Picture this: I'm sitting on the couch Saturday night, winding down after the longest game in World Series history, and the lights flicker, then die. Suddenly it's totally dark, and it seems quiet. Then I realize that the silence is an illusion. What I'm hearing is the proverbial dull roar. The wind is blowing so hard through the trees surrounding my house that it sounds like a train station.
The lights come back on, and I reset all the electronic clocks, on the VCR, the microwave, the answering machine. The computer reboots and warns me testily to shut it down properly next time, okay pal?
Just about as soon as I have all the clocks set, there's another shudder, but this time the power stays on. For about thirty seconds. Then it all goes off again, briefly. When the lights come back on this time, I wonder if I should even bother resetting the clocks, but after fifteen minutes it appears that all is well, so I do.
This scenario happens twice more before I learn my lesson.
Somehow it's gotten to be 3:30 in the morning when it all goes pitch black again. Since this has now been happening for a couple of hours, I decide to wait for the lights to come back. And I do. I wait and wait, until I come to the conclusion that I should find my flashlight and go to bed.
But I can't sleep. Can't watch TV, obviously. And the light from the flashlight is fading, so I'm not inclined to use it to try to read. After lying there for awhile, I doze off, but the wind is still roaring, and I'm awake again. I hear the windows rattling, and it sounds as if things are banging against them. I'm waiting for a limb to come through. I peek out on all sides of the house, but I can't see much. I can see the tops of the trees swaying violently.
After dozing for a while longer, I can't stand it. I grab the flashlight and find the phone book. The utility company has a toll-free number where you can report an outage. When I call the number, a recorded voice tells me my address and asks if it's correct. Yes, it is.
"PG&E is aware of your problem" --good-- "and is waiting for personnel who can trace the cause." Doesn't sound like much is going to happen at six o'clock on a Sunday morning, does it? "If you would like a wake-up call, press 1." No thanks, I'm already awake.
But I did sleep for a couple more hours, until I heard the fax machine turning itself on. Clock radio starts blinking "12:00". I lie around for an hour or so before getting up and setting all the clocks again. I open the drapes to survey the damage, but nothing stands out. I breathe a sigh of relief. It's the only deep breath I take all day, as the wind continues to blow. My eyes are burning and my head seems to weigh ten or twelve extra pounds.