It was a normal day in our household, if not a little busier than normal. As well as some dirty ones in the sink waiting to be cleaned, dishes in the dishwasher were to be put away. Nothing was ready for dinner, and a science fair to attend at the elementary school. No problem, we can get it all done when we get home, just in time to put the kids to bed.
At the elementary school, young children proudly displayed their science fair projects, younger siblings chased each other happily on the rare patch of grass in our desert community.
Then the lights went out. And they stayed out for two hours.
We had run out of milk, essential to a house with young children. We would have to do without it for the night—the few businesses we have here had all shut down due to the power outage.
The power outages in this area have become the norm. With ten outages in the past month, people don’t seem to be fazed by them. Some people have even taken to posting suggestions on the community Facebook page that we should enjoy the darkness, or explaining how this is somehow acceptable because we live in the desert. These are the same people who say we should be “grateful” that we have a post office in our town.
Except it’s not acceptable, and it’s not just in the desert of California that this is happening, far too frequently, with no weather events to justify it. A friend in Northern California has told me that it happens just as frequently up there.
It has been happening with disturbing frequency since we moved here in 2015. I distinctly remember one time, on the coldest day of the year, bundling my newborn up for the day while the electric company did “upgrades” to their equipment. I was only grateful that I did not have to rely on my breast pump at that time to feed my daughter. The outages continued, the “upgrades” did nothing to stop them. As miserable as it was, that day was nothing compared to the average 108 to 115 degrees of summer. When the power goes out then I am much less inclined to be grateful.
The electric company typically explains the outages by citing either wind, repair work or…no explanation at all. I have been in Florida during tropical storms with hurricane-force winds. The power has remained on. I have also been in Virginia during a snowstorm. The power has remained on. With the amount of “repair work” supposedly happening we should have the best electrical grid in the United States, if not the world. But the power outages still keep happening.
No one really questions it, except the ones who have lived elsewhere. The more-informed say everyone should call the California Public Utilities Commission and complain. My question: Is this not the same California Public Utilities Commission that very recently wanted to tax our text messages?
As one clever friend put it, at least the outages are preparing us to live in the post-apocalyptic world.
My more intellectual friends ask if it could be the inherent inefficiencies of a system run by socialists.
I guess I should be grateful that I’m not reliant on an oxygen tank for breath.
This article was first published in 2019.