Monthly Archives: August 2003

The Big Power Cut

Life appears to be pretty much back to normal here in New York after the big power cut (or “outage”) last week. Although it no doubt caused plenty of misery for lots of folks, I have to say I found the whole experience quite interesting and enjoyable (notwithstanding the disbelief at learning that the World’s only superpower relies on such an antiquated power grid!).

It started on Thursday afternoon about 4pm; I was in my office at 62nd & Lex working with my colleagues Emerson & Dustin, when my computer monitor and air conditioner suddenly switched off. We had some contractors in the building at the time, so naturally assumed it was a local phenomenon and went across the street to get coffee. However, our local coffee shop was also dark and uninviting…

As we ventured further and further afield in search of coffee, we gradually realized that the power outage wasn’t limited to our building or a radius of a few blocks, since traffic signals were out as far as the eye could see, and more and more people were clustering out on the pavements (sidewalks). Finally we overhead a news announcer on a parked car’s radio saying that the whole north east of North America was without power!

We returned to the increasingly tense situation back at the office, and after failing to find any beers to save from the now-inoperative refrigerator, a small group (myself, Emerson & Diane) resolved to start walking downtown. We took a fairly leisurely walk down past the Queensborough Bridge on the east side (Diane was looking for a friend), stopping several times to pick up bottles of beer from enterprising bars and bodegas along the way. Although now early evening, it was still a fairly hot day, and with the crowds and the impending sense of the collapse of civic norms, it felt a little like Notting Hill Carnival without the pumping sound systems.

Eventually I parted ways with my co-workers, and headed south to the Brooklyn Bridge, before finding my way back to my house just after dark, using the meagre light from the display on my mobile ‘phone to find more useful emergency lighting (a small torch and a candle) by which to shower and cook a meal of baked beans on bread.

The power finally came on at 8am the following morning, but because the subway was still not running, Mayor Bloomberg declared friday (somewhat perplexingly) a “snow day,” so we all got a free day’s holiday. Result!