This past Sunday morning, the power went out here on outer Linebrook Road in Ipswich, striking fear into hearts.
I revere the folks who run our Town power system — as long as I’ve lived in Ipswich, they’ve been quick to respond to any and every problem — but still.
When the power goes out, I confess to a flicker of fear.
I think it’s just because we’re so far away.
We live so far west in town, our neighborhood is informally known as P.B.: Practically Boxford. We’re out here beyond Marini Farm, beyond Route 1, out in the wilderness, where lost hikers occasionally stumble onto Hood Pond, believing they’re the first to discover it. Some have never been heard from again.
So there’s a certain sense of risk, of menace, living out here in the backwoods of Ipswich. When the power goes out, a niggling little question flits through the brain: Back in Ipswich proper, at the Utilities Department — will they remember us? Will we get power again anytime soon? And, more to the point, Should I start eating all this stuff in my fridge?
It should be noted that, in my experience, we have never suffered really long-term power outages in the Outer Linebrook area. Even in the most ferocious storms, the workers have mounted herculean restoration efforts. I have only once resorted to baking potatoes in my fireplace. (After which, I bought a generator — which of course re-ordered the universe so that I have never again needed a generator.)
Still, a power outage is an inconvenience. A frustration. An annoyance. There’s the inevitable cascade of First World problems.
- The automatic coffeemaker, which I meticulously set up the night before, doesn’t start up as scheduled.
- I can’t switch to hot chocolate because the microwave and electric stove are both dead. Neither of them will tell me the time anymore, either.
- To drive to Cumby’s for coffee, I have to yank the garage door up by hand, which deeply wounds my pride.
- My modem is lifeless, my WIFI is gone, my cable is worthless.
- Soon, my laptop’s battery will be drained; my phone’s as well. What will I do when I can’t check my Stop Bruni Project app? Especially the feature displaying the number of citizens opposed to building Bruni World — gah! I’m addicted to watching the surge in real-time.
With electrical powerlessness linked to such a cavalcade of catastrophe, there’s a natural impulse to pray to the Ipswich Utilities Department: Please, please, Beings On High, remember us, and have mercy on us, even us lowly ones, here in the outer darkness.
Certainly, if there’s even a smidgen of power left in your phone, you can call (978) 356-6640 and a friendly Town employee will take note of your dilemma, and your address, and let you know whether any of your neighbors have likewise reported an outage. If, however, you didn’t plug in your phone at bedtime, prayer is all you’ve got.
Meanwhile, you’re left to wonder how widespread this outage may be. It’s difficult to rein in a feeling of panic when you think about what disasters could ensue back there, to the east of Outer Linebrook, in civilization.
There could be chaos at the entrance to the Y, under the darkened traffic light, as dozens of drivers being nice refuse to turn, and dozens more refuse to go until they do.
Clam shacks could be falling silent all over the Cape Ann area. At this very moment, desperate Clambox employees could be building a woodfire under the fryer to get the oil sizzling again.
Actually, as I write this, I’m sitting in the front seat of my tiny electric car, charging my laptop off the car battery. But soon, even this makeshift power source will be tapped out. I do hope to get this column posted, somehow.
Oh, wait. The garage door just went up.
Geez, people, what were you worried about? The Ipswich utilities gods always come through.
Doug Brendel lives so far west in Ipswich, from his backyard he can see Russia. Follow Doug into his weird world via DougBrendel.com.