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Blackout Fallout
Sunday, August 17, 2003 11:35a

As you have no doubt heard, three days ago there was a massive blackout all along the eastern seaboard, and I happen to live in the mid-west where we were things literally came to a standstill. It was really a unique experience because I got to see firsthand how ill prepared people generally are.

At first, people were pretty tolerant and polite. But after only a few hours, people were honking and blowing through intersections as if the streets were their own personal freeways. The day after power was restored, I stopped by a drug store to see if I could find a cheap battery-powered radio because I didn't have one. It was funny to watch people pushing to grab up the bottled water. Last year, there was a massive water main break and we had to boil our water to kill off the pollutants. Since then, I make it a point keep a five or six day supply on hand for me and my cat. Evidently, other people didn't learn to do the same. The funniest thing is that the emergency was pretty much over, and people were STILL fighting over bottled water.

For the most part, power was restored within 10-12 hours. There have been lightning strikes that have knocked-out power for longer periods. In my mind, the outage wasn't that big of an inconvenience. The worst of it seems to be that my favorite coffee shop still hasn't re-opened (because of the water boiling alert), and the LED on my microwave is completely fritzed (the power surge just before the blackout toasted it). In the grand scheme of everything, things just aren't that bad.

But people are idiots and it's really beginning to make me angry. It sounds terrible, but I almost wish that a real emergency would happen at some point -- let natural selection sort them out.

I mean, the whole reason that the situation seemed bad was that people have become too dependent on convenience. Almost everyone has become lazy and stupid. The biggest complaint that I kept hearing over-and-over was that the air conditioning was shut off.

Hullo? Duh.

Everyday, I see people leaving from work with their computers turned on because it takes 5-6 minutes to boot up in the morning. People leave home with their air conditioners, televisions, and radios running. People leave their lights on everywhere -- or have things running in rooms that aren't even occupied.

Maybe I was just raised differently -- I turn off my computer when I am not using it, and I turn off the lights when I leave a room. I also turn off the TV and radio when I am not using them. Whenever possible, I try to take public transportation and I drive a Saturn which gets great gas mileage (as opposed to some over-bloated SUV). I have two lawn mowers -- one that is gas powered and a trimmer that has blades that spin when you push it. My house has no air conditioning.

I am not saying that I am a saint ... far from it. However, I do try to look out for others and to conserve energy whenever I can. I am simply trying to point out that I walk my talk. I am sick of people being wasteful, and then complaining when the Republicans want to drill into protected land. In fact, a lady came up to me on Friday and started talking about how electricity is so wonderful because it is totally clean -- not like oil. She went on to complain about the government, and how President Bush has his "rich oil" friends, and how the power outage was some "big oil" conspiracy from the Mid-East, and how President Clinton always did more for electricity, and less for oil, because electricity is cleaner. Then, I told her that to generate electricity, the power companies have to burn fossil fuels to turn the turbines that make the electricity. She told me that I was wrong, and that they collected electricity naturally from lightning.

On Saturday, I stopped at a fast food chain to get some lunch. A man was complaining to (although "screaming at" would have been closer to the truth) a pretty young girl at the counter. He said that he wanted pop (that's soda for all you southerners) from the fountain. She told him that she couldn't run the fountain drinks because of the water boil alert and that she could only give him pop from a can. While he was going on and on about how he should get it for free because it isn't what he ordered, the woman right in front of me turned to her husband and said that she didn't understand why the girl was being such a "jerk" because they don't make pop with water -- they use "carbonite" and sugar.

Um ... carbonite was what they used to freeze Han Solo. Pop is made from carbonated water and syrup. I can see where she would be confused. After all, she looked like Jabba the Hutt and sounded a little like Darth Vader.

Seriously, they should make you pass an IQ test before you are allowed to have children.

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