Monday, December 29, 2008

Plan for a Holiday Blackout

1. The blue flashlight is in the second drawer of the hallway closet. There is also a yellow flashlight there which you bought when you forgot that you already had one.

2. Using either the blue or the yellow flashlight, find your way downstairs to the kitchen cupboards and locate the matches and candles you bought during the last blackout. Since that happened several years ago, you are not entirely sure which cupboard to look in, but you have faith that the matches and candles are still there. Unless you moved them, in which case you're in trouble.

3. Which to light: the tea lights or the tall, thin candles from the variety store? The tall candles need to be anchored to saucers with wax and you do not trust them; they totter and could start a fire. And you have very few clean saucers. But the tall, thin candles are much brighter than the more stable tea lights.

4. Once the candles are lit, turn the flashlight off. You may need it again and it's easier to manage in an emergency. What if you need to shine light into a corner? What if you need to run? Play it safe and use candles whenever you can.

5. When you enter a room, flick the light switch and be surprised when nothing happens. Realize that you've never noticed which of your switches were installed upside down.

6. Stand at the window and watch the savage snow and wind. Remark at the lack of streetlights and the cars that creep uncertainly. When you remark on these things you are speaking to an empty, dark apartment, except for the shadow which creaks in other rooms and which used to be your cat.

7. Fetch sweaters for warmth. The furnace is off. Do not sit too close to the candles. Put on slippers.

8. Give up all attempts to read during candlelight. This is why people went to bed so early in the 18th century. You cannot think of a single productive, solitary, modern thing to do by candlelight. Our ancestors had different eyes than we do.

9. Pile the extra blankets on the bed and try to sleep. Your nose is cold and you can barely breathe from the pressure of so many coverlets. The cat is desperate to join you. Listen to gusting wind, rattling the windows and ringing the chimes. Drift off to each lull and wake each time your apartment shakes.

10. Hours later, jump up in shock when the lights come on.