You might have heard that all of San Diego County (population 3,000,000+), and parts of Orange County, Imperial County, northern Mexico, Arizona and New Mexico practically simultaneously lost electrical power yesterday afternoon.
It was very bizarre.
Now, the building that houses our lab is no stranger to power interruptions and so when everything went dark, we rolled our eyes and checked our fuses and then went next door to see if our neighbors were out too. Pretty soon, we figured out that it wasn’t just our building, or neighborhood, but it was the whole city – and beyond – that was out.
I will admit that for a few moments I had a stomach-sinking feeling that maybe this was some sort of criminal or terrorist attack (or a prelude to one), but when I thought about the scale of the outage and weighed the likelihood that it was caused by either criminal masterminds or human incompetence, I thought it was a pretty sure bet to side with incompetence.
My boss has a pickup with an A/C outlet, so we set up a system with a long extension cord to occasionally power a freezer that had our most precious (and expensive to replace) materials, our cell incubator and our fishtank. We were told the power might be out until sometime today, so we decided that he would man the ship and I would brave the traffic-light-less insanity of millions of people all trying to get home at once.
And you know what? It wasn’t that bad. Drivers were being polite to one another as they tried to figure out the appropriate order of movement at a defunct 8-lane intersection. I didn’t see anyone exhibit Bad Behavior. There was no honking. Lots of people were walking (I think in the direction of bars) and everyone seemed to be doing their best to deal with it positively. Except for maybe those people 10-deep at the powerless gas station. I think they were ready to go a little Mad Max.
The thing I noticed when I got home was how quiet everything seemed – the only worrisome sound was the occasional wail from an emergency vehicle. And even though I spend a good chunk of time online, I had a chance to appreciate some of the things at The Aerie that don’t require any power:
The Beloved was able to get home without too much drama and we put The Aerie Emergency Plan (such as it is) into effect, which pretty much included filling up containers with water, arraying all our candles and flashlights, and deciding what we’d eat (we had gas) that wouldn’t require opening the freezer or refrigerator.
One of the things we’ve always liked about The Aerie is that we can see the lights of northern San Diego from our backyard and so last night provided a very rare glimpse of the terrain to our west – essentially the only lights we could see were those from cars still out on the road.
And so in the end, The Beloved and I stayed in our backyard and had a pretty nice, quiet night of pasta and red wine, conversation and silence, of moonlight and candlelight, while Penny kept varmint-watch.
Our power came back on around 12:30 a.m. and so tonight will be “normal”, which will be good — though I will admit I’ll probably always look back on the Great San Diego Blackout with fondness. Maybe we should turn off the lights more often.