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Power Blackout In The City And My Observations

Overhead line

I sometimes take random photos like the one above. It’s a photo of an overhead line, and yes the photo is not very special. But as a blogger I am not just looking for good-looking photo subjects, no, in fact I am also looking for motived that might be useful in case I want to write about certain topics. Even if I photographed an overhead line of a railway track, I am associating it with power or electricity in general. So, how could this photo prove to be useful? Probably on a day where your city and the surroundings suffered from a three hours power blackout. Yes, this happened to our city today, and to a large area surrounding the city, and it’s not the first time because we have this once every few years. Here are my observations…

Me, and everyone got reminded again how dependent we are on this technology. If there is a power outage, you get a reminder that even the most simple things just won’t work anymore. Of course it starts in your room, but when you take the mobile phone because you have the brilliant idea to call your mother to ask if they don’t have power either, you realize without power there are no working cell sites and you can’t make the call. But there is WhatsApp, but wait, your home router won’t work without power either. But as someone who usually likes to take a walk, getting a break from all the technology, it’s a short way to my mother. But already in front of my own door I noticed a crowd of neighbors, all friendly and chatty. Maybe we found a solution here to the big problem that people don’t speak with each other anymore in cities. Maybe you just need a power outage in your city so that they concentrate on each other instead of the technology.

I’m ironic, but the truth is that it works. Part of it is also that they finally get out of their apartments, because it’s kinda boring at home without power, isn’t it? So, after I spoke with a couple of neighbors, I managed it to walk about 100 meters to the underground garage, where a woman asked me if I wanted to get to the car as well. I said “Nope!? Why?”. She replied “Well, there is something with the garage door, it’s not working and I need to get to work but I can’t get my car out of the garage”. I asked her if she was already at home, because it’s definitely not the garage door, it’s just that there is a power outage in our city. When she said that she wants to call the janitor, I told her that she is out of luck because mobile phones won’t work either and she noticed it a moment later. We chatted a bit more but then I continued with my walk.

Arrived at my mother’s apartment, I laughed about myself when I tried to use the bell system in front of her door. Of course it’s not magic, it’s power that allows you to ring someone to the door. Since several apartments are connected to a stairwell, and since there is a main door where you usually ring, I was out of luck too. Fortunately I have a mobile phone, but wait, there was something, that’s not how it works. I had to be more creative. It got into my mind that my mother has a balcony, and with the warm weather the door to the balcony must be opened. So, I was standing there, like back then when I was eight years old and when mobile phones were not a thing. I was screaming up “Mom, are you there?” and “Can you open the door?”. Hey, that’s really how it was back then when you forgot your keys, and today it was not much different. My mother came down and opened the door.

She then told me how some neighbors reported how they had trouble to leave a shopping mall, they were locked in and had to use the emergency exit to get out of the mall. These handy electric sliding doors, they are really cool unless they aren’t powered anymore. My mother has a radio with batteries, and in the radio they said even the toilet doors on the Autobahn rest houses couldn’t be opened anymore. We started to be happy about the fact that we didn’t use an elevator today. You know, the small things make you happy, and others sad, in case they are stuck in an elevator. Apart from the elevators, many more things came into our mind during the power outage. There are thousands of things that just won’t work anymore without power. We’re totally, and I really mean totally dependent on power.

When my mother told me that another district was once without power for twenty-four hours, I started to take less puffs on my electric cigarette to stretch the time of my battery, just in case. But that’s luxury, and my mother was rightly more concerned about a neighbor woman who is dependent on a medical device with batteries. We took the dog and my mother went checking, but that woman was fine. I do know that our hospitals have powerful emergency generators, and that is great. But you get the point, someone at home with a medical problem might get issues when the power outage takes too long and if battery life is low, and they wouldn’t even be able to call the ambulance. My mother cleaned the rooms of that old woman in the past, but I liked it that my mother was also worried today during the power outage.

In times without power you experience and hear about all the things that don’t work anymore, and then you think about further things that could become a problem. What would be if you just visited the dentist, and he drilled already a hole into your tooth? Obviously, a small dental practice most likely won’t have an emergency generator, and I am also not sure if their tools work with batteries, I do rather believe they get the power from the wall. But that’s something you start to think about too. On the way back with the dog, we met a neighbor who wanted to go shopping but all stores closed because the point of sale won’t work either without power. Small corner stores might just write things down, but the larger ones are dependent on the computer systems even with cash. Just forget about credit card payments too, because the problem is obvious. So, we met more neighbors, and several of them said the majority of stores would be closed.

With that comes the question, what do you eat if you can’t go shopping and if you haven’t stored enough food today? And what do you eat if you can’t cook? Yes, there are things like bread, fruits and what not. But also here the point is, you might not have been prepared for a power blackout. My mother was not prepared, it was the day she actually planned to fill the fridge with new things from the stores. It’s a problem. But there is also some kind of irony. When everyone is affected by something, there is also more solidarity. A neighbor invited my mother to a salad in case the power outage would take too long after she mentioned the shopping problem. The neighbor woman also offered a melon, because she said she would have two.

Yes you did read right, I truly believe in bad times there is more solidarity, at least if everyone is affected. I am just talking about a three hours power outage here, and even if nobody knew how long it really would take to get the power back, it was not the end of the world. But if you can feel solidarity already during a power outage, there would probably be even more solidarity in case of a worse catastrophe. I am not exactly living in an area where there are big catastrophes but in the news you see this often that people help each other a lot in bad times. But it’s not just that, because as a German I know the stories of the elders, or what they got told of their parents and so on. Our city got destroyed by a shit load of allied bombs during WW2 because a lunatic with a strange beard wanted to make war with everyone. But even in times of war people helped each other. I got told many positive stories that happened in bad times.

Obviously, in bad times there can be seen both, the best and the worst in us humans. Especially during wars or catastrophes. But even during our power outage today. I still didn’t check if it’s fact, but I heard several people today saying that some people used the situation to rob a local bank. If that is really true, they probably thought “Nobody there, zero mobile phone communication, what a chance!”. I wouldn’t wonder if that is true, because as said, it’s not only that you hear about people caring about each other, asking if something is needed, if everything is fine, or about sharing things. I am pretty sure it’s also fact that some criminals would have a field day if nothing is working anymore. That’s maybe it, as the good people become more apparent, the worst people do too.

But at the end I almost lost the topic here, even if this was still a bit related. My whole post was much more inspired by the observation that we are depending so much on technology, that once there is a power blackout, very normal things just don’t work anymore. Now that the power outage is over, we are sure it was not a real problem, but it also makes clear that it could be a very big problem if a power outage would take much more time. Ironically I noticed too how some techy things improved over the years, because I was writing a comment on another blog before my PC did shut down, and now since the PC is running again, I realized my Firefox browser did not only remember what kind of websites I had opened, it also reminded my comment and I didn’t have to write it again and just pressed the button to send the comment on that blog. That’s a pretty cool feature!

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