The power went out last night.
A large thunderstorm cell, complete with a few tornados, quarter-sized hail and a lightening show that seemed straight from the Old Testament, passed through Eastern Nebraska, downing trees and power lines with abandon.
The neighbors next door never lost power, and many of my friends in the neighborhood were unaffected. But something amazing transpired in the midst of the power outage (which was just recently restored at my abode.)
My roommate and I walked in the house about one hour after the outage, having just survived a harrowing bus ride through a slowly flooding Eastern Iowa.
We were greeted by a cluster of scented candles casting a soft light on a circle of ten girls (and one of their boyfriends.) They were watching old episodes of “The Office” on a slowly dying laptop while eating pizza and drinking Sierra Mist. We sat down and joined the crew, sprawled out on leather couches and the floor.
Something happened then; it was like we were under a spell of togetherness. Here we were, the best of friends, huddling around and banding together to tackle the flooding basement and the spooky noise of tree limbs creaking. We traded secrets and laughs, and gossiped for old times’ sake. There was limited hot water and offers of showers other places, but I couldn’t leave. It was like magic.
The mixture of apple cinnamon and floral scents coming from the candles began to give me a headache, and the lack of fan power made the parlor unbearably hot. The windows were opened, and the loud sound of the rain made it seem like we were in some remote cabin.
We joked about the Oregon Trail and who would survive as a pioneer. One roommate said she “was having Netflix withdrawals.” It was part giant sleepover, part camping and complete fun. A house-wide game of hide and seek was decided on. I declined, but it was highly amusing watching them tiptoeing around with flashlights and hearing screams of terror when someone was caught off-guard.
It was like we were kids again, a most welcomed distraction from the pressure of impending adulthood that will land on us—thud—after next week’s college graduation. We were carefree, slaphappy and giddy with laughter. It was an elusive and fleeting feeling, one that I wanted to fold up and tuck away forever.
After a quick shower by candlelight and a fruitless rummaging through the pitch-black closet, I read a magazine by flashlight before it began to flicker.
The sound of a chainsaw buzzing floated through the open window this morning, rousing me from a slumber. I removed my eye mask and sat up. (Yes, I am aware that the fact I sleep with an eye mask makes me a diva. Deal with it.) Still no power. The alarm clock was black, the fans still off. Crap.
It had been fun last night, running around and pretending to be a child. But now the pressures of responsibility were kicking in. There were documents to turn in, emails to send, and an iPhone monthly data allowance slowly counting down in the back of my mind. And as much as I hate to admit it, my life is almost entirely dependent on a fully functioning Wi-Fi connection.
So, I brushed my teeth in the dark, put on my favorite hat and drove to a coffee shop under the guise of a morning bagel and not to be an internet-sucking vampire.
Two hours later, I have had so much coffee that I am jittery, but I find myself lingering here, not wanting to go back. Because the worst part about this isn’t the lack of hot water or light or device-charging power; it is that no power = no coffee = grumpy Amanda. It’s my own personal example of the power of the transitive property of equality. (See? I did pay attention in Mr. Cool’s geometry class!)
As I walked to my car, I saw signs of the night before. Mugs and pizza boxes littered the living room, and candles were scattered on end tables. Couches were pushed together into a large makeshift bed for those too afraid to go upstairs. Nearly every window was open, and a cool breeze permeated the house, filling it with the smell of rain and a sense of calm. I took one last look around and headed to my car, avoiding the numerous branches on the ground.
Something as like a 12-hour-plus power outage presents a lot of lifestyle issues. However, despite all of these hindrances, this relative insignificant issue made for a perfect evening that I will never forget.
Omahans—did your power go out last night? Anyone else still without electricity? Have you ever had a fun evening powered by candlelight?