Yesterday the power went out for almost three hours. Nick had his friend over – a boy I like to refer to as the second son I never had – so dear is he.
Suddenly, everything went dead. It is amazing how that electrical hum fills the background of our days. We are so used to it we don’t even notice it until it’s gone.
The street was quiet except for the occasional car. What was funny though was that everyone rushed out into the street as if seeking reassurance they weren’t the only one without a fully functioning house.
When we realised we were all in it together the griping started –
bloody Energy Australia
I’ve got things to do
We pay enough in power bills, can’t they guarantee a supply?
Energy Australia couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery
But it wasn’t long until the laughs started –
One woman was half way through mixing up the ingredients for a cake. Her stove was electric. She decided to try and cook a chocolate cake on the barbecue.
Another girl had been blow drying and curling her hair with one of those fancy new curling wands. Only one side of her head was done. Her mother found an old set of rollers in her wardrobe and decided to curl her hair the old-fashioned way, sitting in the sun to let it dry.
People decided to finish writing reports for work by hand or calling people on the land line instead of emailing. Within half an hour, the kids in the street, dragged away from their computers and Playstations were out on their bikes, skateboards and rollerblades.
Nick and his friend played card games, action hero games with the old Star Wars light sabers that sit in the cupboard, and listened to my old AM radio.
There was an air of conviviality, of let’s-get-on-with-things. It was refreshing.
The only down side was that my fish, without a proper filtration system, were getting a little stressed, so I spent a good hour blowing oxygen into the water with straws.
I saw a family of currawongs in the stringybark tree looking quizzically at one another. They noticed the hum was gone too. Their carolling call was loud in its absence. They were taken aback by it.
It was odd to stand in the kitchen without the rolling ebb and flow of the fridge or the occasional ping of some nameless appliance. There was charm and a sense of liberation about boiling water on the stove (thank God for gas) for coffee, or grilling ham, cheese and tomato sandwiches.
The power, the alternating currents, the direct currents; they assist us with our day to day living; but they bind us too. We are enslaved by our time-saving devices.
How nice it was to drink coffee from the stove top, sitting in the sun and hearing nothing but the clear brush of the wind against my skin. Birds chattered to one another in stage whispers. A lone dog barked just once, experimenting with the silence. And then there was nothing but breathing and thinking.
When the power came back on it was an anticlimax. As if fearful that someone had missed it, people rushed back out into the street calling : ‘It’s on. It’s back on.’
A series of cars started up, hurriedly leaving as if people had been afraid to go anywhere in a world without power, as if the most important thing when the power goes off is to wait for it to come back on again.
And so we went about our business like nothing had ever happened. The fridge shuddered as if awaking from sleep. The answering machine went through its annoying start up sequence. The clock radio flashed the hour. And the cicadas, hiding in the shrubbery, quiet the whole time, began their heated droning as if powered by protons and electrons.