Saturday, March 21, 2009

Power Out

You don't realize how much you depend on things until they aren't there, especially things outside your control. We depend heavily on electricity and we don't really have any control over it. If the power goes out you're stuck waiting for it to come back on.

I was in Ontario for the great power outage of 2003, and it was an interesting social experiment. I was playing a basketball game on the Xbox (NBA Live 2003) by myself when the power went out. My roommates were both home, in their rooms doing their own thing. Once we realized the power wasn't coming back on right away a curious thing happened. We actually went and played real basketball, with a ball and a net and everything. The power outage shook us out of our self-absorbed rut and made us interact with each other.

I like it when the power goes out. It borrows your electronic distractions and gives you authentic human interaction as collateral. No lights, no electric communications, no distractions, just you and your tribe. Outages pop into our lives unbidden, make us slow down, take a breath, and listen to the mental breath of fresh air that emerges when the constant noise we've become accustomed to disappears.

Earth Hour ( is coming up March 28. Round up some people you care about, light some candles, then kill the power for an hour, at 8:30 p.m local time. It's billed as a way to raise awareness around climate change, but like most people, I'm already aware. I prefer to think of it as a fire drill for when the power goes out.

Turning off the power will teach you some valuable things about your preparedness, in a safe and controlled environment. It's better to discover, for example, that the fan for your gas furnace needs electricity during a controlled experiment than in a genuine emergency. As a bonus, you also get to spend quality time with people you like.

Don't be fooled though, I also like it when the power comes back on again.

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