Last Thursday I was working away on my laptop when our electricity  went out. I could still type but I could no longer access the internet because my modem went down when the power cut out. It was annoying, but the weather had been very hot for a few days and it is not uncommon for Southern California to have what they call “brownouts” . Those “brownouts” occur periodically at peak  times when  people start using air conditioning to keep cool. Because the peak usage increases dramatically during these times,  system will get overloaded temporarily, and power can go out here and there for a couple of hours at a time.  It can be kind of spotty where some neighborhoods  have power, and the next one over can be without power. Anway,  I couldn’t work for the time being, so I simply  moved on to tasks that didn’t require my house to have power. I am resourceful like that…

I had put off going to the grocery store for a couple of days, ( I hate grocery shopping)  so  we had pretty much nothing in the house to eat  but some frozen chicken and a few packages of hotdogs. Thinking nothing of this little brownout situation, I just hopped in my car and headed for the grocery store to stock up, only to find it was also without power. Because we live in the land of earthquakes our family has a supply of drinking water, flashlights, batteries and canned food that we can use for emergencies stashed in the house and in each of our cars. I knew we wouln’t starve but I  was aggravated. I drove back home, and all my neighbors were out in the street, trying to figure out what the heck was going on.

See, that is what happens when there is a disaster. People come out into the cul de sac. They exchange information, they seek reassurance, and they offer each other comfort, information and  help. I know it is always difficult to see the bright side of power outages, earthquakes, floods and tornados. But there is an upside. My neighbors knew I didn’t have much in the way of dinner, and they had food, gas in their grill, so  they shared with us. A bunch of us  came out with our folding chairs, drank a glass or two of  wine, sat and listened to reports or the radio and ate dinner together.

In listening to the radio  we learned a little more about the situation. Keep in mind that was Thursday, Sept. 8 ,  it was frightening to have something like this happen so close to 9/11. We had no hard news on exactly what had made the power in two states and parts of Mexico go down. Many of the first news reports coming out were speculating that is was some kind of terrorist attack. Not knowing leaves much to the imagination and that’s not always a good thing.

Once SDG&E spokespeople released mor of the details, we started to feel better. Of this whole situation, the bad part was being without power, but the good part was that we did have each other. As the sun slid down in the night sky I watched the stars come out  with my neighbors, most of whom I have known for many years now. We shared our flashlights with those who didn’t have any. We each made sure everyone had enough water to drink & offered our spare rooms to our single friends who didn’t want to go home and sit alone in the dark.

These are things that normally do not happen during  the course of a busy work week. Everyone came together. On Facebook the next day, I checked in with friends and one after another told the same story. Yes, it was a little scary to have the power go out, but without exception, they set up their barbecues,  brought what food  they had, and people ate together and kept each other company. I am sure there were impromptu block parties happening from Dana Point, all the way down to Baja!!

Over the past 10 years, since 9/11, so many of our lives have changed dramatically, and mostly not for the better. We are more fearful of things, our financial status precarious, our homes lost, our savings dwindled down to nothing or very little. What we have not lost is the desire for community, connection and our compassion. Sometimes it’s the bad things that bring out the good in people.

Years from now, when somebody asks what were you doing the night the lights went out in SoCal, most of will say, I had a block party and watched the stars come out….

social cindy