Maxed Out 

Things that go pump in the night

By G.D. Maxwell

I once indulged in fantasies about living off the grid, life unplugged so to speak. I’d met some people doing just that and the way they described their lives, their cozy mountain cabin, their live-at-your-own-pace freedom, seemed peaceful if not entirely idyllic through the tie-dyed hues of my pharmaceutical-addled glasses.

Then I noticed their clothes weren’t exactly clean and their eyes glazed over maniacally as they consumed television and popular culture on their foray into civilization the way refugees consume humanitarian gruel after a long trek out of disaster.

And while there lives a man just up the hill from Smilin’ Dog Manor who assures me he could cut my umbilical to B.C. Hydro for just a few thousand dollars worth of high-tech, German solar engineering and let me harness the power of the sun to light my world, he’s been uncharacteristically quiet about it this year. Maybe his batteries are low in The Summer of No Sunshine.

But perhaps my biggest impediment to living off the grid has less to do with the technology necessary to turn night into day and keep my computer wheezing along at yesterday’s speed than it does with the skills needed to keep all the balls in the air when the whole Rube Goldberg contraption stops working the way the manuals say it should work, which it inevitably does. Mechanically, I fall somewhere between klutz and remedial. I struggle enough with two off the grid systems I currently have to maintain: water and sewage.

Each summer, the Dog as I like to call it when I’m too lazy to spell out its entire name, throws me some curve or another to sorely test my do-it-yourself skills, be they mechanical or construction. Being a Guy, I usually fall back on the first Guy rule of DIYdom: When something appears to be broken or in imminent danger of breaking, ignore it and trust it to fix itself. It should be noted the first rule seldom works but, if you’re lucky, gives you enough time to launch the second DIY Guy rule: Call someone who knows what the hell they’re doing to fix it.

The second rule works well in many, if not all, urban settings and small towns. The second rule works not at all in the far-flung reaches of the Cariboo. It’s not that there aren’t plenty of people around here who know how to fix things and, arguably, even consider themselves in the fixing things line of work. It’s just that rule number two falls victim to Einstein’s theory of relativity around these parts, which is to say it falls into the vortex of Cariboo Time.

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