Saturday, August 16th, 2003
Actually It's Darkness
In the northeastern United States and southern Ontario, there are 50 million Blackout of 2003 stories. This is one of them.
Thursday Afternoon – I’m working away, click click click. BAM. That is the sound of every piece of electronic and equipment in the office shutting down. BEEP BEEP BEEP. That is the sound of the UPS hooked up to the server screaming, “Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!”. “What the fuck?” That is the sound of me. After we figure that the power isn’t coming on anytime soon, we call it an afternoon and agree to come in a little early Friday to make up the time (yeah, okay). So we stagger out into the gross, sticky afternoon and take in the sight of people just starting to flood into the streets from their offices. In the craziest of random coincidences, I run into my friend Becky right outside my office, on her way home from work. Having no other plan of attack, we go and hang out in a park for a few hours to wait for either a) a return to normalcy, or b) the end of the world. I assume that band practice is cancelled.
Thursday Evening – Thankfully, Becky’s building has generator power to allow the keycards and elevator to work (not that we’re fool enough to try the elevator). In her place, we find that there is at least running water and some food that has to be eaten or it will perish. So we eat it. Cue some more sitting around wondering what’s going on, interspersed with climbing around on rooftops.
Thursday Night – The city gets dark. Really dark. People roam the streets, mostly just taking in the unexpected and probably not unwelcome return to the Dark Ages, having beer on patios, chatting on functioning cellphones, etc. From my vantage point, I see no signs of panic or opportunism. There is concern about not having flashlights or batteries. I find out that my apartment, besides having no power, also has no water. That is not good. It’s decided that it’s better if I just crash on the couch at Becky’s since at least there’s running water. I make a run back to my place, through the frequent pitch blackness of College St, to pick up supplies – flashlights, matches, etc. And Scrabble (Which I proceed to get my ass kicked at). The Toronto night is amazing to look at, though the emergency power in the skyscrapers down in the financial district ruins the opportunity to see the skyline in pitch blackness. And you could see stars. When was the last time you could see stars in downtown Toronto? Hello, big dipper. Been a while. Oh yeah, and I saw Mars. That was way cool.
Friday Morning – 6AM, there is still no power. Not the case at the Second Cup, so Becky has to go to work. 6:30, let there be light! The power returns, and there is much jubilation. A quick phone call home reveals that it’s not a widespread phenomenon, and my place is still electricty and water-less. There’s no reason to go home, so I spend the next six hours or so loitering in the wonderfully air-conditioned Second Cup, reading newspapers and doing crosswords. Business is crazy with people seeking their caffeine (and A/C) fix, but everyone is pretty happy and doing alright despite the extenuating circumstances.
Friday Afternoon – Power throughout the city is still being restored, my apartment is apparently still further down the list. It is stiflingly hot out. Of course, Scrabble in the park is the obvious thing to do. I get my ass kicked again.
Friday Evening – Hooray for electricity, and the opportunity to make food that it affords. The television fills us in on what has gone on in the past day, and what the next few days will hold (rolling blackouts, etc). Then the cable goes out. The electricty holds, thankfully. I get mine back, kicking some ass at Scrabble for a change, but lose a $5 bet because I don’t recognize S Club 7 on television. The Radiohead concert is officially postponed, to no surprise. I expect the rescheduled date to be in the first week of September, which is fine with me.
Friday Night – We’re going to go try and meet some people at a pub, so I finally head home (electricty having been restored in the afternoon) to get changed and grab the car. I have not showered in well over a day and a half. Nice. The change of clothes and fresh socks are very welcome. From what I can see driving through the city, everything looks back to normal, save for a single set of blinking traffic lights. I am exhausted and gross and sweaty. Sleep is welcome, if a little tough to get to since we’re being good citizens and keeping the air conditioning off.
I have to say, I’m impressed. An incident of this scale and severity, and we as a society don’t descend into anarchy. I don’t flip out from being kept offline for a day and a half. People are more concerned with getting beer than they are with looting. It was all pretty damned relaxed. This was easily the most laid back and fun state of emergency ever. It was good to have my usual routine shaken up some, the blackout was probably the most fun I’d had in a while.
As for what happens now, I’m not sure what’s going on with my weekend. I will probably try to head home and get my old bike. Our food situation will need to be assessed. With Radiohead being cancelled, I have nothing to do now. Showering should be on the agenda though, definitely. Like right now. Yuck.
np – Dot Allison / Afterglow