The power that isn’t

by Lorin Michel Thursday, June 15, 2017 9:08 PM

If ever there was a metaphor for how I’ve been feeling lately, it’s this: today, we were without power. This happens occasionally, though not as often as you’d think given the strain on the power grid during the summer months. And it is definitely summer even though technically it doesn’t officially become summer for six more days. In mid-June in Southern Arizona summer simmers. Last year at this time we were in California, wine tasting. We drove home on Father’s Day during excessive heat warnings. As we went through Palm Springs, the temperature on the car and on my iPhone both topped out at 121º. One hundred. Twenty. One. Degrees.

Today, the mercury was hovering around 112º when suddenly the screen on my computer dimmed. I wondered what was going on. Since I work on a lap top, when the power goes out, my computer battery automatically takes over. It’s a seamless transition. It took just seconds for me to realize that the tiny green light on my power cord was off. Then I heard the microwave beep, the clocks in the bedroom fizzed, the overhead fan clicked and slowed. Finally, the internet said ‘see ya, bye.”

Fully knowing the answer I shouted the question anyway: “Did we just lose power?”

Kevin was already on his way across the house. I heard him say “yup. Gotta number for TEP?”

One of the great ironies of us having solar panels on our house, panels that capture more than enough energy to power our house, is that our solar inverters run on electricity. The second great irony is that in order to use the solar power we create, it has to first go to the electric company in order to be converted. 

So plenty of solar, no way to capture it, and the house slowly began to melt into the desert. Welcome to Thursday afternoon.

Power runs our lives all the time but during the blistering summer months it also keeps us alive. We wouldn’t have died without power for a couple of hours, even through tomorrow, but it would have become uncomfortable. We also have no water pressure. In order to maintain water pressure, we have a pump that works fabulously. As long as there’s power. 

Power is needed to cook and clean, to open and close the garage doors, to run the ceiling fans. It is desperately needed for air conditioning and water, for music and television, for the internet. It is necessary to light the night, to keep our phones and computers charged, to run our smoke detectors and our alarm system (though both do have battery backups). When you’re powerless, it’s an odd sensation. You don’t quite know what to do, how to act. You feel out of sorts, almost confused. You feel as if you have absolutely no control.

Mostly how I’ve been feeling since November 8, and definitely since January 20.

After about an hour, our power whirred back to life. The microwave beeped again, the light lit on my power connection, the overhead fan began to spin lazily. If only it were so easy to regain power as a citizen. If only it took just an hour.

Something to think about and hope for as we power forward.

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