We are nothing if not flippant. Our biggest post-apocalyptic fear is running out of prescription skin cream. Women have noted that dystopian novels never explore this theme. In the post-apocalyptic world, heroines scramble for their lives in the wilderness, or loot shanty towns. I, on the other hand, inhabit a comic dystopia dominated by Retin-A.
After the derecho devastated the midwest this week, we began to focus on how to fill more necessary prescription needs. Pockets of the city had power, but not our neighborhood stores. And the power companies’ philosophy seemed to be, Suburbs first.
“I can live without these for a couple of days.” Surely my body wouldn’t break down for want of a little blue pill.
How long would it take my body to break down? Feeling anxious, I unearthed a bottle of prehistoric expired anxiety pills. If I were a drug dealer, I wouldn’t make it. But after taking half a pill, though it was a placebo, I felt able to embark on a hero’s journey to fill a prescription for serious pills.
So the next day, we began our journey. The first inner-ring suburburban supermarket had no power. The next inner-ring suburb was blazing with light. Eureka! The pharmacy assistant knew nothing about power outages but ascertained the other store was closed. Then she did the necessary work so we could get the pills.
Hero’s journey: finished. It’s the little things that count. The miracle of electricity: you don’t notice till you’ve lived without it.
We were reading our books when the derecho (a word I’d never heard) hit. First, the sirens went off. “Is that a tornado?” Then the sky turned low and pitch-black. Later, we heard that 100-MPH winds had ripped across the sky.
“What IS that?” I asked, looking out the window. On TV, the meteorologist assured us this storm with high winds was not a tornado. He seemed quite cheerful and fascinated by it. Then his image flickered on the screen and the power went out.
Trees down (one blocked our street), branches down, wires down, some roofs blown off. Interstates closed, semi-trucks toppled by winds on the highway. On the second day of the power outage, 800,000 midwesterners were still without power.
Every time there is a power outage, almost every comfort disappears. How can we take things for granted, I mused, as I tried to read my book in inadequate light.
The radio newscaster said the power would be back by 1 p.m. We waited…waited…waited…. Nope. Tea time (sun tea). Dinner hour (sandwiches thrown together in a dim kitchen). Sunset (sat in the back yard and laughingly outlined a movie script that was half Serpico, half Community) .
We hoped the power would return in the night. No luck. The next day we were still living like pioneers. I have never enjoyed Little House on the Prairie, Little House in the Big Woods, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, or any other book about robust prairie-related survival. I’m quite sure I would have flunked as a pioneer and hied it back to the city.
I actually felt mellower on the second day without power, beccause my expectations were lowered. I rambled around the house in a long Miss Havisham-style sleeveless t-shirt nightgown made in China of some mysterious substance that is certainly not organic. Who can be picky when the fans don’t work?
Hurray, we got our power back this morning at 5:00. Oh. thank God! I’ve never been as courageous as Abbie in Bess Streeter Aldrich’s A Lantern in Her Hand, though I love the book! And as for surviving without fans and AC…