Rob Vincent dot net

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August 15, 2003

Friday, August 15th, 2003, 11:30 AM

Rob @ 11:30 AM

So... who switched off the
Northeast
?

I'm a huge fan of blackouts. It may seem odd, a techie with Internet and video game addictions like me, but I've always loved power failures. It always seemed like it was a way the world had of chipping away at the whole "civilized world" thing people like to exist in, if only for a short time.

Don't get me wrong, I do realize the risks involved. Medical equipment, transportation, and such can be incapacitated, which can spell disaster for some. However, by and large, I see blackouts as an extremely positive experience.

Along with everyone else affected by the outages, I'll probably be rehashing my "where were you when the lights went out?" story for years now, but I'll write it here first.

I was on the road. Sometime after 4:00 PM, the crew I work with (I won't name them here, I'll call them Ben and Lisa) finished our work in New Jersey, and had started heading back to the Bronx to drop Lisa off. We were playing a cassette, rather than listen to the radio. I curled up in my usual boiled-shrimp posture across the back seat and slept for a bit, while Ben drove and Lisa rode shotgun.

We only started noticing something odd when we arrived in the Bronx at about 5:30, and noticed the lack of traffic lights. Otherwise, everything seemed fine. We arrived at Lisa's second job, but noticed the lack of store lights around us, and the confused-looking groups which had been gathering. We eventually gleaned that the power was out.

We bid Lisa farewell as she went to check the situation there. Since she took her tape with her, I switched over to 97.9 to try and catch El Vacilón. Dead air. But that station was located nearby, so we took it in stride. If the Bronx is out, then so is La Mega.

I scanned around for other stations. There wasn't much to find. Finally, I hit 92.7 and caught the usually bland conveyor-belt-pop replaced by some DJs trying to sound like journalists for a bit before switching over to CNN's audio. What we thought was just the Bronx... was also in Manhattan... also Long Island... also a big chunk of this part of the continent. Wacky!

The one thing I remember from those reports is how much they were stressing the message that "this is not terrorism, there is no evidence of terrorism, don't you dare panic you edgy little monkeys." That reminded me of the fact that bosses in WTC2 were ordering their employees to stay at work before the second plane hit. I chose to reserve further judgement until I knew more.

Ben's mobile phone was dead, so we continued on home. Traffic was surprisingly easy, but of course the whole thing was new to us. The rest of the world had already been dealing with the situation for two hours. Mayor Bloomberg and Senator Clinton took turns placating the media, and Wolf Blitzer told some people stuck walking a few miles through Manhattan how great they were.

Ben's phone finally caught some service, and I was able to check up on my family as well as warn them to unplug the PCs. WLIR gets a few points for managing to drum up enough backup power to play one song, and many more points for their choice; "Blackout" by The Scorpions.

I arrived home to a slightly darkening house just before sunset, and eventually Fina and I decided to - what else? - throw an Armageddon lawn party.

First we armed ourselves with my favorite Maglite and some keychain LEDs, and started walking around town in search of some spare batteries, and maybe some food to barbecue. We found neither, but we did get to walk around our home town-turned-ghost town. Fina's as nocturnal as I am, and we had fun wandering around. The local bars were still full of our standard town drunks, who probably didn't notice much more than they usually do. The ice-cream man still drove his truck around, and we had ice cream.

Upon returning home we set up our candles, the one tiki torch we could get to stay lit, and some tables and chairs. I finally taught Fina how to play Uno.

The light attracted the moths, as well as a couple of neighbors we had never really spoken with before, and we had fun chatting with them for a while. I gave away part of my stockpile of candles.

Nothing like a natural disaster to bring folks together!

Fina and I ended up passing out on a picnic table and a chaise longue on our front lawn. I woke up in bed this morning, so I must have stumbled inside half-asleep at some point, and she did the same. By the time I really woke up, the lights were back on.

So, how were your days?

Music - Freezepop
Mood - Anticipating a weekend road trip

One Response to “Friday, August 15th, 2003, 11:30 AM”

  1. Rob says:

    Update, 12 years later: check out one major detail I left out of this story at the time. http://robvincent.net/2015/08/14/blackout-memories/

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