The clock in Periodicals Acquisitions read 4:10 for at least forty minutes after that time actually passed. The news keeps saying the blackout happened about 4:15 locally, which just goes to show that our clock has been off. We hung out and talked in semi-darkness, waiting to hear what caused it and whether power would come back. Generators kept some emergency lights going, presumably kept the company webservers going so customers were never shut out. And I was pleased to notice that the magnetic strip thing that restricts access to some areas was still active. (Makes it sound like I'm important if I tell you that I have access to rooms that others in the company are not allowed to enter without permission, or that my title is "Periodicals Coordinator." Sounds like management, but I only coordinate periodicals, not people. And the place I get to go that others in the company can't go is the hard copy vault. Issues of Rolling Stone or Cosmo or Time would occasionally disappear if all 900 people in the building had access to the vault. And even that didn't keep issues of People and Playboy from walking away sometimes, so those get locked in cabinets.)

So anyhow, for the big Blackout of 2003, we got the word at about 4:50 that we could go home. "Company convenience pay" means we still get paid. I think? Have to call in to the bad weather/plant shutdown line tomorrow and see if they're going to be open. Luckily Jackson is just barely outside the blackout area, so we've had power all day and night. Melinda said it flickered a couple times at home but came back after a few minutes. It was spooky for a few minutes at work when people started passing rumors that the blackout covered Detroit and Washtenaw County, then they started saying the "Eastern Seaboard" which I thought meant the East Coast. Then again, NYC constitutes the only important part of the East Coast to some people, and the rest are just "flyover states." So I'm still not sure if they were inaccurate or if my understanding of the "Eastern Seaboard" is wrong.

I dug an old SR walkman out of my desk drawer, from ages past when I used to listen to tapes at work. The batteries barely had juice left, but I couldn't tell if the horrible reception was due to weak batteries, poor reception from the depths of the building, or if all radio stations within listening distance had been wiped out by the first strike of nukes, or the ElectroMagnetic Pulse! The only station I could get was playing NPR news, nothing about power outage at that time, and even the strongest signal from Ann Arbor 102.9 FM wasn't coming in clear. Then Melinda called and said Jackson still had power. And then everybody in the office was listening to my end of the conversation, so I got all self-conscious and said I should go and "I LOVE YOU!" and said bye. (People can't tease you for telling your wife "I love you" if you shout it in a tone like a big time wrestler announcing how he's going to crush his opponent. "You're goin down, Hogan! Say your prayers! Snap into a Slim Jim! I love you!")

Anyway, for a few minutes it seemed like the beginning of Night of the Living Dead, or that other disaster a few years back. Can I put some money on Policy Analysis Market for the chances of therapists in NYC being overrun by people with post-traumatic stress flashbacks in the next week or so?

Westbound I-94 was running slow, so I tried to get off at an exit and take the nearest large road running in the same direction. In hindsight, it was probably only running slow because of everyone freaking out at the exits and getting off. The secondary roads were slow because of the stoplights being off, so I probably should have kept to the highway. As it was, I went about five miles down the secondary road, then it crossed over the highway again, and I got back on because things seemed to be running almost normal. Traffic was fine from Chelsea to Jackson. At the grocery store in Jackson half an hour later, the cashiers weren't even aware of the whole story yet.

I tried to tell Melinda about what people are supposed to do during blackouts, you know, how there's always a mini baby boom 9 months after a major blackout because people have nothing better to do? But she said we have power because the tv is on. I slid the tv remote control down by my leg and hit the power button and said, "Whoa, there it goes! What will we do now? Let's go!" but the damn air conditioner was still on. I tried to convince her that air conditioners store built-up energy that they can run off of half hour after they've been unplugged, but she wasn't buying it.


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