TRIPPING OVER THE LIGHT, FANTASTIC
THE DEN – The couch is over here, so the coffee table must be….OUCH! My foot seems to have found it. If I just take two steps to the left, I’ll… OUCH AGAIN! Maybe I should stand still until the lights come back on, but that could be next Guy Fawkes Day. And here’s the odd part: Even with the power off and the house dark as a banker’s heart, every time I walk into a room I automatically flick the light switch.
But let me explain: For a late Father’s Day gift, my kids gave me Netflix and, better yet, one son came along to install it. (I am on the cutting edge of technology – tomorrow the wheel!) This is great. Now my wife and I can sit back and watch all the new movies that have just come out, like “Ice Station Zebra” and “Giant.” So my son installs this mysterious black box and shows me how to work it. My single remote has grown to three, a total of 1.2-million buttons. In the midst of his explanation (“No, Dad, not that input button, this input button.”) my other son calls and asks if I need help. Silly fellow. He’s talking to Thumbs Ashby who, one Christmas Eve, put together a Super-Duper Space Ship in a mere four hours and 15 minutes with only three calls to the toy store and a small sack of parts left over.
At 4:30 p.m. I hear a loud Bang!, and the lights go off. My computer goes down and its emergency bing starts binging. The constant binging is to tell me the power is out. The digital clocks go dark. The a/c stops. Obviously a transformer blew somewhere in the neighborhood. Probably the local branch of the Crips was stealing the copper wire, and one of them made contact with a thousand-volt line. Hehehe. Anyway, if history is any guide, two cherry-pickers and six work trucks from my utility company, Texas Outage & Overcharge, will be here shortly – you can always hear their guttural engines blocks away. The outside temperature is 98 (“But it feels like 198,” the semi-hysterical TV weather guy fairly shouts in a fit of victimization and self-pity.) But it’s still cool inside.
In the winter you throw another log on the fire, hunker down and wait for the heater to resume blasting. Or maybe it‘s a three-dog night. But in a Texas summer when your fingernails melt, this is serious. Until then, a few recommendations: Don’t open the refrigerator door. On the other hand, the ice-dispenser in the door doesn’t have power, so how can I get ice, the necessity of 15 minutes without a/c? The garage door won’t open or close. The doorbell won’t chime (but those bings from the computer are driving me daffy – they are on batteries). You can’t use your cordless phones. The coffee pot, blender, stove and oven are frozen, so to speak, and, of course, you can’t watch TV to see if a quarter of the city is without power.
It has now been an hour and no sound of the utility trucks. Certainly TO&O knows one of its areas is blacked out, or one of my neighbors called in to notify the company. Then again, maybe not, so I call. Wait. I can’t use my cordless phone, and my cell phone only works when standing a city block away from any tree, house or car. But I do have that land line. You know the routine, “Thank you for calling your beloved TO&O. All of our workers are busy with other customers, who are a whining bunch, always complaining that Texas has some of the highest electric rates in the country, and that their power is out. But your call is very important to us, so please stay on the line, like you’ve got a choice, and soon a surly associate will listen to your boring complaint. This call will be recorded, so watch your profanity. We have lawyers.”
Finally another recorded voice says: “Yes? Got complaint? Punch 1 if it’s electric, 2 if it’s about your bill, 3 to report another copper wire theft. For all other whines, touch 4 and be prepared to wait.” I never get to talk to a human, but I do register my gripe. Now the sun is setting, the house is getting darker and hotter, and still no power. I start looking for a flashlight, which is hard to find in the dark, so every room I enter, I attempt to turn on the light. This problem can be solved by always keeping a small flashlight on a cord around your neck allowing you to use it to find a larger flashlight. Also, you can keep one in every room in the house, preferably on the floor near the door so you can easily locate the device by tripping on it. Candles work well, too. Put candles throughout the house and tape a box of matches to your belt. Torches are even better, and also keep away vampires.
It is dark, so dark that I can hardly see the cobwebs in my office. We have two sweaty, irritated bodies loudly griping about the situation. We would go out to a nice air conditioned restaurant except our power usually comes on by now. My wife tells me it’s time we go out to a restaurant. Some of you may remember “Wait Until Dark,” in which Audrey Hepburn is terrified by a gang of thugs. But Hepburn is blind and knows her way around the house, so when the power goes off, she has the upper hand. The thugs don’t know their way around, nor do they know Audrey Hepburn is not English as everyone thinks, but is actually Dutch, her real name is Audrey Ruston and she was born in Belgium. Now where was I, or where am I? First, I’ll switch on the light.
Ashby is in the dark at