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Tag Archives: New York Blackout 2012
I invoke the #Sandy card here. I did not edit this closely (or really at all) in my rush to get back downtown, so please excuse any typos you see!
I did not think it was going to be a big deal.
“I mean, Long Island and New Jersey always get slammed. And in New York, we’re like, ‘Tra la la.’” That was my party line up until Monday evening, as I cozied up inside my apartment with my roommate to work from home, furiously tapping away on my laptop. I mean, New York City is a giant rock. We don’t have power lines or trees, just a bunch of asphault and big building built to a stringent code.
Around 9:30 pm, a friend who lives in the East Village (and lucky for him was in Utah for the week) G-chatted me. “Just saw a video of a transformer by my apartment blowing up.”
And then, the lights blinked off. E and I stared at each other. “Uh oh.”
I still didn’t care, though. I mean, just an excuse for a party! I scrounged up some beers from the back of my fridge, grabbed my camera and a wind-up flashlight and we headed down to the lobby. The hot Irish maintenance guy was there, chatting in his brogue, along with our trusty doorman. It wasn’t even raining outside, so we headed out into the streets so I could take pictures, until a gust of wind almost knocked us over and we rushed back inside.
We climbed back upstairs and paused at the fourth floor when we heard voices, and found a neighbor standing in her hallway. We stopped to talk to her for awhile. Another girl popped her head in from the stairway. “Party in the lobby?” she asked. We agreed, and walked up and down the hallways, yelling, “Party in the lobby!”
Fifteen minutes later, we were in the lobby, which was filled with candles and glowsticks, playing catchphrase with our neighbors, eating freshly baked cookies from a neighbor and drinking beer. When we got kicked out of the lobby for being too loud, we all headed up to my apartment. I lit candles and tea lights and crowded them onto every available surface, and the eight of us talked and played games like Mafia until three in the morning, when everyone reluctantly went to bed.
OK, seriously, it’s not funny anymore.
The next morning I woke up with a start at 8:30. Still no power? Still no power.
And here we are, three days later. We have no water, so I show up to my neighbors with a toothbrush and a bucket to fill so I can flush our toilet. In the morning there’s a mass exodus to the north, professionals slogging thirty blocks or more to the land of electricity and corporate buildings, clustered around locked-up Starbucks trying to catch a wifi signal. I show up early at my friends’ apartments on the Upper East or Upper West Side, clutching my laptop for work and a toiletry bag. They take me in, let me shower and feed me food and wine. But it’s hard to concentrate on my work, as other refugees show up to take showers, cook up the food in their fridge before it spoils, drink, play video games and just take a stay-cation from work.
It used to be tres uncool to live above 30th Street. Now it’s the place to be.
I have nothing to complain about of course. My home isn’t underwater. I had food to eat and place to stay. Heck, I have a doorman! So I hope this doesn’t come off as flippant. This is just what I see and what I do personally.
At night I head back downtown, descending into the dark forest below 40th Street. Look up at the apartment buildings and a grid of black windows stare back, with every tenth one glowing, flickering gold. The sky above is a muddy pink and the sidewalks light up white from the passing remaining cabs that weren’t drowned, buses packed so full with people they can’t close their doors, a rig hauling generators, bouncing flashlights and the blue and red strobes of police SUVs.
At first I was annoyed by the constant sirens passing day and night. “What are all these emergencies?” I wondered. But then I realized that there weren’t that many emergencies. The cop cars just cruise around, flicking their sirens on and off. Their “woop woops” are them saying, “We’re here, we’re here. Your safe.” Silence, as we hide in our dark apartments, would be worse.
I think a lot about whether I feel safe. And I do. I’m grateful to the doormen, who drive into the city early in the morning to beat the carpooling restriction, and guard our lobby through the night from passing homeless people who want to set up camp in our lobby. I’m grateful to the maintenance guy, who taped glowsticks down the hallway in and the stairwell like airplane emergency lights. My mother asked me if people were looting. No, at least not in Manhattan (a little in Coney Island). We’re not angry or desperate, just inconvenienced and tired.
When I get home at night, my neighbors K and C come knock on my door. I light tea lights and set them all over my apartment, pour wine or champagne and we play cards and Bananagrams, or just sit and talk. We don’t check our phones or the internet. We’re there, with each other, like when you were at summer camp as a kid. We just met Monday, and we’ve hewn together as close friends in just three days. We know all about each others’ families and relationships and weird neuroses. I don’t mind the blackout then.
But in the morning, when I wake up shivering, having to pee, mouth sticky and hankering for toothpaste, and strategizing how I will get to electricity, I hate it. It’s like camping in my own apartment without the fun. I want to leave the city, but I know as of yesterday trains weren’t even running. There’s no gas anywhere around the city for cars, and travel out of airports is a nightmare. So I’m still here.
Hopefully Con Edison will make good on their promise to have electricity up by 11 p.m. on Saturday. Until then, you can find me cooking vegetables on my gas stove by candlelight.