21 Aug 2014
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Reflections on Powerlessness

The author reflects on what 50 hours without power tells us about ourselves and how we live.

Reflections on Powerlessness

Recently, Mrs. O'Roscoe and I had visitors and we met people from Boston, Philadelphia, Montreal, and San Francisco over the last couple of weeks; they were all going on a bit too much about how we don’t have weather here.

Then, we got one night of wind.

Mrs. O’Roscoe and I had already gone to bed on Wednesday night when she reminded me to turn off our ancient computer, which I did. Then when we heard the winds topple things outside, I went out to batten down some hatches, and out of the corner of my eye I saw our transformer blow, and I looked at the Arroyo and saw many more transformers spouting fountains of sparks--kinda like the Fourth of July in November.
In the morning we saw that we were very lucky, no large damage, only a large clean up. Under a pine in our back yard the needles and other leaves were so thick on the ground that it felt like a forest floor.

Our neighbors lost a carport; others lost trees, and one found his car under a tree.

I had an appointment in South Pasadena on Thursday, and I went to it on the train.

On the walk to the station I was looking at the debris and destruction. A fence toppled here, many trees down there, but what had the biggest emotional effect on me for some reason was all the bits of roofing shingles I saw everywhere. The effect these winds on our lives for months to come will be great.

I got to the station and was pleased the trains were working, and also that the ticket machines weren’t.

In South Pas I was surprised to see much more tree damage than what I saw in Highland Park, many more fallen trees and branches, higher drifts of leaves, and the most impressive, a medium sized palm tree snapped in half.

I took my cell phone with me to charge, but they had no juice there either, so no luck. We weren’t getting any cell phone signal at home, so I thought there may be reception in South Pas, but no luck there either. As I was on my way home, I got a bit a of signal and texted my freshman daughter to tell her all was well.

An interesting social thing I saw was the traffic. As I walked a few blocks on Figueroa Thursday morning, I saw the cars doing well with no traffic lights.

Pedestrians had no problem crossing; cars from side streets had no problem entering the flow onto Figueroa.

In South Pas I saw jammed traffic. Pedestrians (me) had to cross streets carefully, and cars on the streets I saw weren’t letting cars from side streets enter. Rolling stops through stop signs. And intersections where there weren’t traffic lights needed referees.

Thursday night Mrs. O’Roscoe and I lit candles and made dinner. We had a philosophical difference of opinion on what it means to briefly open the refrigerator door. We read for a bit, talked a lot. I wished our kids had all been there with us to talk and read.

A friend from down the street came over for dinner and we had good conversation in candlelight. A very, very nice evening.

After 33 hours our lights came on again. Then off and on and off until Saturday morning. Don’t know how many times I re-set clocks and things just to have to do them over again. And our cable TV is only working about a third of the time the TV is on.

Life can be so rough.

I know there are folks in our community who still don’t have power, that some have experienced destruction, and that we in our house have been lucky. And that our corner of the country we have it very easy in terms of weather and what it can bring. And that in our corner of the world we are blessed with riches and comforts.
What has impressed me over the last few days is how we are all over-indulged bunnies, dependent too much on electricity for work, entertainment and communication.

But much more importantly, I was surprised that our water depends on pumps that are powered by the same electricity. Why don’t those pumps have emergency generators?

And why don’t our cell phone towers have generators for when we will need them in emergencies?

We behave as if our lives are so regular and stable. But we live on the surface of a soap bubble, and one gust of wind, one accident, one virus, one rubble of the earth, and the bubble bursts and we are at best reduced to the life of a three legged dog.

Thanks for letting me cheer up your day!

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