How to Survive a Power Outage

How to survive a power outageSpring storms in Colorado are my favorite. They are intense and build up the life-giving snowpack. The next day after the storm has passed, the sun ignites the hills and the snow melts in a frenzy–steam rises and whisks the blacktop. The melt hurries off the roofs and steeps. If I sit on my sofa and close my eyes, it doesn’t take much to imagine that my house is a cabin with only a stream for a neighbor. Magic aside, spring storms can turn life upside down. You have to learn how to survive power outages and strange “happenings.” One year, I was sitting with my brother, watching the snow gather on the deck at twilight, when suddenly we saw the sky light up. It felt weird–like meteorite- or UFO-weird. Then we heard something that resembled thunder. Well, duh, it was lightning, we agreed. Then it dawned on us…We just saw lightning while it was snowing!  Some things just don’t go together–lightning and snow is right up there with peanut butter and tomatoes in my book. It felt almost apocalyptic–like cows were going to start meowing or it’d start raining frogs.  But it was just…ya know…Nature.

Power outages, which seem to happen a lot during heavy, wet spring storms, also turn life upside down. We had one spring blizzard that caused an outage that lasted three days.  The children had to sled instead of watch TV and play board games instead of play video games. Poor things. The darkness tricked them into thinking they were sleepy and they went to bed before 9 pm each night. Since the moon was our babysitter, my husband and I had to figure out how to entertain ourselves during our wakeful hours. One night, we did taxes by candlelight. Super romantic. But the next night we made music. He played guitar and I sang like we used to–before joint filing. We dusted off our old tunes and tried some new ones. Never dropped a beat.

One outage a few years ago put me in survival mode. We were having a snow storm and the temp was on the other side of 30 degrees. The electricity shut off around 5 am–so we had no alarm clock. Lucky for us, my 6-year-old just happened to wake up because his nightlight went out. And why should that wake a child who has his eyes shut? The only thing I can think of is spidey sense. He just knows… Much like my grammy’s spidey sense. She could wake up without an alarm clock. If she needed to wake up at 6:13, she would without fail. Funny enough, I have this same gift. I just set my inner clock and wake up when I’m supposed to. Unfortunately, this gift is useless if you don’t “set me,” which no one did. Thank goodness for my son’s superhero power. Anyhoo…back to scene. The kids went to school and my husband went to work. Since my home office was now an officicle, I decided to pack up my laptop and slide down I-70 to find some power. I thought it might be nice to be warm while I worked, have tea and maybe an egg. The little things… But, since the power was out, I could not get my car out of the garage. Yes, I now know you have to pull that red handle hanging from the garage door track and release the latch so that you can manually heave open the door. Great. I’ll do that next time. This time, I tried to do it with the latch on the actual door (aka the lock).  I kept yanking that thing over to the right and then pulling with all my might to get the door to lift up a millimeter. I felt like a total weakling. After breaking skin, my pride resolved that the door was malfunctioning.  But of course it was my technique that was malfunctioning. Wrong latch. I was stuck and now hungry.

At that time I was on a diet that required eggs for breakfast every day. If ya gotta eat eggs during an outage, an electric stove is no more than a large tchotchke. I considered shooting a couple of raw eggs Rocky-style but then lost my nerve (it was a power outage after all—not the “eye of the tiger”). It was clear I needed fire, which I did not possess. Then I eyed my gas grill…

I filled a pan with water, put a nob of butter on my skillet, bundled up, and lit the grill. I was gonna have scrambled eggs and tea outdoor-style. I never knew how exciting boiling water could be. I felt like I was camping in the Wild West—until I saw my neighbor in the cul-de-sac below throw open his garage door. (How did he do that???) I suddenly felt a little goofy scrambling eggs on the barbie—he undoubtedly knew the trick to opening my garage. I hid in the house until he left.

My breakfast was delicious. The eggs had a faint flavor of smoke. So with a protein high, I set out to set up camp by my gas fireplace—a smart feature in desperate times. I grabbed a chair and a tray and fired up my laptop–even lit a candle to add warmth. I looked up from my work from time to time to watch the snow quietly fall.

The power came on with a blast a couple hours later. The fridge moaned. The heater roared. Appliances beeped like baby birds. (I never realized how noisy my house was!) With the power on, I imagined rejoicing and kissing the ground—after all, I was saved! But I didn’t. I was hoping it would still be off late into the night. I was hoping for candlelit homework and reading. I was hoping for music.

Yes, spring storms can turn things upside down. I like upside down.  And now I can officially say I know how to survive a power outage!