Black Out

We’d just finished a show and the host was giving me a ride home. She remarked that traffic was heavier than usual during this trip. At first, as we reached a rotary that signified the last stretch of road, I wrote it off as a hot night so people were restless. It didn’t take me too long to realize that, although I was partially correct, I was mostly wrong.

“You know what’s weird?” I ask.

“You mean other than all the lights are now out?”

“Well, no.”

I stand guessed as we travel down a busy, dark street. We make the turn to my house and it’s even darker. Living on a high, barely lit on the best days, cul-de-sac will do that. The host and I bid adieu as I walked into the dark house.

I could tell no one had been home since I left thirteen hours ago. I figure, due to my amazing deductive abilities, that my girlfriend is out with friends. I have no idea where the daughter was but there was really only one thing in my mind.

“I have the house to myself!”

The darkness doesn’t daunt me. As a matter of fact, there was really only one thing in my mind.

“I’m not paying for electric!”

It’s the small victories really. I gingerly move around the house so as not to trip over any cats. They were happy to see me in that ‘Excellent! The feeding human is here!’ manner. I feed the cats, open the fridge and grab a beer because I feared they would spoil if I didn’t drink them quickly.

I take the beer outside and feel the light summer breeze while sitting on the stairs  watching the skyline of Boston blink and planes come and go from Logan Airport. It was in this very peaceful state I came up with the idea that everyone should shut off their electric once a month. That way they could feel the peace of not feeling as if they had to do something or being distracted by the blips and lights that make normal life so winky. I’m allowing the light silence cover me when I hear,

“Hey! Chris.” It’s my neighbor. He’s a good guy but I know this is driving him crazy. He’s not fond of the overwhelming heat we’ve had today so I know he’s not in the same frame of mind I am as I cross the street.

He tells me he got home at 7:30 and it was dark then. That’s over two hours as we speak. We only chatted for a couple of minutes before the bugs found us. We were swarmed so bid each other farewell and ran to the bug-less safety of our homes. Standing in the middle of the living room I polish off the beer and decide to do the only thing a boy like me, alone, in the dark, in total silence can do at a time like this.


The warm water beat down upon me as I lathered up my face and head to scrape off the stubble. It was a soothing way to shower. You realize how many distractions don’t seem too distracting in your normal day. But standing there with just the piddle of water and scratching blade over my head I realized just how much input shrouds your day.

I grab another beer and settle on the couch. Every once in a while a cat will wander in, wonder why I’m sitting there, think me quite mad, before wandering off. I hear a car pull up the street. By the way it parked it could only be the elderly woman who lives at the top of the cul-de-sac, her daughter or son-in-law. I don’t really care enough to get up and see but when I notice the tail lights settle in I had to assume it was the daughter or her husband.

I hear a male voice so it’s the son-in-law. He’s an annoying sort. The other day I was in the basement cleaning and he comes to the door where I’m sweaty, dirty, spider webby, sticks his head in the door and says,

“Doing some cleaning, eh?”

“What?” I snap. No, I love being in a place I  can’t fully stand for three or four hours at a time. Makes me feel better about evolution.

I saw him make his way over and, trust me, if I was dressed in my tux (yes, I own a tux) and in an awesome mood I’d be disinclined to speak with him. When I’m snorting up bug carcass I’m much less inclined.

During winter, when I’m shoveling (an activity, by the way, I have years of experience so need little advice about), if he’s there he always has time to wander over and tell me how he’d do it or how the neighbors two decades ago did.

I admit to standing there knowing full well that, in the fluffy cover of snow, I could silently beat him with the shovel and slide him down the embankment where he wouldn’t be uncovered until spring.

But I’ve been told it’s best for me to keep shoveling and the murderous impulses at bay. Damn part of my mind that doesn’t want to experience prison!

He must have seen my neighbor look out the window so called him out. I listen as they give each other the latest update on the blackout. One of them called the electric company four times and the latest information they got was lights will be on by ten. The son-in-law, never to be upstaged, said he called five times and they told him eleven.

Now that I know the lights will be on any time from now until they come on, I polish off the last beer (thankful at least they won’t spoil) and hunker down on the couch and just sit there. That’s all. Not think about anything. Just feel the air move quietly past.

Until I see a flash of light out the window to my left. I’m not sure it was true but the first one looked like a ball of lightning. That was followed, over the next ten or fifteen minutes, with a show of lightning that rivaled any fireworks display ever witnessed from this hilltop.

And, to the best of my knowledge, it was mine to enjoy alone.

The odd part was even the lightning paid homage to the silence of the night. Not once during the performance did a thunderclap break through. Just lightning strike after lightning strike filling the sky then going away just as quickly. All in the silence that was the due of this evening.

Once I was sure the show was over, I rolled to my side for a warm, silent, dark sleep. There’s something deep about sleeping with none of the blips and tiny lights of modern life. There’s nothing other than distant traffic or maybe the wind causing a leaf to shudder to be heard.

In that state, I fall asleep.


I’m woken by what is, this night, a sound out of place. It snaps me awake and it takes me a few seconds to place. I don’t know how long I was sleeping but it was deep. And we all know I’m not often deep.

“The lights are out!” I hear the daughter bellow into the phone. “What am I supposed to do?” I hear the daughter ask the question most people ask when in this situation.

The reality of being disconnected; the fact that input cannot be an eye blink away; the possibility that you’ll have to live in yourself for an unknown period of time is too jarring. While I realize most people won’t follow my ‘Turn Your Electric Off Once A Month’ presidential platform I hear,

“He’s on the couch sleeping like a retard.”

Wow! The things they teach you in public schools these days. I might have to take some night classes.

Then, as if the electric gawds knew my peace was broken with no chance of being salvaged, the whir of power slid up the grid. I get up and begin the arduous task (see how quickly it goes from relaxation to work in the electrified world?) of setting the clocks that don’t set themselves (old fashioned pieces of crap!). It only takes a few minutes but in that time the daughter has burst into the house and snapped on any electrical device she could find in her room.

I went back to the couch and will admit to enjoying the cool breeze of the fan that arcs the air. I sit there in mostly darkness with the dialog from some inane TV show slipping through the midnight air. I hear her footsteps before her bedroom door opens.

“Is there an extra fan anywhere?”

What’s a retard to do? Should I do the adult thing? Put on my sneakers, go to the newly organized basement, and get one of the two fans I know exactly where they are? Or should I do what a guy of my mental faculties would do and find a loophole.

“Extra fan?” I answer slipping my feet under a blanket. “Nope.”

10 responses to “Black Out

  1. I’m so relieved that the beer didn’t spoil! I was afraid this story was going to end up as a tragedy…

    I for one would wholeheartedly sign up for your “Turn Off the Electric Once a Month” proposal. I am one of those weirdos who can hear the evil hum of a VCR with the power left on two rooms down the hall. I love me some electricity but man, if we could just have a break once in a while so my brain will stop vibrating at that torturous pitch, I think I would be a step closer to sanity than I am now.

    (Also, love the retard-smarter-than-the-teen twist… it is for just such a moment that I ever bother getting up in the morning!)

  2. I’ll also sign on to the no-electric once-a-month plan. When we didn’t have power for those four days after the GP race, I’ll admit to missing a few things (and being crabby about the food spoiling) but otherwise it was a nice couple of days reading by candlelight and talking with my wife and kid.

    Had it been mid-August or mid-January, I might have felt differently.

  3. Don’t worry, you are not alone. My intelligence quotient drops at least 70 points as soon as I get within 50 feet of my dad’s house…

  4. Nice post B&G, a peaceful twist from your normal misanthropic tirades. 😀

    “…the possibility that you’ll have to live in yourself for an unknown period of time is too jarring…”

    Brilliant! A key principle behind meditation, eh?

  5. Now see, you’ve gone and ruined it for me, David! Making it seem as if I’ve gone all adulty and stuff. You know I’ll just have to make up for that.

    Good thing I was my normal misanthropic self last night.

    I’m in the backseat of a vehicle with two great friends in the front. We’re stopped in traffic when the driver looks to her left.

    “Is that a Christmas tree in that damn window?” She asks pointing towards a window.

    Before I can say, “Sure does look like a Christmas tree in that damn window.” She continues,

    “Who’d put a Christmas tree up this time of year?”

    “Someone with a kid who’s not going to make it to Christmas.”

    I’m called all kindsa bleak and dark words which I find so. . .no, not comforting. . .apropos, yea, apropos.

    We continue down the street and pass a funeral home with a line out the door. It’s mostly a young crowd.

    The driver says, “I wonder who’s in there?”

    “I guess Christmas tree kid didn’t make it.”

  6. The teenage daughter needs to improve her vocabulary skills if “retard” was the most potent insult she could think of in her outrage at you for causing the blackout.

    Hennessey and I agree that a radical Peckerization would jump her vocabulary AND grammar skills tremendously–probably increase her SAT’s significantly, too.

    As for her manners, Emily Post is whirling in her grave; and as for her altruistic sense of caring for the feelings of others, well, she has no sense of caring for the feelings of others, so that is a lost cause.

    Too bad all the Nasty Points she has earned won’t count in her favor where she’s going…

  7. She wasn’t blaming me she was just commenting on my sleep style. Which has been mentioned as odd. I used to sleepwalk. My favorite story is when I got up and got a knife. My Mother asked me what I was doing, I told her I had to cut something. Knowing me as she did she didn’t ask what I had to cut, Instead she told me to put it back and go to bed. Good thing I was a command following sleep walker.

    I was, however, blamed for that big East Coast blackout in the 60’s. I was sitting in front of our big as a Buick television watching Dennis The Menace (weird the things you remember) when the TV went off and that little white dot shrunk on the screen.

    My sister came running in, asked me what I did, I said nothing, she said I must have done something, smacked me for doing it, then went back to whatever it was she was doing. I looked out the window to see if I did do something and saw lights out all down the street and people (of course) coming out of their houses.

    That’s the first time I knew I was all powerful.

  8. I’m also onboard with your Turn Off The Electricity proposal. It think it’s a great idea. And I envy your ability to sleep like a retard. What does it entail exactly? And I mean exactly.

  9. I don’t know where she gets that idea. I mean, just because I sleep in a short bus. . .

  10. I have experienced many a happy moment on a short bus!

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