Daniel Boone Can Rest Easy...
The power went out in my building tonight.
Normally, this wouldn’t be a big deal for me. I grew up in the city, but I like to think of myself as frontier stock. Like I could, if I had to, figure out some way to start a fire, or cook a rattlesnake to make it edible, or build a respectable shelter for me and the missus (If I had a missus) and fend off rustlers, etc., etc., etc. I mean, when it’s cold outside I can stand on the bus stop for at least 30 minutes without complaining.
But not today. No, the last fucking thing in the world that I needed on the hottest day of the year is for the fucking power to be out in my fucking building when I fucking get home. We here in Chicago recently got our share of the big Al Gore-sponsored heatwave that ‘s been sweeping the country. The recorded temperature was in the 90s, but with the humidity and all that it’s, like, 250 I think. Either way, it’s hotter than a fuck. Everybody on the street is sticky and wilted. The bums smell more bummier and the urine-soaked alleys smell more urine-y.
I had already had the Mother of All Bus Rides Home, a herky-jerky affair where the bus driver is hitting the brakes every nine feet until you start to think they’re just doing it to be an asshole. Normally, the ride takes about an hour and I can tolerate that even though I HATE riding the fucking bus.
NOTE: The power went out again as I was writing that last sentence! It went out at 8:30 Monday night. It is now 8:12 Tuesday morning. I thought I fucking lost this post (not that the world would miss it, but damn…). Thank God for the wonders of recovered documents.
So anyway, I finally complete my TWO HOUR ride home on a bus, which, ironically, is freezing cold inside because the driver feels he has to compensate for the heat outside. This huge difference in temperature hits me when I step off the bus, and of course, it immediately feels like someone is gagging me with Saran Wrap. But before I go home I have to stop at the store and get something for dinner.
I’m walking along the sidewalk I notice more people that usual hanging out on the street. Most of the time it’s the same guys standing on the same corners holding the same cups asking for the same change. But for some reason there are more people just hanging out on the street, people who look like they have better things to do.
I pass by the restaurant on the corner and it’s completely dark inside. The dry cleaners across the street is dark as well. More people milling about the street. I get to the store and it’s closed. What the fuck?… It’s not nine yet. I say fuck it and walk to my apartment building, figure I can dig up something from the plastic containers that have been in there since Bush declared “Mission Accomplished.”
There are people standing around outside my building and I figure they’re loitering. I detest loitering. I always feel that people who loiter MUST have something better to do. Read a fucking book. Rearrange your sock drawer. SOMEthing… I force my way past them and into the building. That’s when I notice that even though it’s still daylight outside, the building is strangely dark. The lobby’s dim. I’m not a complete idiot but I have all the parts to build one: I figure out that the power’s out in the neighborhood. Which explains all the standing around outside. It’s then I notice the sound of ambulance sirens rushing to the high rise condos to rescue all of the old people trapped in their apartments who have fallen and can’t get up, or pulling up to one of the many rehab/mentally handicapped residential buildings (we have more per capita in my neighborhood than anywhere else in the city!). I realize there were more police cars than usual out there.
This makes me even more depressed after the long bus ride, so much so that I don’t even think about the 11 floors I have to climb to get to my expectedly dark apartment. Did I mention I live on the 11th floor? Most of the stairwell is lit by those emergency beacon things, but a few of the floors are pitch dark because the lights aren’t working. So every few flights I can’t see where I’m going. I’m sweating like a pig in the dark. Occasionally there’s someone coming downstairs and I can’t see who it is, just hear them. So I just move to one side and let them figure it out. I make a foot-shuffling noise (fake) or heavy breathing (not fake) to let them know somebody’s there.
I finally make it upstairs and realize I can’t stay in. It’s feels like a pizza oven inside the apartment and it’s dark and getting darker. I’ve gotta go somewhere cool so I head over to one of my usual bars and thank God it’s air conditioned. I decided to wait it out with a beer and the White Sox (Sox won, so that was a plus) for a couple of hours and then head back and see if civilization has returned to my apartment.
As I approach, I see there are lights on in the building… the fourth floor… the ninth floor. Cool. The elevator goes up and I barely think about the power it takes to make it move. The lights on my hallway floor are on and I don’t give it a second thought. I grab the remote and punch on the TV and only think about the miraculous scientific process that has made that possible for only a second or two. I fire up the computer and begin writing this post… and about 45 minutes later, the power goes out again. Fuck! I want electricity. I NEED electricity. I lied, I’m NOT a mountain man or a pioneer. I’m not self-sufficient. I’m a modern man who lives on electricity and gas and eats microwave popcorn and needs to finish Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. I’ve got dirty clothes and no rock or stream handy! No, sir, I’d rather NOT be alone with my thoughts. Candle, yeah, I’ve got one, but those are for romantic dinners or summoning the dead, not a primary source of light.
It’s getting dimmer in the apartment as the sun heads out of sight. I’m deciding between heading back out the bar because I’m not ready to go to bed yet (and have to walk back up 11 flights of stairs AGAIN), or just calling it a night at 8:30 p.m. No TV to wrap up the night, no radio to lull me to sleep. Just cars and the sound of my own breath. Yuk. I decide to stay in.
I decided to use the fading light one last time to take a whiz in the bathroom. Absentmindedly, I flick the light switch and the room is filled with glorious incandescence. Fuck yeah! Light. I try the living room switches again. Nothing. What gives? I try the bedroom switch. Working. Bedroom TV comes alive. OK, in the same apartment, the living room lights are out but the bathroom and bedroom lights work. I don’t bother to ask questions, just thank God and ComEd.
I go to sleep and feel, for a second like some tiny animal holed up in a tree just waiting for daylight again.