August 14, 2003, was an interesting day on many levels. I spent most of the day cleaning up after other people's mistakes, fixing various problems not of my own creation, and in general, feeling completely frustrated.

I left work early, at 3 pm, and immediately got stuck on I-95 southbound. There was a multi-car accident backing up traffic for three miles. Just peachy. Perfect end to the day. I eventually got to my city and went grocery shopping, where I had even more fun. I dropped a bottle of Snapple on the floor, soaking myself with Fruit Punch. I had someone run into me with their cart and then yell at me to get the f*uck out of their way. The credit card I wanted to use couldn't be recognized by the system, so I had to write a check.

I arrived home just before 4 pm. All of the aggrevation and frustration came to the fore and I nearly kicked the cats out of my way. I (barely) restrained my temper and just yelled at them. After I had put the groceries away I turned on the air conditioner and sank into my comfy chair. I was already to cool off, relax, and try to forget one of the more annoying days I have experienced in a long while.

Air conditioner flutters; kitchen light dims.

"Oh shit," I mutter to myself, and whisper "brown outs." Just what I needed today.

The power came back full force for several minutes and then dipped again. I waited. The last thing I saw, before everything died, was the digial readout on the cable box: 4:11.

If the power is going to go out in my city it seems to go out first, and come back last, in my section, the North End. No doubt other residents of the city would disagree with my assessment. Thinking about the blackouts of the past, I decided to get in the car and drive around to see if it was just my local neighborhood or if it was the entire city. I flipped on the car radio and reports were sparse at first. I switched to New York City stations and eventually heard this blackout extened from Ontario to Ohio. I listened to Mayor Michael Bloomberg's speech regarding the blackout, reassuring the listening populace that the blackout was not a result of terrorism. Something I hadn't even thought of until the radio broadcasters had mentioned it. I idly wondered if we will always immediately think of terrorism every time there is a major problem. I suppose we will.

I eventually parked my car in the empty grocery store lot and listened to the various news reports. Around 7 pm, the director of the New England ISO said that power was coming on in southwestern Connecticut. I looked around. Really? Not from what I could see. I drove downtown and, sure enough, power was on in some neighborhoods. It seemed that, as usual, the North End would be the last to get it's lights back. I decided to go home.

I got back to my place around 7:45 pm and most of the condo's residents were around the newly re-opened pool. I didn't feel like hanging out with anyone, so I opened the windows and down to just a tee-shirt and undies. It was too sticky for more clothes than that. The cats whined and cried for no reason, so I just ignored them and lit some candles to ward off the gathering darkness. Fidgit felt the need to investigate one of the candles and singed his whiskers. He howled in complaint and I told him it served him right for being stupid. I was, obviously, still in a foul mood.

I sat in the candle light, all hot and sticky (and not in a good way), for what seemed like an eternity. The crowd around the pool wasn't very loud but I could tell that there were a fair number of people out there in the dark. I was thinking of throwing on some shorts and joining them when I heard someone shout

Lights! I see lights!

WTF? I thought.

I looked out the window and didn't see anything. A few minutes went by and someone else shouted they saw lights coming on. I wondered what these folks were drinking and if I was too late to get any. Several more minutes went by and the street light right outside my living room window started to glow. It was slightly eerie to see, glowing so faintly in the dark. More people started shouting about seeing lights and then they started clapping. The clock radio by my bed suddenly went off and I jumped a foot. It scared the bejesus out of the cats as well. I laughed at myself and then turned the radio onto the local station. Yankee game. Most nights I'd be thrilled to get the Yankee's on either TV or radio, but I wanted to get the time and news. I was impatient. I fiddled with the dial and found a New York station and found out they were still out of power. I didn't want to switch on all the power in my place in case of more brown outs, but I decided to switch on the television. Lights were showing in New Jersey but New York City was still mostly dark. Just the red glow of tail-lights of cars inching their way out of the city. It was 9:15 pm when I turned on the television. We had been out of power for five hours. Considering the scope of the problem, not bad.

This morning I found out that large areas were still without power and Connecticut had blown one of its major transmission cables in the early morning hours here in the southwest. We weren't out of the woods just yet. The 'blame game' began yesterday afternoon and it will continue for sometime to come. The power grid of the United States has needed a major overhaul for at least a decade, if not longer. Perhaps now it will be addressed. But I won't hold my breath.

This power outage offered me an opportunity to relax, kick back, take life a bit more slowly, even if for only five hours. Instead of heading out to the pool, going to a friend's house, going to the park to look at the stars, I sat in my hot and sticky house and grumbled. I sulked like a spoiled child.

I'm going to have to spend some time thinking about my attitude and make some adjustments. Normally, I would have taken yesterday's power outage as an opportunity to play. It was a free pass out of the work-a-day world into the freedom's usually reserved for kids on vacation from school. I missed it, which tells me there's something wrong with me.