I live a very
average suburban life similar to many people across the country.
Commute to work, office job, suburban home with wife and kids. It’s
easy to forget how fragile this lifestyle is and how little it takes
to remove all the things you come to depend on. Recently I had an
afternoon that showed me just how easy these conveniences can go
away and the difference a little preparedness can make.
up my daughter from day care I drove home to find myself locked
out of the house. We were having new keys made and I intended to
go in through the garage. Just hit the automatic garage door opener
hanging from the visor and I would be fine just like countless other
times. However, when I tried the door opener nothing happened. I
fiddled with the button for a while and tried to open it manually
from the outside but had no luck.
No big deal,
I used my cell phone to call my father-in-law on the other side
of town to come over with the spare key and let me in. My 15-month-old
with a rapidly growing hunger was losing patience in the back but
still its not the end of the world. When my father-in-law arrived
a half hour later he was in a hurry to get back to cooking and couldn’t
stay. After handing me the key I thanked him for his trouble and
he was on his way.
When I got
into the house I discovered why garage door wouldn’t open.
The power was out and it being early afternoon I didn’t notice
from outside. It was also about 98 degrees outside that day with
humidity that made the climate resemble the inside of a dogs mouth.
The air conditioning must have failed some time in the morning so
the house felt no better. I opened the windows to let the nonexistent
breeze in and went to work on finding something to feed the now
very hungry and very uncomfortable toddler.
This was the
day before grocery day so my options in the pantry were limited,
add in the fact that the microwave and electric stove were inoperative
and dinner for the baby became a balanced diet of Cheerios, a banana
and luke warm milk. Doing the best to satisfy the kid with what
we had I went about calling the power company to figure out what
happened to the power. I quickly realized I dumped the phone book
in the recycling bin a long time ago and without the internet I
was forced to call information on my cell phone to find the number.
‘information’ is a very loosely given title where I live
because it took an excruciatingly long time to find the number of
the largest power company in the state. I had been on my phone a
lot that day with work and the battery was almost dead by that point.
By the time I got through to someone at the power company and discovered
that they were aware the power was off and were working on the problem
my phone had run out of juice.
It was that
that point that my hot, cranky and only partially fed toddler fell
while running through the kitchen. Instead of springing back up
like one of the 100 others times she fell that day she landed on
her wrist with a nasty pop and started screaming her head off. Now
I’m terrified trying to comfort her and examine her wrist.
She is inconsolable, we’re both sweating bullets, and I have
no phone to call my wife at work or anyone else for help. Not seeing
any bones sticking out of her arm or other clear sings of impending
death I ended up loading her in the car rushing across town to the
in-laws. About a half hour later we were backing the loving embrace
of modern civilization, enjoying air conditioning, cooked food and
the comforting advice of her pediatrician.
was fine after some baby Tylenol and a good nights’ sleep. The power
was back by on dusk after a wire that was damaged by some tree trimmers
was repaired. We went to the store the next day to get groceries
for the next week and all was well. This was by no means a real
emergency or crisis, the rest of the city and even most of my neighborhood
had a normal night. But what if it wasn’t? What if the rest
of the city had lost power also, or what if we weren’t able
to drive all over the city to get the help we needed? This experience
was very illustrative for me, and I hope it will be for you, as
to how fragile our needs are and how much we come to depend on our
I did many things wrong that night. I was counting on having a working
garage door to get into my home instead of a key or some other way.
Not having an adequate amount of food in the cupboard to get through
a night without power was idiotic. A lack of knowledge for basic
first aid is the most embarrassing realization I had that night.
Without a phone to call a doctor or 911 I was on my own and if it
had been a real emergency it could have been a disaster.