Sunday, July 29, 2007

the day the power went out

A few weeks ago, we had some bad thunderstorms that caused some power outages and tree damage in our area. The next day was sunny, humid, and one of the hottest days of the summer. My Mom and I were going to meet in downtown Troy, its kind of half way between our houses, to go to Spilln' the Beans for lunch. We were both looking forward to one of their speciality sandwiches.

On my way to Troy, my cell phone rings. Its Mom telling me that her power just went out, so she can't get her car out of the garage since it has an electric opener. So, we go to Plan B. I will meet her at her house and we will eat somewhere nearby and save Spilln' the Beans for another day. Just as we are about to leave her house, the power comes back on. Mom immediately pulls her car out of the garage just in case the power goes out again, then we head toward Panera. When we get near the restaurant, the traffic light to turn into the plaza is out, and a cop is outside directing traffic. We figure the restaurant is probably out of power. Just as we are about to turn, the power comes back on, but we had already decided to go to Plan C.

We decide to go to our original choice, Spilln' the Beans. As we drive into Troy, we start noticing that the traffic lights are out. We keep hoping that the closer we get to the cafe, the lights will come on. No such luck. So, we keep driving hoping for electricity. We did a driving tour through parts of Troy, some of which we'd never seen. We stop at one place and ask the people outside if they have power, that we were looking to get lunch. The person sitting outside said, "Lunch sounds good, but no one has power." No luck in Troy.

I tell my mom that we never lose power at our house, because we have a different electric company than most of the area. So, we start heading toward my town. As we cross the border, the lights are indeed on! We pull into one of our favorite Japanese restaurants. The short walk from the car to the restaurant was horrible - the heat was so oppressive. We sit down, and mom decides that after all that we deserve a cocktail. She also had a buy one lunch get one free coupon, so we just spent the money we were saving (and then some) on the drinks. It was nice to be someplace cool with lights. Mom talked of bringing her sister here for lunch when she comes to visit in a few weeks.

The waiters and waitresses in the restaurant speak limited English. We ordered margaritas, but there was no bartender. The waitress seemed to be taking a long time to make the drinks. Mom thought she was looking up how to make it. After a while, she came over and asked us if we wanted our drinks on the rocks or frozen. Mom then offered to order different drinks that were easier to make, thinking the girl didn't know what she was doing. Mom's always thinking of other people. The waitress said "No, no we just don't have any ice, he's going to get ice. " We envisioned the waiter running across the street to the grocery store to get ice and hoping they weren't sold out due to the widespread power outage. Mom said, "Maybe we shouldn't bring my sister here."

While we had to wait a long time, the drinks and the food were excellent. One of the best margarita's I ever had. That restaurant never lets me down. I said, "You can always count on Okinawa."

Jeff and I were both bragging that day about how we never lose power since we have a different power company. That night around 7, I went into the house, opened the fridge and noticed the light inside didn't come on. I immediately thought the fridge was broken. But no, we had finally jinxed ourselves and lost power. I wonder if Okinawa did too.

We were lucky, our power was only out for less than an hour, and the sun had already begun to set. Our AC had been running all day, so our house stayed comfortable. The residents of downtown Troy weren't so lucky. They were without power for most of the afternoon, in the worst heat of the day.

For those unfamiliar with Troy, it is often dubbed "Troilet", and outsiders think its full of poor people, drug addicts and criminals. When I tell people I teach at Troy High, I always hear "that must be tough" or "do you have to wear a bullet proof vest?" My response is always, "no, its a great place, I enjoy it." Yes, I've had some students who have taken the wrong path and ended up in serious trouble with the law. The majority though are wonderful, bright, caring individuals who make me proud everyday.

Turns out the power outage in Troy was planned. It was a way to reduce the load of power on such a hot day, while they were working on fixing things broken by the previous day's storms. Instead of turning power off to an affluent suburb, I guess the company felt the people of Troy were used to suffering, or were less worthy of electricity. They did so without warning or with any info on when the power would be restored.

What the power company clearly doesn't know are the real treasures found in Troy - wonderful restaurants, beautiful architecture, galleries, and yes, people. Some people who may be too poor to own a car, therefore unable to go far enough out of the city to sit in a cool restaurant. Elderly people who live in high rise buildings, with no chance of relief from the heat. It reminded me of what happened in New Orleans, on a lesser scale, but with the same disregard for the value of all humans.

Later that night, I thought about the girl in Troy who said that "lunch sounds good", and knew she didn't have one as good as ours. I thought about how much I enjoyed that margarita, while others, even some of my students, were sitting on their stoops fanning themselves for hours on the hottest day of the year.

The electric company is under investigation now for their actions that day, and I hope they receive some sort of financial consequence.

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