I grew up in a one-street village situated (in)conveniently at the bottom of a valley surrounded by woods and wine. Whoever founded the settlement was clearly wasted: while the sunny slopes of the hills did provide a nice site to plant grape vine, rain water tended to flow down the slopes and flood the village on the regular. I also blame said village founder, deceased since about the Middle Ages, for not foreseeing that the villagers of the future will be addicted to electricity and won’t be chuffed with the frequent power blackouts for whose frequent occurrence in the valley there is a scientific explanation which I don’t remember.
The village natives took the blackouts with a stiff upper lip, though they weren’t even British. My mother looms large in my memory as the candle fairy – not to be confused with candy fairy – as she roamed the rooms of the house carrying a lit candle and dripping wax on the carpets. The blackouts weren’t that bad as long as the stove ran on gas, the heating on wood (hence the rapidly thinning woods behind our house) and the TV mostly didn’t run at all anyway. The situation grew worse with the advent of the computer and escalated quickly with the arrival of the dial-up internet (though the latter mostly didn’t run anyway).
Now I would kill for Wi-Fi – though I will deny it at the court of law because my blog was hijacked and I’m not even writing this. I live in a moderately sized small town (provided that a small town can be otherwise than small), large enough to boast a reliable power supply because no one wants TV-less and Wi-Fi-less people taking to the streets each time when there’s a little rain or wind or whatever else upsets the volts and watts. Recently I experienced the first major blackout here. To say that it was apocalyptic would be a gross understatement.
It started – as could be reasonably expected – with a Wi-Fi failure. My email client wouldn’t download my mail. After composing a less than flattering letter of complaint addressed to Microsoft Outlook® (composing mentally, that is, deprived as I was of both email and outlook), it occurred to me to check the Wi-Fi connection. It was down. However, Bill Gates helpfully advised that I search the Internet for help when the Internet isn’t working. What a practical tip – not. Also, I suspect that Bill wasn’t as smart as publicity suggests.
As I averted my eyes from the laptop in sheer frustration, I noticed that the thermostat on the wall grew blank. Does it run on Wi-Fi, as do I? As I stood up to investigate, I saw that the clock of the oven grew blank too. What an odd coincidence. It almost looks as though there was a power blackout. Wait. It is a power blackout! I was puzzled, bemused and sad. What a bloody betrayal of civilisation! I curled up on the floor next to my cat, who was ignorant of the tragedy that befell us, and waited for the renewal of life energy. The wait took a while.
Did I mention I was waiting? I waited until the floor got cold because the floor heating, while it doesn’t use Wi-Fi, still uses electricity. I waited until I grew hungry, which was too bad, because my pantry was only stocked with microwave meals, instant noodles and toast. I wasn’t sufficiently starved out to eat uncooked toast. I couldn’t use the toaster, the kettle, the stove – and I couldn’t use Google to search for a wilderness survival kit (neither could I use Bing, even if I chose to descend so low). I had a vague notion that you should hide under the table in emergency, but maybe I’m confusing it with a nuclear emergency.
Driven by hunger, I descended as low as I could – that is, downstairs. I was pleased to see that the stairway was lit, however creepily, with emergency lights. (I’m aware that I used the word emergency three times in the last three sentences, but it’s an emergency!) I headed to the convenience shop conveniently situated on the ground floor of my block of flats to get some rolls. Alas, the shop was shut due to power cut. Don’t say. This was a relatively cheerful discovery in contrast to the subsequent finding that the house lift apparently runs on electricity too. I live on the sixth floor.
By the time I climbed up to the cold, dark and (most shockingly) Wi-Fi-less flat, I nearly incurred a blackout myself. I’m not terribly athletic, to say the least. My heavy heaving woke up the cat, who yawned, made a yoga cat-cow and casually approached to observe me experiencing a seizure akin to an anaphylactic shock. The cat grew bored and abandoned her dying can- and door-opener after five minutes. I kept on hyperventilating somewhat longer.
Resilient as I am, I decided to test if instant noodle soup can be brought to life with warm tap water when hot water isn’t available. Guess what. It can’t. The result tasted as I imagine a piece of plastic immersed in lukewarm water would taste – nasty. Serve me right for having silly thoughts of food when I had a fridge full of booze. I poured a nice glass of white, curled up with a book and grabbed the cat to sustain my bodily temperature on her heat. At that point the power went back on. Wine solves everything.