The recent and unanticipated weather in and around Montgomery County led to a series of events that no one saw coming. The storm, in and of itself, was shocking enough. Although forecasters called for a thunderstorm, not many people were prepared for the magnitude of it. In just a few minutes, trees had fallen everywhere, patio furniture had been blown into the neighbor’s yard, and almost every house, office, restaurant, and building was left without power.
But what was even more surprising than the actual storm and the immediate damage it caused were the events occurring in the days following the storm and what it revealed about our society.
Power outages usually leave people with a feeling of helplessness or boredom because all of the equipment and appliances that we typically utilize on a daily basis are no longer available for use. But normally power is restored within a couple of hours and we all go back to our technology dependent lifestyles. However, the storm that occurred early last week left almost every single home in the area powerless and it was a true test of how long we could all go living the “simple” life. Needless to say, we failed.
Many people quickly shrugged off worries about refrigerators, ovens, microwaves, source of light, and even air conditioning. How will we eat, see each other, and keep cool were all questions that were easily replaced with: How will I charge my phone, watch my Tuesday night shows, and access Facebook?
As the days went on, our collective reliance on technology became more and more apparent. As soon as one nearby neighborhood got power, friends, family, and acquaintances rushed over to charge their phones and watch TV. Herds of people filled the hallways of the mall to use the outlets and get some internet connectivity. And my twitter feed, along with that of many others, was filled with dramatic and vulnerable tweets such as: SO BORED, can’t live like this, and how did people survive in the olden days?
The madness of the power outages last week made me wonder: How did people survive in days when there was no such thing as power outages because there was no such thing as power? Did they stare at each other in the dark, pace back and forth in a candle lit room, or just collect a ball of dust and kick it across the floor? How did people survive on an ongoing basis when we couldn’t even survive a few days?
Kids, teens, and adults everywhere were going insane from the heat, boredom, and everything else that came in the aftermath of the storm. As I often must do when I make observations about society, I admit that I am among the crazed people with a severe technology dependency. The morning after the storm I sat in my car with a portable charger trying to revive my cell phone. And when my power didn’t come back the next day, I took my phone, charger, and computer to a house that did have power to charge them both and catch up on some TV.
But what does this say about all of us? How long could we have gone without power? My assumption would be not for a second longer than we were forced to considering the very public displays of dissatisfaction with Pepco’s service. Huge banners were hung on the roadside declaring “GET US POWER BACK NOW,” news stations easily found distraught Maryland residents to interview about their lack of electricity, and the Pepco phone lines were backed up for hours with angry and frustrated customers.
It’s safe to say that once power was restored, we were relieved and ecstatic, to say the least. After the agonizing hours upon hours with limited access to internet, television, and cell phones, we all took comfort in knowing that things could go back to how they used to be. But looking back on the whirlwind of events that took place following the storm, I know I’m not the only one who feels slightly disappointed with the extreme behaviors displayed by many of the people who were left without power.
I think that power outages, as inconvenient as they may be, are healthy occurrences every once in a while. And next time one happens, instead of rushing around trying to charge our phones and computers, we should toss them aside for a couple of hours. It couldn’t hurt to take a walk, read a book, pull out an old board game, or just engage in some meaningful conversation. Instead of tweeting about how people managed to survive in the olden days, try doing it. After all, some of our nation’s greatest leaders, inventors, teachers, and philosophers lived in a time when electricity was just a thing of the future.