This morning as I was drinking tea, listening to classical music on the radio, and about to open my e-mail on my laptop, the radio suddenly went silent and the internet went down. When I went to investigate, I discovered that I had no power in any outlets. My ceiling lights were still working, so I remained fairly calm, assuming that something had tripped a circuit and I just needed to do a little reset. But flipping the power breakers had zero effect. At this point, my calm began to fray a little. I texted a few people (struggle demands witness, after all) and decided to go to church and figure things out when I got back. I think part of me was hoping the problem would go away if I ignored it for a little while. But the power was out in my garage as well. I know how to disengage the little doohickey so that I can manually open the door, but when I pushed against its heavy solidity, all I managed to do in the zero-traction shoes I was wearing was slide myself back a foot or two. Not in the mood to wrestle with the door and realizing I should probably start making some calls for help, I went back into the house. After searching for some local electricians using the internet on my phone, I left several messages, then proceeded to slide into further agitation. Because now all I could do was wait.
What, oh what, was I to do with myself? I couldn’t watch TV to pass the time. I hate reading and composing e-mails on my phone. Which only left about 25 other options. I could call a friend, I could attack some type of cleaning/organizing task in my house, I could write, and I have enough reading material in my house to last me about the next 20 years. In fact, I frequently bemoan how little time I have to sit and read. So why was I so paralyzed? Because this wasn’t something in my control. Because I hadn’t planned to do those things. Because I felt helpless, and I really really hate feeling helpless. This unpleasant confrontation with just how dependent I am on my electronic devices and internet reminded me of another such encounter from a week ago: namely, forgetting my phone and driving down the freeway realizing that if I got in an accident and ended up in the hospital, I wouldn’t be able to call anyone because I didn’t have anyone’s phone number memorized and could end up suffering alone for days before anyone would figure out where I was and find me (I’m a regular Pollyanna). I made a mental note to myself to do something to remedy that, and this morning is when the note finally resurfaced.
Scrolling through the contacts in my phone, I wrote down several numbers on a little card that I put in the back pocket of my wallet (I will attempt memorization some other time). Then I sat around feeling helpless and frustrated some more, then got upset that I was getting upset. The fruit of this double-upset was a new determination not to be trapped by my circumstances and, wearing different footwear this time, I went back out to the garage, tapped into my anger, and heaved the door open Hulk-style. At this point, one of the electricians called back and said he could be at my house in a couple hours. Hooray! A light at the end of the tunnel! I drove to Trader Joe’s, full of upbeat optimism once again. I navigated the busy aisles like a pro, weaving between distracted shoppers and grabbing items off shelves with systematic efficiency. I even found a checkout line that had just opened up. And then I discovered that I’d left my wallet on my dining room table, full of my emergency contact numbers, as well as all my cash and credit cards. Mortified, I offered to put everything back, which was rejected by the cashier, who said “it’s no problem” for them to do it for me, although the subtext I read was “It’s totally a pain in the ass, lady, but this is what I have to say to customers who are too stupid to bring their wallets with them.”
When I got home, I found that my entire house was now without power. As I walked from room to room trying not to wring my hands and wondering what the heck was going on, it suddenly all turned on–lights, stereo, internet. And a couple minutes later, a giant utility truck from the city went rumbling past my window. Though I am at a loss to explain how my house only lost some of it’s power due to a city power grid/utility issue, it seems that was the problem all along and it was now fixed. I immediately sent word to my friends and family so they could get on with their lives, cancelled my appointment with the electrician, and decided to attempt another trek to Trader Joe’s, this time with my wallet. I confess that I changed my clothes and put my hair in a pony tail, which I could argue was because I wanted to get out of my nice(ish) church clothes and get my hair out of my face, but really I was just hoping that no one at Trader Joe’s would recognize me.
Some take-aways from this morning’s adventures (you know, like you sometimes get in a Sunday sermon):
- I am more capable than I give myself credit for. I did everything that any other person who is not an electrician could have done. When my engineer brother who lives on the opposite coast texted me suggestions, they were all things I already knew and had tried. I know where my circuit breakers are and what to do with them. I also know, from past breakdowns in power and mechanics, how to open and close my garage door by myself. With the right shoes, that is. I am also pretty competent at using a phone and calling for help. One of the things that can contribute to my emotional meltdowns when house problems occur is an irrational but weirdly convincing fear that everyone else who lives in a house knows how to handle these things better than I do and that I am not competent enough to live in a house by myself. Which is not true. I’ve been living here for a decade now, and have overseen and dealt with two bathroom renovations, a flooded kitchen, landscaping, a new section of roof installed, and more minor repairs and patches than I can remember. Sure there are people out there with far more capability than I have, but there are also people who have less. And a lot of people who are probably at about the same level. All to say, yes, I can live in a house by myself and not die.
- There are some really nice electricians in my area. Besides the one who said he could come out later, two other electricians called me back and, in spite of the fact that my voicemails were left in the desperate tone of someone willing to cash in her retirement savings to get this situation resolved as soon as possible, did their best to help me over the phone so I wouldn’t “have to pay someone to push a button or flip a switch” as one of them put it. Even though their suggestions didn’t work, it was encouraging to realize there are some good guys out there. I am saving their numbers.
- All that mumbo jumbo out there about mindset creating reality is kind of true. Okay, very true. The reality is that this morning I was totally fine and I had plenty of useful and enjoyable things I could have done sans outlet power and the internet. Instead, I spent a lot of time dithering, not to mention driving and shopping fruitlessly, because of my emotional state and the fact that my brain could not deal with the unexpectedness of this turn of events. But here is what is also true: even though I knew I was over-reacting and being a ninny, I couldn’t stop. And getting upset with yourself and telling yourself to get a grip and stop getting upset! is about as effective as going to the store without a wallet.
- Frustrating and silly situations can turn into writing material. Even though I’ve been writing poetry pretty steadily in the last few months, I haven’t really been able to think of anything to write about here, and I’ve been missing it. While (let’s be honest) there’s not a whole lot of value to this post in and of itself, the fact that this morning’s kerfuffle got me to write something and have fun with it redeems it at least a little.
Ann Bronson said:
At least you did not have to c heck the circuit breakers at night in the snow, and yes, we single women are very competent.
True! I am very glad not to have to be battling the elements!
Bob Denst said:
Ah, the joys and pride of home ownership.
And regarding the writing material aspect, it would seem to me that there is some metaphoric element to the idea of a house that is losing its power in stages and the anxiety you experienced. Personify it and it could serve as a manifestation of entropy or other such decline.
Thanks, Bob. And yes, the parallel between my house’s loss of power and my own was intentional :)
Bob Denst said:
Parallelism. I get it now.
I love how you turn a power outage into an entertaining and eloquent reflection on your capacities, limitations, and the nature of reality. Bravo!
Thanks, Jeff! I appreciate that.