Twelve hours now, the power's been out. And I'm writing by candlelight in the kitchen. The only thing technologically enhanced about this is my .7mm mechanical pencil (do I have enough lead?). I'd be writing on my iphone, except it's gone. Kaput. The battery is, anyway. And that's the issue. Reliance on technology. Or the addiction to it. I also need glasses. Hadn't realized it till I was forced write by the flickering light of a beeswax candle. Why was I forced? The addiction. How often do we update a status on Facebook? How many tweets about our hour-to hour, minute-to-minute mundanity? Some would argue, especially in a predicament such as this, that it's not about mundanity- it's about information. The dissemination and assimilation of information. What caused the blackout? What can we do? How can we cope? And ultimately, how lucky are we? That's where I stand, why this… is this. Here in the kitchen by the light of the beeswax puddle. I posted on every social media site when the outage began. Flippant, clever (attempted, anyway) remarks. And then the need for validation. Who "liked" my status? Who felt compelled to comment? It's better when someone comments, I thought. What is a mere "like"? A quick, non-committal hip way to connect. Not a real connection, like the time it takes to comment "ha".
The screen gave no warning. The setting of the battery indicator was on "percentage", yet I paid no heed. Then it was done. A pulsating icon, then darkness. The iphone was toast. My flippancy turned to dread (well-warranted, I suppose) yet calm (I tell myself). My wife, wise in her ways though even more prone to panic than I, told me to conserve. Prepare for the worst, she intoned. Collect water. Use perishable food first. Then the lead on pencil breaks. I swear, a mild one to be sure, but my daughter lies sleeping in the living room with my wife in a makeshift bed. I muster a 'sorry', and tell my wife she was right. But I can't get over the need to tell someone about this via an online textual avatar. I hear the neighbors outside talking. I could tell them face to face. I will after I finish writing. Resigned to my fate after the death of iphone 4, I scavenged in a drawer for a pencil and paper. There it was- the Moleskine notebook given to me five years ago (and last written in four and a half years ago). This isn't going to work, I thought. I can't read my own writing in broad daylight, let alone by flickering candlelight. But somehow, the words came and their impact is enhanced by the simple act of recounting the day's events. How I've become accustomed to writing quick notes on my phone! People move about outside, more pleasant with one another than I've heard, well, ever. Not that they were ever unpleasant- just lacking the warmth I can hear on the other side of the window. We just finished reading to our daughter, drawing upon the Bard from Stratford's Robin Goodfellow (we daren't address him as Puck for fear our little girl might misspeak it in preschool): "if we shadows have offended, think but this and all is mended; that you have but slumbered here, while these visions did appear." She thinks Shakespeare is silly for naming a character bottom, something with which the playwright would be quite pleased, I believe. "Silly Shakespeare," she coos as she slips into her late-summer's dream. With beer getting warm, my wife and I relax with a brew and the sound of crickets, and… nothing else. No electric whirring. No air conditioners cycling. Simply a singular focus on what matters. Us. Our family and our community. Our neighbors are grilling. We poke our heads out and chat for a bit. Our daughter slumbers.
It'll be light soon.
Parting shot: As the power comes back on, mere moments after I concluded writing, my wife and I look at each other- can we pretend the power is still off?
Lance Arthur Smith is a writer and actor. This piece is unedited, and comprised of truth- mostly.