The spark in the dark


By Marla Boone

Contributing columnist

Although we have a fabulous power company, even their equipment isn’t immune to the occasional impaired driver who forgets a utility pole and his car cannot occupy the same space at the same time. Outages are thankfully rare. Except for those crowded, hectic years endured in the large teeming college towns, my entire life has been spent in rural settings. Rural settings, you understand, are where people challenging the limits of the breathalyzer test ventilate their car hoods with power poles.

Sometimes it happens in mild weather. These are the instances the emergency repair teams call a full-blown miracle. Mostly, power failures occur in the driving rain, heavy sleet, or, mindful that it is May in Ohio, tornadoes. These are the instances the emergency repair teams call “dang it.”

I’m not sure where these utility linemen are recruited. But they must have nerves of steel and steady hands as well as heavily insulated boots. My knowledge of electricity is sketchy at best and what I do know I learned via the difficult, shock-filled method. The linemen, though, stand on the wet ground, breathing the wet air, wading through broken headlights or splintered trees and try to put Humpty Dumpty together again.

Almost always it is a relatively quick fix. As people not afraid of roughing it, however, we are in readiness to be without power for the long haul. By “roughing it” I mean of course that I have to manually start my generator so I can turn the lights back on. My generator is not, shall we say, the latest model. I’ve had it for over 30 years … yes, even before the Y2K scare threatened civilization as we know it. It is big, loud, and the exhaust fumes are an EPA nightmare. We purchased this particular model based solely on its ability to run a light, a refrigerator, and a coffee pot simultaneously. You know, the bare essentials. This generator is so old, the specter of having enough oomph to also charge a phone and an iPad wasn’t even on the horizon. That’s what kind of hardy pioneers we are — willing and able to make the tough decision to unplug the coffee pot in order to charge our phones.

Charging those phones is crucial because, as one outage dragged on into the evening, we were forced to consider entertaining ourselves without the Internet. The Internet was out — four words second only to “Amazon Prime was cancelled” in causing a near-panic reaction among some people who spend time here. Those people are not female. Those people are male and you can tell this person was a Boy Scout because he was prepared. He is kind, loyal, and honest, too, but that is not germane to the story. He was prepared because he had the foresight to have a phone plan that included unlimited data. He could watch movies on his phone.

It was just, as my neighbor put it, like being in “Little House on the Prairie” except I look really bad in gingham and if I ever referred to my mother as “Ma” she’d disown me.

Marla Boone resides in Covington and writes for Miami Valley Today.

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