Remember the Great Blackout of 2003? Remember how everyone couldn’t wait for it to end so they could cook their food and see where they were going at night? Well, I couldn’t wait for it to end so I could play “Electricity” by Spiritualized. Okay, the other stuff was important, too. But at some point during the darkness, I had decided that the first thing I wanted to do after the lights came back on was play that song, crank it and jump around.
And that’s what I did. A celebration of electricity.
Sometimes I’m corny like that.
It was a weird time. I was on the cross-trainer at the gym when all the lights suddenly went out, along with the TVs and treadmills. But the cross-trainer curiously stayed on. I remember walking home and people were smiling at the novelty of an electric-free life. I was working from home and living in the heart of downtown Toronto, with my cousin, in a 16th floor apartment. So that was 16 flights of stairs to go up and down while the elevators were out. Good thing I hit that cross-trainer three times a week.
My most vivid memory was of wondering where Carrie was, how she was coping. We were a little over a year into our relationship at that point. I wasn’t able to reach her by phone and I was getting anxious as darkness started to fall. Around 11:00 pm I decided to brave a drive in the dark, from Yonge & Wellesley, up Jarvis and Mount Pleasant to Eglinton. It had occurred to me that she wasn’t answering the phone because it was out of batteries. She only had one cordless phone in her apartment and it must have run out of juice. So I brought her a corded Coke phone I had displayed in my room as a decoration. Because Coke is awesome.
Driving in the dark was surreal. City streets that were normally bustling and familiar were rendered completely quiet and strange. There were one or two cars ahead of me, one or two behind me, and very few people walking around. That afternoon the streets had been lined with people trying to get home from work, with no functioning subways. I could see Yonge St. from my balcony and the droves shuffling northward in the mid-August heat. Like zombies before zombies were cool. But now, nobody. No streetlights, no stoplights, no lights at all, other than headlights.
I wasn’t even sure she’d be there, at her apartment. I had no idea. The parking garage was closed. The front door was locked. I was forced to explore in the dark for the side door and made my way up the dark stairway, lit only by a flashlight pen I’d used to write in the dark when inspiration struck in the middle of the night. It was the only thing close to a flashlight I’d had.
Finally, I made it to her door and gave it a knock. She was there, she was fine. And she was happy to have a phone. Even if it was a Coke phone – and she despised (still does) all soft drinks other than ginger ale.
Over the next 36 hours or so that I was without power, I noticed something in the neighbourhood. People were enjoying each other’s company, people who might not have otherwise been with those people at that time. Civilians were directing traffic, people were giving out bottled water, there was an impromptu party in a local parking lot. The lack of power had brought people together to talk about their weird experiences with the blackout, to eat together and to drink together.
It was a weird time. But weird times are some of the best times, in retrospect. They’re charged with something. Something like electricity.