Saturday, September 5, 2015

Blackout

You never really appreciate electricity and modern conveniences until something stirs your way of life. Take for instance, an evening blackout. Half a city without power, the other half with power. The sudden contrast sweeps you up as you drive from one end of town to the next. One minute, you pass by startling lights from yellow arches and golden bells; from gas stations and bars with open doors, spilling out light, music, and laughter. The streetlights even beckon a familiar warmth that suddenly drops you into the dead gloom of night.

Los Angeles

No streetlights to guide you down the familiar road which has suddenly become mysterious, alien, eerie. Maybe you’ve driven this path a hundred thousand times, once a day, even at night, but without lights from the cozy homes lining the asphalt and the overhead beacons shining down on the sidewalk, you feel oddly out of the zone.

It's only the headlights of another car in the back window that reminds you that you are not alone in the world.

The darkness is still. It’s quiet. No rowdy children playing, no TVs flashing through open curtains. Only the sounds of nature. Only the stars, the darkness, and a rekindling of humankind and the earth.
It makes you wonder if this is how dark it felt back with Laura Ingalls traveled across the country in a covered wagon with her family. Or was it darker because they didn’t have streets to follow or the shadow of homes waiting around the bend? Because despite the dark street corners, the emptiness of the houses you drive by, and the sense you’ve returned to a world that once was, there’s still light on the horizon. There’s light from the city ten minutes away where it still blazes like the day. There’s still light from the headlights, the light on your car clock, the solar lights in front yards, flashlights and cell phones.

Tokyo

Oh, the cell phones. Where you can still access the internet and tweet about not having Netflix or not being able to communicate with your friends, when all the modern conveniences are at your fingertips without any power from the city around you. Where you can get online and discuss the blackout without leaving your home or speaking to your neighbor. Where the blackout doesn’t really matter that much because you can still be social, you can still order pizza, you can still watch your favorite TV show with the press of a few buttons and the light of a bright screen.

Because just as you drive through the dark, feeling nostalgic for times you never lived in, the lights return. Not morning’s light. Not moonlight through the clouds to light up the world in a silver glow. But the regular old, take-it-for-granted electricity you thought for a moment you could live without. But you simply sit in your homes with the air conditioning set high, the lights all aglow and the wi-fi turned on and you forget what you had lost moments ago. You forget you never had light.

And you wonder could you ever survive without it? Could the world?

Are we ever really in darkness?

San Francisco
-Jaime

Photos from Thierry Cohen's "Darkened Skies" series, which recaptures how big city skies would appear without lights. 

2 comments:

  1. Wow. What caused the blackout for you? I haven't experience a blackout longer than a few minutes in years and that was before I had a cellphone. XD Those were caused by big storms.

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    1. A transformer caught on fire. It knocked out about half the city for five-ish hours. It was weird. But I enjoyed driving home in the dark. Good experience for the mind, I think. :)

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