Thursday, June 06, 2013

The morning the lights went out in Rexburg

Found this in the archives today. We had a power outtage one morning last winter, so I told my students I'd give them extra credit if they wrote a 250-word composition about their experience...poem, song, journal entry, personal essay, etc. I did the assignment myself, and it's not my best writing, but it's pretty fun. Enjoy!

(Also, on a completely unrelated note, I now have 400 followers! Thanks for reading, guys!)

6:30 am. This time yesterday, it was fifteen below zero outside. I rolled out of my warm bed, scurrying towards the shower…that shower that whispers to me every morning, “It’s all right. You’re safe. You’ll be warm again soon.” I flipped the light switch…nothing.

I checked the fuse-box. In an apartment one hundred years old, the electricity has been known to be faulty. Everything was fine. I walked to the window and pulled aside the curtain. Dark everywhere.

Yes. Yes yes yes, thank you, sweet loving powers that be. I crawled back into bed and snuggled up to my husband. “The power’s out,” I whispered.

He wrapped his arms around me. “What are you going to do?”

“Not have class, I think,” I replied.

It’s not that I don’t like teaching. In fact, I really love it. It’s just that I was so tired. And cold. And heck, I’m pretty sure those 26 freshmen would love to not have to go to a 7:45 class. I decided to wait until 7:15. If the power wasn’t on by then, I’d drive to campus and stick a note on the door. “Sister Chapman’s 7:45 class cancelled. Check e-mail for updates.” And then I would go back to bed again.

And okay, here’s my confession. I laid there in bed from 6:30 to 7:15, alternately sleeping and fervently praying that the power wouldn’t come back on. It was just so WARM in that bed. And cuddling is so AWESOME. And it was Monday, and I was so tired.

7:15 arrived. No power. Shout hallelujah.

As I got dressed, it occurred to me that I probably couldn’t cancel both the 7:45 AND the 9:00 class. That meant the classes would be off from each other. Maybe we’d have a zombie preparedness day or something in the other class—we joked about that on the first day. Just to catch everyone up. Or maybe I could just cancel it anyway. I was the TEACHER.

My phone buzzed. A text from an unknown number…one of those short 5-digit ones that send you coupons for Great Harvest and Costa Vida.


Shout hallelujah again. BOTH classes cancelled, and I didn’t even have to put a note on the door!

I began to climb back into bed, whispering prayers of gratitude to the higher powers, while my husband sleepily began dressing.

“Are you going to move the car?” I asked.

“No,” he replied. “I need to go to campus. I have to do homework.”

Lame. Cuddle-buddy gone. But I was staying in that bed. “Are you going to the BYU-I Center? Other buildings might not have power.”

“Yeah, I’ll stop by the Snow building first. Can I take the car?”

“Yeah, I don’t need it until later.”

I laid back in bed, throwing a quilt over the comforter as my husband left. I looked at my text messages again. “Come to campus for shelter.” I wondered how many people were over there. I had these images in my head of some post-apocalyptic crisis center being run on campus—people in layers of sweatshirts, wrapped in blankets, playing card games and drinking bottled water. I might be willing to get up to go hang out there, just to, you know, be a part of it. Unite with my fellow human beings over our crisis. Waiting to hear the news—good or bad, just tell me honestly.

Thinking about bottled water made me thirsty, so I hopped out of bed to get a drink. The water came out of the tap in uneven bursts, but I figured it’s too cold for any bacteria to live in and drank it anyway. Drink this, Chapman, I think. You must keep hydrated. Keep up your strength.

As I crawled back into bed, it occured to me that my husband and I are completely unprepared for any kind of emergency. As far as supplies go, at least. I think Jacob has a 72-hour kit that’s been sitting untouched in a storage closet for a year or so. We have a lantern. My rationale has always been that we’re poor college students in a 400 square-foot-apartment, but we could probably make room for some granola bars or something.

I made a note to add “granola bars” to my grocery list for later that day and slept for an hour more.

Around 8:30, Jacob called. His parents house had power, so he had gone there, and wanted to know if he should come get me too. I thought for a moment about the lack of breakfast foods in our house, and said yes.

It turned out school had been cancelled for everyone from here to Idaho Falls, so his sisters were home too. We spent the morning in our pajamas, singing show tunes while Jacob accompanied on the guitar. I ate my fill of eggs and toast and corn flakes. The power was back by 11 am or so.

It sounds silly. It probably even sounds a little selfish, but I can’t really write how grateful I am for this morning. I know hospitals and restaurants and other public places run some big risks during power outages. The power went out once while I was working at a Barnes & Noble in California, and there was this odd heightened awareness of everything that could go wrong without electricity. But sitting in my pajamas this morning, singing with my sisters and husband and brother-in-law, I was glad the power was out. Glad school was cancelled. Glad to have a place to go.

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