05 November 2011
A World Lit Only by Flashlights
I was one of the hundreds of thousands (or was it millions?) who lost electricity during the recent unseasonally early snowstorm in the US Northeast. I only saw about 5-6 inches, but that was enough to weigh down leafed trees and pull down lots of wires. We had an unusually dark night thereafter, which may have been one of the few times I can recall sitting at home with eyes open and becoming solidly dark-adapted. Brilliant, by Jane Brox gave a compelling picture of how the advent of available-on-demand light changed society; it was a startling reminder to have a few inches of snow swing the status quo back to a temporary darker age where illumination was faint and had to be hoarded and carried rather than conveniently switched. Learned instincts failed, as familiar switches located upon entry to rooms proved ineffective. Pre-electric winter nights must have been long and black, far beyond common contemporary experience. I've renewed my appreciation for the power grid, and for its timely restoration.
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