cronechronicler

Exploring the poetry of everyday life

When the Lights Went Out In the Greenbriar

Suddenly in the Greenbriar the lights went off, and my music. The refrigerator shuddered and grew quiet. Silence and darkness settled over my dinner, though my candle still burned. Abruptly power returned, as it had in former outages. And then quickly departed. The electricity played this cat and mouse game a few more times before darkness settled in for good. Ironically the lights a block over at the shopping center blinked their neon signs as usual. The view from my window and my candle gave enough light for me to finish my dinner.

That evening a study group from my church was meeting in a neighbor’s apartment. I expected the power would be restored by then. Just in case I located my flash light and my cell phone, whose battery I discovered needed recharging. After a bit when we were still in the dark someone knocked on my door to be sure I was OK. I looked out in the hall and saw more people with flashlights checking on neighbors. The group gathered in the dimly lit hall reminded me of a bunch of miners in an underground tunnel.

I went to check out if our study group still planned to meet. The leader, who lives elsewhere, was at my neighbor’s door. He had given another member of our group a ride since her electric garage door opener was a casualty of the outage. With our elevator also a casualty she was doubtful she could navigate the stairs to the fourth floor. We three took the stairs down to the lobby and found it was full of people in need of company and information about when the electricity would be restored. The doubtful member of our study group decided she didn’t want to miss our meeting and all four of us trudged up the four flights of stairs together. Except for the leader three of us are golden agers. Our hostess lit candles and offered us a glass of water. (Coffee pots require electricity.) I brought some cookies left over from a book group meeting the day before. And another Greenbriar resident joined us with a Coleman lantern to light our way. That was the first night without power.

Morning came and it was a bit colder in my apartment. The water from the kitchen faucet was cold as ice but still running. I made instant coffee with room temperature bottled water and was grateful for the caffeine. I didn’t plan to open my refrigerator door so my stash of Lean Cuisine would stay frozen. Instead I scoured my pantry for possible breakfast food. Someone had given me a mysterious jar of grapefruit marmalade. I spread some on bagel crisps, also leftovers from my book group. It was delicious. How could I ever doubt grapefruit? To go with it I found some trail mix made of dried fruit and nuts which was as close to protein as I could get.

The self-appointed care-givers were up early and had gone to Starbucks for coffee. An angel from across the hall knocked on my door and poured hot coffee into my mug. She said I would find bagels and cream cheese in the lobby. Someone had a gift certificate from a Bagel Shop that she had cashed in. I walked down the stairs and found a party in progress. People had put more chairs around the large round table in the lobby where a crowd had gathered for the impromptu breakfast. I discovered a friend that was going to the public library to charge her phone who was glad to charge mine as well. Finally I would have contact with the outside world. I learned that a transformer had blown the previous evening in the midst of the snow and ice storm we were having and left two thousand people without electricity. No one was clear about when the power would come back on – maybe that night or even the next day. I hunkered down to read and do word puzzles until afternoon when we word puzzle ladies would join to play our game. When the sun went down taking the light with it we went home to our apartments to figure out what we had for supper. Some people bailed and went to stay with family or friends. And some of us made do and waited.

I ate a makeshift supper by candle light. Afterwards I tried to read with my flashlight until I got sleepy. It really was peaceful with none of the usual noise that electrically powered things create. I looked out my window and to my amazement saw stars everywhere and an almost-full moon. One thing I miss living here is seeing stars. The bright outside lights on our patio blot them out. I thought seeing the heavens full of stars was not such a bad tradeoff for the loss of electricity. I said good night to the moon and went to bed.

In the middle of the night I woke up and realized that the lights were on and the furnace was running. I got up, reset my clocks, checked on the Lean Cuisine in my refrigerator and went back to sleep. That was the last night of the power outage. I awoke to my usual day. Ordinary never felt so good.

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