Uh, what happened to the lights?
It was Thursday around 4:15 PM and I’d finally made some progress on the VB Web Service client I was writing. I remember Alt-Tabbing to my trace utility and just as the window painted itself everything electric in my apartment blinked off. When we lived in Queens blown fuses were a pretty common event, so I assumed that something had blown a fuse in my apartment. I cracked open Moneyball (the book I was just about to finish) and read for about half an hour in the silence. At that point I finished the book, so I decided to put on some pants
and take a look outside.
The hallway outside of my apartment has no windows so the hallway was pretty dark even thought it was pretty early. At that point I figured that the problem must be effecting the whole building, so I took the stairs down to the lobby. About ten of my neighbors had already gathered and it was then that I realized something really out of the ordinary had happened. Flo, one of the super nice people who work in our lobby, told me that we were experiencing a blackout and that she’d heard it was effecting all of New York.
I tried to call Sarah, but my cellphone wasn’t getting any signal. I tried using the payphone in our lobby, but couldn’t get through to Sarah’s office or cellphone. I had the feeling that I should be doing something, but I wasn’t quite sure what that would be. So, I grabbed the latest issue of ESPN the magazine and stood in front of the building hoping for news. Eventually I ambled down to the corner where a small group of people were huddling around a little portable radio. So it turned out the entire eastern seaboard was without juice and (to my great relief) they didn’t think it was terrorist related. Some good samaritans took over the task of directing traffic at 86th and columbus.
Sarah got home shortly after that, and as usual brought the brains back to the operation. She wanted to get batteries, food and water so we split up with me joining the line outside of Radio Shack, and her heading to the local Gristedes. Radio Shack was letting people in two at a time, and by the time I made it to the front of the line they were out of D batteries and flashlights. I bought some triple As and some Cs and ran the hell out of there as it was about 120� in the store. On my way back to the apartment I stopped at the pizza place (I’m guessing half of the people in NYC had pizza for dinner that night), where the guy was nice enough to let me get a pie and some beers even though I was a few dollars short.
At that point I was officially broke. I’m an ATM addict, I carry very little money and just get cash as I need it. I mean, there are ATMs everywhere now a days…what could happen? So anyway, lesson learned, we’re going to be keeping an emergency cash fund in the apartment going forward.
Sarah returned from her shopping expedition and we stood around downstairs not sure what to do to kill the time. Phil showed up and we decided to
go “Wilding” have some drinks in the park. While sitting on a bench near the Great Lawn, Phil and I told Sarah stories about the old New York and how people reacted to crises in those days. I wasn’t even born during the
last blackout, but I know that even in the early ninetines people didn’t need a lot of excuses to lose their minds. When I used to spend my days and nights holding up a street light on St. Marks street kids would come by “Wilding” once in a while, although they never bothered my friends and I. Nowadays, people seem much more positive while at the same time jaded. They make the best of things because they expect unfortunate stuff to happen, which is really a strength.
It was already getting dark at that point, and the mosquitoes seemed to be especially active, so we headed back towards the apartment after only half an hour or so. Lori arrived just as we got to the front door, and we decided to take a little tour of our now pitch black neighborhood. I must have been a little lax on my flashlight duties and we nearly walked right on top of a huge cockroach about ten feet from our doorway. Sarah glared at me and snatched the flashlight out of my hands.
The four of us walked down Broadway until about 66th street just observing and exchanging friendly glances with our neighbors. I took a bunch of pictures of dark streets, the local falafel guys using their van as a street light, and a ton of other cool stuff almost none of which turned into usable photos.
On the way back up to the apartment we stopped to cool off in a neighborhood fountain. After a few minutes a cute little girl walked up to me and spit water from the fountain at me. We knew it was time to go home…once we did get back to the apartment we fell asleep pretty quickly. Maybe it was the candlelight, or just the adrenaline wearing off.
Well, that’s my story. Most of my pictures didn’t come out and I’m a crappy writer, so check out Gothamist’s Blackout Special or the Blackout moblog if you want some quality coverage. Chris has some cool pics of downtown, Morgan used the blackout to relive his college all-nighters and John Wehr has the kind of post I wish I had written with some pretty cool pix.
Now I need to find a digital photography class…