A Matter of Attitude
Last night the power went out. I am not sure when it happened. It was nearly dark when I came home from helping serve another dinner cooked by other people to the delightfully grateful, endlessly polite international students who come up the hill once a week for food at Harbor Church.
I had stopped on the road home, first by a misdial on my phone, then I stayed, mesmerized by the distant lightning splitting the sky to the north. I was south of Scotch so it appeared to be in the distance, beyond the north end of the island. There was no crashing thunder, confirming my it-was-far-away but it is summer, and summer storms can be strange beings.
On Mansion Road, as I passed a summer rental house I heard a little voice rejoicing about the lightning in her view, perhaps not so visible where she lives, or perhaps just a child taken by the sky. Either way, she sounded disinterested in going inside, it wasn’t raining, after all, and the show was beautiful.
It is the time of year I try to remember to turn on my front hall light when I go out in the evening light, expecting to come home near to if not after dark. The sky was cloudy, my house was dark, it is likely it was on when I came home
and the power went off after I’d passed it but before I reached for the lamp by my chair, the one I reach for first.
Nothing happened. Being a fatalist I presumed it was the lamp — not the bulb only as I had changed it less than a week ago. In the near dark I looked, felt for the power strip to plug my phone into, which was at a critical 76 percent and, to my dismay, it was dark. Then I went in my usual chain of disaster-thought, beginning with the outlet had failed. Picking up the remote for the television and clicking it brought no image to the screen so my whole house was out.
I thought of how much water I had in jugs on the floor -— I grew up here, old ways die hard — and reminded myself not to turn any taps or flush anything. Then I looked around the neighborhood, the summer neighborhood, which even through the trees should offer a view of a few lighted windows or stoops.
Of course I don’t like to use my phone when the power is out because it is tied to my modem, which plugs into the wall and without it I am using the data I protect like some hoarder squirrel but I was thinking of it when someone
called me with “what’s going on?”
I was too involved in my own little disaster scenario, and I hadn’t even gotten to the ice cream in the refrigerator freezer compartment, or think anything but “oh, Lord, what’s happened now, which Horseman of the freakin’ Apocalypse is bearing down on us, and why or why does it not seem to annoy anyone else that given all the colors available two of the four horses are white and pale!?”
Yes, rational thought disappears when the power shuts down. And it is almost completely restored when I realize the question posed was not about some real disaster, just about the power being off in another part of the island.
While on the one hand it probably isn’t great to be excited because someone else’s power is off long-time experience has it if the whole island is down there is a greater likelihood of it being centralized and not some quirky problem that has to be tracked down before it can be addressed.
Then after a moment I regrouped and decided there is no alternative but to blame National Grid and The Mainland. The power came back on, I plugged in my phone, the power went out again, but I was sure it was not catastrophic
and wandered around looking for sights of lights, realizing, once again, the extent of the overgrowth.
We could see the whole length of the Ocean View Hotel from the kitchen window; the Spring House seemed to sit atop its long west wing. The Ocean View had its own generation plant, at the edge of the wetlands south of the
complex. It burned one night, and the next that string of lights that ran the length of its long veranda above the Old Harbor was dark, invisible after sunset. I remember telling someone “it looked like a ghost town!” that familiar summer nighttime view so diminished. Now, I doubt I could see any of it and probably wouldn’t remember if I ever could, but for that porch-erasing generation house blaze.
The power came back on last night and but for a blinking few lights on the coffee pot I might have forgotten.
The wind came around in the night, the humidity dropped a bit, and the morning was beautiful. The wind was from the east, not a great beach-going wind, I was reminded by people wandering in town and by the narrow, sliced beach I saw coming home, the view that is not in my sight going out.
For years I have heard and often seen both bicyclists and to a lesser degree skateboarders, fly down Spring Street, perhaps the sidewalk, they are out of view until they zoom onto the sidewalk just west of Rebecca. There have been
close calls, I think a kid hit a trash can, but today there was finally a bicycle to person meeting. The boys were quite young and not going particularly fast, the people they hit were sure-footed grown men. No harm was done, embarrassed apologies were offered and graciously accepted and they pedaled off, knowing they’d gotten off easy. They might even have been chagrined if they knew the word.
I went out, ready to be outraged but the adults were fine, there was even a hint of a wistfulness, a thought of being a boy on a bike on Block Island on a fine August day