Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Out of the Darkness Comes

“I think I just passed the Exxon, but I’m not sure. I can’t see anything.” I said to my sister as I drove 72 towards Scottsboro. Apparently there was a curfew, but there was no way I was staying home alone with the entire city out of power. Supposedly there were looters, taking advantage of the distress of others. They were smart, really. Wicked, but smart. People were too worried about the destruction of the tornadoes, and the police were too busy helping with search and rescue. What crook in their right mind—or wrong, depending on how you look at it—wouldn’t seize the opportunity to increase their supply of chips and sodas from the unguarded gas station?

On top of the alleged looters, I walked into my house at 8:30 Thursday evening to collect a suitcase and get out of town, the light of the flashlight illuminating only the path directly in front of me, the dusty footprints on the stairs and the complete lack of light anywhere made me think that the zombies from I Am Legend were going to appear in any room I entered.

I couldn’t pack my clothes fast enough.

When I got outside, it was better. Stars are way more brilliant when the only lights hindering their glow are the slow-moving headlights of the other brave cars defying curfew (or running away from nothing because they’d watched Will Smith fight off zombies just like I had).

Speaking of curfew (have I mentioned anything else yet?), I found out Saturday, after I’d returned home to Zombieland because I had to be at work, that they’d arrested 27 people for being out after dark.

Rest assured, I was home on time after that.

In no way am I attempting to make light of the devastation left behind by the tornadoes. With over 300 dead, it’s not a funny thing.

There are a few good things that came from the blackout, however, and that’s what we’re hear to talk about:

1. I suddenly realized why so many people in the Pride & Prejudice age had time to play piano and learn all those amazing dances. With no power, Internet, cell phones, movie theaters and the like, what else would they do for fun?

2. With the combination of a fuel shortage, gas being the only means to continue living during a blackout, and all the stores and restaurant closed, you find you aren’t going many places. One of the best things to do when the weather is nice is to play in your yard with your children. When you are in a situation where you have nothing really to do and nowhere really to go, you find that time to talk to your neighbors in an unrushed, I’m-so-glad-we’re-in-this-together kind of way. It’s actually rather nice.

3. Then there is curfew. And the fact that no one can go to work. You find that people have time to come over. The ones you find annoying will usually leave before dusk. The ones you really like will end up spending the night, and you get some amazing quality time because there’s no TV or YouTube to distract you away from playing Pinochle—which is a way better way to get to know a person’s personality.

4. You find an excuse to cook those amazing steaks. You also have an excuse to share them, because you’d much rather share them with people than have them go to waste. And, as always, food brings people together in amazing ways.

5. Church is way more intimate. The people who risked going when they knew there would be no power found that worship was more genuine when you have to sing out of hymnals with only an acoustic guitar. The sermon is way more meaningful, and people are less rushed and more appreciative of each other when they are surrounded by death and destruction.

In conclusion, a power outage can be a beautiful wakeup call to what really matters. It can also be a lot of fun, if you enjoy being creative with how you use your time. It can also be awesome when you’re enduring it with 300,000 other people. Community takes on a completely new meaning.

As a result, when I regained power last night, I found myself slightly disappointed. Call me crazy, but it’s true.

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