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Finally seeing the light

There’s nothing like a massive power outage blacking out an entire province to get people talking again.

Where were you when Blackout 2003 struck? How did you make it home? When did the power come back in your home?

Every single person in Ontario has a story to tell about last weekend’s blackout. Even me. I was home for five days right in the middle of the crisis.

My story isn’t nearly as interesting as the accounts of being in stuck in a downtown elevator for hours on end waiting to be rescued. Nor is it as gallant as the reports of civilians taking over busy intersections and directing traffic. Or as weary as the stories of workers trudging up Yonge Street from the downtown core to their pitch-black homes in the sprawling suburbs.

Instead I was shopping in a nearby mall with a friend. We made our way home oblivious to the crisis at hand and settled into my parents’ backyard with some cool drinks. We barbecued our dinner, tuned into the car radio for regular news updates, chatted with the family and the neighbours, lit some candles and went to bed. Twelve hours later in the middle of the night the power came back on and the so-called crisis was over, for my family at least.

Though it was a relatively quick debacle, we certainly learned a lot about ourselves during Blackout 2003. And I hope they’re lessons we won’t soon forget.

I have to admit that before the blackout I never really gave much thought to where my power came from.

When I flipped the light switch I expected the light to come on. When I pressed the remote I expected the TV to flash to life and when I opened the fridge and freezer I just assumed that my food would be fresh and cold. (All right, admittedly I don’t always expect my food to be fresh or mould-free but I do expect it to be cold.)

These are just the basics of life in North America. Aren’t they?

And because we take it for granted, I’ll readily admit that I have been guilty of leaving the lights on when I’m not using them. I’ve washed clothes and forgotten about them in the washing machine only to wash them again four days later. I’ve left the house with the TV blaring in the living room, entertaining nobody.

Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.

After the energy blackout though, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the way I think about power and the way most of us think about power.

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