Family charged up about electricity

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

It's not food and water that sustains us these days. It's electricity.

Our lives are wired for sound. Our homes are outfitted with computers, televisions, radios and all sorts of appliances that run on electricity. Our homes are heated by it. We depend on it for everything from basic light to recreation.

Most of the time we take it for granted just like the air we breathe.

But in the aftermath of the weekend ice storm, which left about 1,100 customers without power for much of the day on Sunday, our home was in the dark.

Our daughters discovered that much of their entertainment depended on electricity. They couldn't watch cable television or a DVD movie. They couldn't play computer games.

Becca said she was glad we had our two, little portable heaters. But she wasn't so glad when I pointed out that they too run on electricity.

Becca and Bailey had to be content with playing with each other. They played restaurant, serving me a whole plate of marbles and plastic necklaces in Bailey's bedroom.

I opened the blinds to get as much light as possible to shine into our lives. But Sunday's gray skies left us with little light.

As the day turned toward night, we were left with an increasingly dark house and decreasing temperatures that had me wearing two sweat shirts just to stay warm.

We lit a whole bunch of Christmas candles which looked nice, but did little to light up our home.

After a few hours without power, I would have settled for Ben Franklin's famous kite and a little lightning for illumination.

Every now and then we glanced outside to see if our neighbors were in the dark as much as we were. We telephoned AmerenUE several times, talking to an automated system that informed us that the utility company knew about the problem and was working to correct the situation.

Fortunately, my wife, Joni, had four flashlights stored away in our van for Girl Scout troop activities. It pays to be married to a Girl Scout troop leader.

I was amazed we had working flashlights. I'm used to finding flashlights with dead batteries, leaving me totally in the dark when it comes to emergency preparedness.

It didn't seem so gloomy once we broke out the flashlights. Becca and Bailey put on a light show in our living room, spelling words on the ceiling.

They also briefly amused themselves by playing a few notes on the piano to the glow of flashlight beams.

Joni tried to read a book by the light of a flashlight.

I retired to a living room chair where I played solitaire on my battery-powered Palm Pilot as darkness descended and our pet Sheltie, Cassie, looked increasingly bewildered by the situation.

I wondered if we should adjourn to the comfort of a friend's home for the night.

Then, suddenly, the hum of the refrigerator and the swoosh of central heating returned. The house was once again bathed in lights.

The stove worked again. We had a hot supper and watched a little television.

We were thrilled to have our lives back to normal.

Thanks to the power of electricity, we're plugged into life again.

Mark Bliss is a staff writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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