One day last week, I was in my basement studio finishing up a lesson with a guitar student. He started to pack his guitar in its case when POW!! There was a huge bang and the lights went out.
The wind had been blowing pretty fiercely all morning, so the power outage wasn’t really a surprise. But when we both walked outside, I could see that this was more than a blown transformer. The power lines to our house were almost touching the ground and the thingamajig holding those power lines to the side of the house was ripped right off the exterior wall. Oh, oh.
I texted my husband who had been working from home but who had gone in to the office to work that day. No response.
I looked for the number for BC Hydro and called them instead. I reported the issue and hoped for the best.
When I looked out and down the street, I could see lots of neighbours coming out of their houses, and I realized that this was a whole chain of events affecting us all. Just down the street, another power pole had snapped right in half and was hanging precariously above the street by the wires. The domino effect had yanked the power lines all the way up to our house, which caused the whatsit to rip off the house.
Someone had called the fire department and a couple of trucks responded. Firemen began to block off the roads, and I knew this wasn’t going to be over anytime soon. Using my phone, I emailed all of my students for that day and cancelled their lessons.
Having lived in the same house for 32 years, I can count on one hand the number of times that we’ve had power outages. It’s been many years, in fact, since the last one. I know that people living in rural communities or on the smaller islands go through this all the time, especially during our winter storm season, but I felt like a kind of a newbie at this. What do I do?
It was almost lunch time, but I didn’t want to open the fridge. I foraged for anything that I could find in the cupboards. I decided it was a good time to start gathering candles and flashlights, even though it was the middle of the day.
I went outside again to survey the situation and saw a young firefighter at the corner.
“I guess I get an extra long weekend!” I laughed. “I like your attitude!” he smiled. From our short conversation I found out that it was going to take at least 6 hours to get this mess straightened out. I went back inside.
A short time later a very friendly BC Hydro guy knocked on the door, and with a big grin he told me that because the whats-a-ma-call-it was ripped from the house, I was going to have to call an electrician to repair that before BC Hydro could repair the line. An electrician! I panicked. I called my husband again and was finally able to get through to tell him what happened.
He took it upon himself to get a hold of an electrician who could respond quickly.
My phone was about to run out of power. I got a text message from my phone provider that I had already used up half of my data for the month. And it was only day 2 of the cycle.
I have a battery booster that I bought for my car when it had a battery leak that my mechanic couldn’t figure out. Fortunately, the booster was fully charged, so I brought it upstairs from the basement. It has a USB connector and one of those cigarette lighter chargers, so I managed to find plugs and cables to plug in my phone and a couple of other battery packs. I was even able to plug my laptop in so I could do a little work.
I was feeling pretty good about my resourcefulness. The electricians showed up and set about fixing things. And then they handed me the bill. Gulp. More than thirteen hundred dollars.
The stormy day dragged on and BC Hydro worked continuously up and down the street repairing the wires and putting in a new power pole where the old one had snapped. It grew darker in the house so I lit up the candles. My husband brought home some fast food for dinner and we ate by candlelight. We took turns using the battery booster to charge things up.
Every now and then I would pop outside and look down the street where most of the work was being done. There were fewer and fewer trucks. Part of me worried that they’d just give up and go home for the evening. But they didn’t.
At 8:25pm, almost nine and a half hours after the power went out, the lights came back on. Sigh.
Thinking about the whole event, I decided to take note of what I had learned from the experience.
- I can be pretty resourceful when I have to be.
- There are never enough candles. Or flashlights. Or battery packs.
- When a BC Hydro guy comes knocking at your door with a big grin on his face, it isn’t necessarily a good sign.
- That whatsit thingamajig that holds your power lines against your house is actually called a mast.
- The character trait that serves you best in a situation such as this is called a sense of humour.
- The firefighters, electricians and Hydro people out there working for hours and hours in miserable conditions to get things up and running, are real pros. Thank goodness for them.
- When you don’t want to open the fridge for the white, you can always open a bottle of red.
- I’m nowhere near prepared for the Big One.
- Because, you know, it’s 2020.