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Monday, November 27, 2006

Blackout

So there I was last night, minding my own business, watching my DVD of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. The movie came out a year ago and the DVD came out eight months ago, but this is the first time I've sat down to actually watch it. Granted, I read the book the week that it came out and I've reread it several times since then - it's my favorite of the Harry Potter stories, so I know it pretty well.

I must say I was a little disappointed by a few things in the movie. The Quiddich World Cup, which should have been the Podrace of the Harry Potter series, was reduced to little more than a minute of the opening ceremonies. (The aftermath, with the Death Eaters on a rampage through the field of tents, was much cooler than I imagined it - not a bunch of high-spirited bad guys out for a lark, but actually a scary, scary scene of wizard terrorists letting loose.) Mad-Eye Moody is neither as old nor as grizzled nor as curmudgeonly as I imagined him - still, knowing what is to come, he is being played exceptionally well. (There's a reason I'm using the present tense.)

On the plus side, Cedric Diggory is fleshed out very nicely, and is less of a non-entity than he was in the book. Barty Crouch Senior is well-played, and the flashback scene in the Pensieve was great. I'm still having a hard time with Dr. Who playing Barty Crouch Junior. I suppose a lot of people have a hard time watching Barty Crouch Junior play Dr. Who!

Anyway, like I said, there I was at 11:00 last night, minding my own business and watching my DVD. Cedric and Harry had both touched the TriWizard Cup (dammit, lady, Harry Potter and the Doomspell Tournament was a much cooler title, you should've stuck with that) and found themselves transported to a graveyard where a tombstone prominently bore the name RIDDLE. Suddenly the lights went out. The TV winked off.

Then the lights came on, the TV winked back into existence, and the movie kept on playing.

Then off, on, off again. By this point I was desperately trying to power things off manually. What the hell was going on?

The lights! We had put some lighted decorations outside - two tiny Christmas trees, one on either side of the front door - and they must have shorted out and were about to burn the house down!

On again, off again, this time for good. Could I find the circuit breaker box in the dark? Should I grab a flashlight first?

No. There was no light coming in from the street. This wasn't just us.

I maneuvered through the darkened house to the front door and looked out. The street was dark. Already I could see flashlight beams playing across the fronts of other houses. I grabbed a flashlight and joined the fun.

A note on flashlight etiquette: When holding a conversation with someone in total darkness, it is bad form to shine a flashlight directly in their face when they are speaking. After I had this done to me several times, I took to shining my own flashlight in my face when I spoke. This way I could avoid blinding myself and could create those cool spooky special effects that you get with a flashlight under your chin.

We quickly established that the power was out in the entire neighborhood and at least for several blocks around. Based on the lack of skyglow, I estimated (wrongly) that all of Nanticoke was without power. Fortunately it was a warm night - I have some experience with how quickly the temperature can drop in a house without a furnace when it is freezing outside. Stopping first to "loan" some D batteries to an impecunious neighbor with a year-old child, I hopped in my car to survey the extent of the darkness.

I drove a mile west across town to my house where the battery-operated candles gave a cheerful, powered-up appearance to the place. (Some people assumed incorrectly that my mom's house had power, for the same reason.) But just a block south of my house the lights were on - streetlights, house lights, Christmas lights, everything. A block further west all the lights were out, and from the top of a hill I could see that the outage stretched two more blocks south and one more block west. I turned north and drove three more blocks to find streetlights and houselights on. Driving further north into Nanticoke's downtown revealed a sea of light - the blackout had not affected this part of town at all.

I drove east along Main Street back towards my mother's house. Blocks to the south appeared dark, but that could have simply been from a lack of lights, not a lack of power.

Finally I turned south again and headed for home - my mom's house, that is. The blacked-out region did not start until only two blocks from our house.

OK. It wasn't everybody. It was only about half of Nanticoke. But why? And was something being done to fix the problem?

After a half hour of waiting on hold on a cell phone on our utility company's emergency number, my mom managed to get through to report the issue. She was told that a car had hit a utility pole and knocked out the power. A crew was on the way to assess the situation. Super.

The power finally came back on at 1:43 in the morning. I'm not sure what woke me up - maybe it was the clock radio flashing to life, maybe it was the sudden resumption of the almost subsonic hum that permeates the house. But it was back. Hooray.

Now I can watch the rest of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and see how it ends. Not that I don't already know damn well how it ends. I'm just glad to have electricity again!

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