If the claims are true that all the D.C. region's customers have their power restored, then I feel the time is right for today's post. But first, I must confess to having survivor guilt. We moved to Montgomery County from D.C. in 2004 and in that time, just about every time the wind blows, our power goes out. I have battle wounds, Pepco rage coursing through my blood, my state legislator's number practically on speed dial to immediately voice my fury, and a trail of written testimony against Pepco to show for myself. So when Derecho tore through town last week and our power remained on, I have to be honest, it felt a little strange. But not quite uncomfortable, I ain't gonna lie.
Seeing as how it's just early July and we have several bad t-storms likely headed our way between now and early fall, I offer you my survival guide for the next time.
1. Power outages are like fight club. DO NOT immediately call or text your friends to ask if they, too, lost power. Do not jinx them. Do not speak of it. Trust me, the power loss victim will use his/her last 1 percent of battery power to post on Facebook and Twitter that their power is out. The powerless need to broadcast their misery. Mass power outages are to D.C.'ers and Facebook what the Arab Spring was to 20-somethings and Twitter. It will play out -- step by step -- on social media. Nothing suits misery better than social media.
2. Plan ahead. Being paranoid puts you ahead of the game. The minute the Capital Weather Gang begin tweeting and posting on Facebook that a bad storm is coming, locate your flashlights, plug your devices in to charge fully and if it's evening, brew some coffee for the morning, that way, if it goes out, you can have iced coffee. Having morning access to coffee immediately upon waking helps tame the savage powerless beast. Briefly, of course. But it helps. Trust moi.
3. In the wise words of Rikki Bobbie, If you're not first, you're last. Do not wait for the next threatened storm to stock up on batteries. Do it on a sunny day with no clouds in sight. Everyone else will be as paranoid as you and much like the threat of a snow storm in January, the threat of the next big t-storm in D.C. will lead only to ransacking of all grocery stores and stockpiling up on bottled water and batteries.
4. Two words: alcohol and crafts. When a storm hits, what you need to stock pile up on is alcohol and crafts projects from Michaels for the kids. Best to just always have these things in bulk in your home because any true D.C.'er knows the worst storms are the ones that don't get forecast and discussed in grave detail for days in advance.
5. Let's cut to the chase: People who claim power outages are fun and bring the family closer together are assholes. And they also don't have toddlers. Not one toddler in western civilization understands why the Backyardigans won't turn on immediately and why they can't watch streaming Netflix on the iPad. Unfortunately they will direct their rage at you, not Pepco.
6. Covet your neighbor's power. And the longer it lasts, the more likely your thoughts will turn dark and murderous. Reality check: There is no logic to the Pepco power grid. If you look across the street and realize your neighbor has power while you suffer for five days, don't try to understand it. And you won't be happy for them. You won't even like them. You will curse them. You will loathe them. You will hate their connection to the modern world. Don't pretend otherwise.
7. Power Grid 101: If you hear a transformer blow, you're screwed. In the instance of prolonged power outages, hope for downed wires on your street. Danger moves you up further on the list. A boring old transformer that takes .02 seconds to fix, after you wait for fiv days, is your enemy in this situation.
8. Cold Hard Truth: Much like the mirage of water in the desert, the sign of utility trucks on your street does not mean you are rescued or saved. You might consider holding the crew hostage, however. This is not irrational. Noteworthy: when they are crews from out-of-town, odds are many of them will be hot. And you will be butt ugly because it will have been days since you've had access to a hairdryer.
9. Don't be naive: Never assume Pepco knows your home lost power, never trust their outage maps and you can never call them enough.
10. Everyone's talking about you, except you can't hear it. When you are in the dark with no connection to the modern world, the local TV and radio stations are covering the power outages and all the things that are happening to you, incessantly. Only you don't know what is happening to you. The rest of us do. The irony is not lost on those with power. But they only care about you or feel sorry for you, if they actually have power themselves.
11. Beyond a first world problem? You know your kid is from Montgomery County if at the first sound of t-storms, she asks if she should find her lantern and how long you think we'll lose power for this time. This should not make you proud, it should instead, infuriate you that we have one monopoly on our electrical grid that few of our legislators hold accountable. Ironic given we are a government town, isn't it?
12. Watch your bill. Just because your power is out, doesn't mean you get a break in your power bill. If this doesn't motivate you to call your state legislator and track how they vote in the next session when the inevitable issue of Pepco's incompetence comes up, then you forfeit your right to complain the next time you lose power.
13. The Environment versus Electricity. Trees are great. Power is better. Anyone who claims otherwise is also an asshole, an asshole who's never lost power, money on groceries, and dealt with tantrum throwing toddlers. If the trees on your property are dangling over the power lines, then call the county and call Pepco to report it. Don't wait for the next storm to tear down the tree and those wires, to call someone about it.
14. Beware the sound of silence -- it can cause your insanity. The incessant quiet at night that accompanies power outages can drive even the few left who haven't lost their shit, insane. Silence sucks. Noise and the hum of the refrigerator is amazing. (again, see my thoughts on trees versus electricity).
15. Evil home-grown plots. It is normal to consider mixing the rotten dairy products together from your fridge and delivering them to the executives at Pepco.
16. The eternal question persists: is it worse to lose power in the summer or the winter? The prolonged heat wave right now will prompt every one of us to vote summer is the worst but think back to being snowed in for a week with young kids, no power, and no plowed streets. Summer might not be so bad after all.
17. The story never changes, year after year. We should all be embarrassed. Find me one other major city in the Western World that has a few t-storms and loses power, or has a few snow storms, and loses power. Or where a few wind gusts rush through town, and everyone loses power. Where is this city? The evil-doers don't need to do much but mimic a strong wind to paralyze D.C. This is the real story.
18. The Haves vs. The Have Nots. Those with generators in the neighborhood will piss off those without generators (see #14 about the sound of silence). The cacophony of generators buzzing through the night inevitably leads to a few neighborhood listservs rants against generators, people say things they might later regret, often veiled as claims against the generator's threat to the environment. In reality, the constant reminder that your neighbor at least has a fan and you have nothing, creates unpleasant thoughts.
19. You will actively want to go to your in-laws. And stay for a long time. Loss of power does this to a person.
20. Last but not least: quit blaming nature, Pepco. Your job is to sustain us through nature and all that she delivers to us. Time to forfeit the tired old talking point that these acts of God aren't preventable and therefore you can't be blamed for prolonged, persistent outages. The real question is this -- when will that talking point expire in Annapolis.
This list was originally posted on my blog, Wired Momma, and I've since added two more to round it out to a nice solid 20 points. To add to the list and keep up with the fun, comment here and follow me here.
Follow Monica Gallagher Sakala on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@wired_momma