One day earlier this month a powerful thunderstorm swept through the neighborhood. I knew it was coming, having checked the weather online. It was late in the afternoon, and I had a casserole prepared to go into the oven. The winds ahead of the storm were just beginning to blow when I sat down at the computer and opened a program. Just as it opened, the computer and lights flickered and went out. I was left in the dark.
Rain started falling a few minutes later. The clouds were so thick that I needed to light a candle to be able to read a book. I thought of the repair team that was probably out in the wind and the rain, clearing a tree from the road and stringing a new power line. My cat was unsettled and wanted extra attention. The rain continued to fall.
After a while the downpour eased to a steady rain, and I decided to drive to the mall. One of my daughters works in the kitchen of a restaurant in the food court. She is currently without a car, so she generally calls home when her work is done to ask for a ride. With the power out, the phone would not work. Besides, I would rather eat a hot sandwich at the mall than dig into a cold tuna casserole in the dark at home.
The dropping air temperature and rain had cooled my car, and water had condensed on all of the windows. It required several minutes to clear the windows, using the defroster on the back window, blowing air on the windshield, and toweling the side windows. Then I was able to drive safely. A mile from home I came to an intersection with a traffic light. The power was out there too, but a police officer was directing the traffic. The other traffic lights beyond that intersection were working, so I felt confident that the mall would also have power.
I arrived, went inside, and ordered my meal. My daughter was surprised to see me, since she was not done with her work and had not called for a ride. I told her the power was out at home, and joked with her and the other employees about hanging out at the mall for the air conditioning and the lights. They gave me my meal, and I sat down to eat.
About five minutes later, the lights went out in the mall. Oddly, only half the mall was darkened; the other half still had power. The restaurant was in the dark. The workers were surprised when power did not return quickly; they had experienced power interruptions before, but usually power was restored in less than a minute. My daughter and I remembered the post I wrote for April Fools’ Day. We were happy to see that no one was stranded on the escalators. Some customers came into the restaurant hoping to buy food, but the evening manager told them they could not sell any food while the power was out. The manager did not want to close for the night, but food was cooling as the blackout continued. The manager eventually had the employees take the meat back into the kitchen to try to keep it warm.
My daughter finished her work in the kitchen and I drove her home. The power was still out at home. When I left for the mall, I had left a flashlight by the door. I guided my daughter to her room, then found the thermostat and switched off the air conditioning. Then I went around opening windows. For a while I read by candlelight.
Power was restored about 7 p.m. I blew out the candle, reset the bedroom clock and the alarm, then returned to my reading. It occurred to me that evening that it would been ironic (and sad) if the storm had damaged the new shed being built behind the house. The workmen had finished the main body of the shed; it was still waiting for shingles, siding, and electrical work. I would not have wanted to contact the insurance company and the general contractor to report a tree lying on the shed, but that did not happen. J.