tired.


  1. Nicely written Mark. I recall those huge Mid-Western storms while in Decatur. Funny story is that we had a tornado warning here in NJ and was worried because I live in a 2nd floor apartment. Fortunately, my downstairs neighbor helped us out by letting us take cover and watch the news unfold & tweet with some weather casters.

    The punch line: I left Decatur, IL to escape tornados only to have a massive scare last night in the Northeast. :)

  2. Nicely written, XX J