Friday, June 12, 2009

I Sing the Job Non-Electric

Two jobs, two days in a row.

June 10: son is at his supermarket job, power goes out. Just what happens when a modern supermarket loses power? Think about it. Electric doors, electronic cash registers tied into computers/ scanners, freezers, refrigerators, air conditioners, misters for the produce,electronic customer-service produce scales printing produce price tags.

In the case of this particular supermarket, they have a back up generator, enough to run the cash registers and other necessities. Otherwise, they might have had to turn the customers away. Luckily, the outage lasted only a couple of hours.

This is a far cry from my childhood, where they would have been able to convert an electric cash register to using a crank. With the prices being stamped on each item, it would have been warm and inconvenient but not critical-until the frozen foods started to melt, anyway.

June 11: I am at my office job, we are experiencing a downpour, suddenly the lights blink and go out. The lights go out along with our computers, and our Internet-serviced telephones. Part of the building is out and part isn't, so our IT department tells everyone to turn their computers and surge protectors off. So we sit and wait as the electric company is called. The rumor is that the power failure is confined to our building. That seems to be true, as there is a baseball stadium near our office, and (a game was in progress) their field lights are on.

The call center near where I sit, well, there are no phone calls. And if customers were calling, they would have been out of luck because our reps wouldn't have had computers or scanned electronic records to service them with. Back at my desk, there is my work, which has suddenly turned into non-work. My job, which was mainly paper years ago, is almost totally e-mail and Internet based now. Even my research, which used to be conducted out of books, is now done on online databases. What we are left with is a whole lot of dead time. Luckily, in my department we have other work we can turn to and we do.

Apparently a squirrel caused this outage, and paid for it with his life.

After about an hour the IT people come by, announcing we can power back up. The socializing ends and back to work we all go.

The power failure scenario is so familiar. I am a "survivor" of the Great Northeast Blackout of 1965, which taught me (at age 12) what happens when the power goes out in November, and you live on the 4th floor of an apartment building. (no water. no elevator. no heat.) Luckily that one lasted, for my neighborhood, only 12 1/2 hours.

I escaped the Great Northeast Blackout of 2003 only because we were on vacation at the time and driving into the driveway of an Iowa relative just about the time it happened. We were in Toledo, OH only a couple of days after their power was restored. My boss was in Toronto and was without power for three days in the middle of a heat wave. And so it goes.

But have we learned anything from these and other blackouts? Have we really?

The two incidents bring right back-just how fragile our life style is.

It can, and will, happen again. And not just for an hour or two.

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