Impromptu urban camping

1 03 2011

I have a good reason for not posting in this blog yesterday: the power was out in my building for a little over 24 hours. It just came on about an hour ago. When I got home from work, I turned on my hallway light and was almost delirious with happiness. I turned one or two other lights off and on a couple of times, just because I could.

This is only the second time I have had a power outage in 10 years here – the first was the city-wide blackout of 2003. (This one, I found out, was caused because a contractor cut a power line while digging. Call Before You Dig, people. Really.) When the power goes out here, if it’s not a wide-ranging blackout, a backup system partially kicks in – so we had one elevator working, and the hallway lights were on, but the power, heat and hot water were off, and there was minimal water pressure.

Random things from a night of impromptu urban camping:

  • I remembered that a toilet will flush if you pour a lot of water into it. This made my living space much more tolerable.
  • I bought the wrong kind of batteries for my flashlight by mistake, before finding the correct (AA) ones. Like, duh.
  • I slept very fitfully. While sleeping, I dreamed – twice – that the power came back on. In one dream, I was able to turn on a light in the living room but not in the bedroom.
  • Toronto Hydro’s recorded voicemail power outage reports were like being slowly tortured by water going drip, drip, drip. At first, they said the power would be on by 10:00. Then 1:00. Then 3:00. Then 3:45 (I felt heartened; this was more specific). Then they were “confident” that it would come on between 4 and 5 – which it did. I’m not knocking them here – they were trying to make a best guess under trying circumstances, while no doubt being inundated by calls from angry and/or concerned residents. (Each of the two buildings that were out is a 21 floor building with 14 units per floor. Assuming some empty apartments, there were about 550 people in my neighbourhood without power. That’s a lot of potential complainants.) But after a while, I started assuming the worst, and I bought more batteries and water just in case.
  • The power was out for a while in Broadview subway station and the Loblaws at Broadview and Danforth. The Loblaws came back fairly quickly – understandably, it has priority.
  • I only had milk in my fridge, so I didn’t have to throw out much stuff.
  • My building holds the heat well. I know this because I have a thermometer (which, ironically, I bought to check on the temperature during hot summer days). It was 72 degrees inside in American Fahrenheit degrees when I got home from work yesterday (the legally mandated temperature for rental units). Over the course of the night, the temperature fell to 68. Which isn’t bad at all. (But I still had extreme difficulty sleeping, because how much was the temperature going to fall while I was asleep? Sure, I could wrap myself in blankets – and I did – but would that be enough?)
  • I do not have enough strength of character to immerse myself in an icy cold shower in the morning. Do people really do this, ever? At first, I thought that our pioneer ancestors might have done it, but they probably just didn’t bathe when it was cold out. (Cleanliness is a modern thing.)
  • Having the power come on when it did was a piece of great timing. The wind has picked up tonight, and is blowing from the south – i.e., the direction that my windows face. A second night without heat would have been tricky – I would have had to phone a relative to crash on their couch, which meant I would have gotten little sleep and imposed on them, etc. etc. etc.
  • All of this happened while I was recovering from a cold that I’ve had since the weekend.
  • I was pretty much incoherent at work because I was worrying and planning ahead so much. (I’m actually reasonably good in a crisis because I am constantly thinking about what to do next, and can come up with creative solutions to problems. Unfortunately, I am the sort of person who is constantly inventing or looking for crises when none exist.)
  • Of course, in a day or two, I will start taking having electricity for granted again. But I will always make sure I know where my flashlight is.

It’s safe to say that, for me at least, March did not come in like a lamb. Have a good evening, y’all.

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