Sunday, July 21, 2002

Yesterday was an exciting and unusual day in New York. A transformer explosion at an East Side Con Edison power plant left parts of lower Manhattan without electricity for most of the day and evening. I found out about it while riding my bike through the Village, wondering why traffic was snarled up. When there's no power, the stoplights don't work, so drivers were on their own to stop for pedestrians crossing the streets. I managed to get dressed in the dark and found a nearby pet store that was still open so I could feed the cats. After that, I had to find a way to meet Liz in midtown, where there was power and she was shopping. Subways weren't running south of 34th Street, buses were packed, and while cabs were an option, traffic was so bad that it would have cost a fortune to go uptown. So, even though I'd already ridden about 25 miles on my bike and my legs were sore, I walked 40 blocks to 42nd Street to meet her. From there, we had a normal evening: dinner, a movie (Road to Perdition, which was excellent) and a stop at Starbuck's to keep cool. We also stopped to buy a spare flashlight, some candles, and batteries. I kept up with news reports on my Blackberry, and at 8 PM power was restored to about 15,000 customers. But we had to assume that we weren't among the lucky ones, and that we might be stuck overnight. At 10 PM we were at Starbuck's, where I was trying in vain to get my laptop to see the wireless network there. After 45 minutes of tweaks and tests, I had blown up the TCP/IP stack, so further attempts to connect and surf were futile. We caught a cab back to our apartment. To our weary joy, there were lights everywhere in the Village. Power for everyone! When we got home, we figured out from our clock that we'd had power since 8 PM. At least we've got the supplies in case there's another outage.

I would have posted this update last night, but as I was writing it, we had a series of brownouts that my computer didn't take well. The DSL was flaky too; probably the hardware at the central office was up and down for a few minutes. I opted to read a book instead, figuring that at least a book can't crash on you. It's all OK now, but I desperately need a UPS for the system now. Nothing like hearing your speakers make a loud buzzing noise while the lights dim to show you the necessity of steady electrical flow to an expensive computer. I'm going to have to endure the hardship of lugging a massive battery home on the subway tomorrow night. Poor me.

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