Before Hurricane Irene wreaked havoc in the northeast, we had some severe weather here in Missouri. An outrageous thunderstorm blew through, scared me to death and killed our electricity. Fortunately we had little damage, unlike many families in town who lost enormous trees, like our next door neighbors.
We were without power for 1 1/2 days. We lost the contents of our refrigerator and freezer and I realized how amazingly dependent we are on electricity. No lights … no matter how often I went down the darkened hallway and flipped the switch, I never got used to it. No stove. No microwave. No refrigerator. No washing machine. No sewing machine. No central air conditioning. No interwebs! And it bloomed up into the mid-90s the next day, and the day after. The air in the house became still, moist, hot and stinky. Willow’s bedroom reeked. Our trash reeked. It was just gross.
We played games and told stories and tried to make it fun. Flashlights and lanterns retain their fun even when you’re hot and sticky.
We stayed in the basement that first night because it was cooler down there. I slept in one of my sons’ beds (who had excused himself to a friend’s house for the night) which is a twin. I shared the bed with my 20-month-old toddler and my older daughter slept on the floor. Willow is a huge bed hog and I didn’t sleep well at all the entire night. Even though it was cooler down there I still felt warm and uncomfortable with no circulating air. It was completely silent in the house too, which added to my discomfort.
The second day I declared I was finished with this nonsense and was ready to book a hotel room. Happily … amazingly … at 11:30 (36 hours almost exactly from the outage) the power came back on.
It did lead me to think — people lived without electricity for hundreds of years. People had no circulating fans, no air conditioning, no stoves or ovens, no refrigerators. People slept on the ground, happily, or at least without complaint, at some point in our history.
As technology grows by leaps and bounds, do we become wussies because of it? Can you imagine leaving your house without your cell phone? When I was driving around as a teenager, I felt no wave of panic if I didn’t have a lifeline in my bag, because there weren’t any around at the time. People who grew up in the 30’s didn’t go nutty if their air conditioning went out. Early humans didn’t groan and phone the electric company when a tree fell on their power line and they needed to cook, or work online, or do the laundry. They were more worried about being eaten by wild beasts and finding a safe place to sleep and care for their little ones.
Are we losing a bit of our humanity as we progress, or are we gaining new insight and amazing new possibilities? Or a little of both?
About Monica: Monica has been writing professionally since 2000 and has two published books — Teach Your Baby to Sign and Baby Talk. Her writing appears in a number of websites. The mother of four children, Monica is a cloth diaper and natural parenting enthusiast. She also sews custom fleece soakers at Mama Bird.