Thursday, March 6, 2008


Just after I arrived home on Wednesday, the power went out. I was (1) talking with M. on the phone, who suggested I find a flashlight (difficult in the dark) and check if any of the other houses on the street had power (they all did). So I pushed my conversation with M. onto the stack and (2) called my landlord. Got voicemail. Left a descriptive and motivating message of the problem. None of the housemates were here, but this problem had happened before, so I was pretty sure it wasn't some psychological manifestation of a twisted, stressed subconscious (either mine or a neighbor's with projective hallucinatory powers).

I sat in the dark for a while thinking about what to do while I waited. I had set this time aside for a coding project... so, I needed to power my computer and the router that connected my computer to the server where my code lived. There's not much computer science to be done in the dark. Even theory requires pen, paper, and light.

Then my phone beeped. Was it the landlord, calling back with a magical fix? No, it was my phone reporting that its battery was dead. The plot thickens.

So I took my charger and boldly went where I had not gone before: to the neighbor's house. I introduced myself to L., who kindly let me charge my phone. In an odd twist indicative of the general direction of the evening's events, we discovered that she's friends with my advisor's wife. And that she grew up on the same block as one of my housemates.

Phone charged, a wild and fun series of phone calls ensued. (3) The landlord: "I've called our handyman and he's coming over, call him so he has your number." (4) Me: "This is my number, I'm at the neighbor's, call when you're here." (5) Handyman: "I'm here." We ventured down the perilous, rickety stairs into the basement (second time that evening for me). While poking around, (6) M.: "So where were we?" And call waiting (7, and M. was on the stack again) the landlord: "So what's going on?" Call disconnected. (8) Me: "We were disconnected. We don't yet know what's going on."

We figured out that only half of the power was out -- the half that all the lights were wired to. The furnace had the other half to itself, so we were comfortably warm in the dark. We swapped some wires so that there was light in part of the house. We (9) called Toronto Hydro, and they dispatched a truck. (10) Told the landlord this update.

At this point, a housemate came home. There was a lot of ruckus, but no discernible cause (since the lights on the first floor were on). The situation was explained again.

The truck arrived, and parked diagonally across the cross-street intersection in front of our house. A cherrypicker was raised to the wires feeding in to the front of the house from those strung along the street lights. I may have talked (11?) to the landlord again. I lost track. Eventually, the official repairmen replaced it (one of the two power lines leading into our house had been "burnt out"), and everything was back to its electrocuted normality. I (12) called the landlord to report this.

Then I popped the stack and (13) called back M., picking up a totally different thread of conversation than the one we had actually been following when the power went out. But, lo! This was to be short-lived, for my new neighbor friend L. knocked on the door and came to apologize for her behavior. (I pushed M. onto the stack again.) I thought that she had been very gracious, since I - a stranger - had dropped in on her at night with a strange request, and been hosted with kindness.

I (14) called M. back, and wound up all our various dangling conversations. The evening was completed with no work done on my project, no grand thoughts thunk, and plenty of strange situation-escalation. On the other hand, we won't lose our power again (unless squirrels or raccoons or neighborhood punks take it out, which L. tells me is not unusual).

I made more calls on my phone in one evening than I usually make in a month.

This post's theme band: I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness. Reader challenge: hypothesize the story behind that name.

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