I never understood the zombie apocalypse until this week. Let me back up a day or two. I live out in the wilds of California—and by that I mean in Santa Rosa, a city of 175,000 people. Pacific Gas & Electric have decided that during high-fire risk weather they will turn off the power. I won’t get into the debate about the ‘power shut-off’ but I do want to explain what it means.
No power for those with medical issues, means relying on batteries. No power for small business means no cash flow, loss of inventory, potential for theft or break-ins and regular customers going elsewhere. No power for a single mom may mean no childcare. No power for those with a well, like us, means no running water. No power means gas stations are closed. No power means food service is limited, grocery stores that don’t have generators are closed, and restaurants are closed. Last week one of the hospitals was running on generators. Last week if you worked at business that was closed, your paycheck shrunk.
For the regular family, the new day-reality is: ice, batteries, and a gas-powered generator if you have one. Otherwise stay and hunker down in your house, go to work if you can, or flee.
Playing the ice and refrigerator game is not fun. The goal is to not open the fridge or freezer. So you live out of coolers filled with ice. The dry ice blocks harken to the days of having the ice man cometh. Life is either analog or battery driven. The day revolves around how much charge you have left and where to go to plug things in. The traffic lights are out. All intersections become stop signs. So like the six-lane intersections are four-way stops. You imagine police officers directing traffic? Nope.
It’s damned weird to be in a city without power. It’s like the zombie apocalypse without zombies. Driving around during the day is one thing, but with the power out at night, it becomes surreal. I have never before felt the eeriness of driving city streets with dark houses on each side, no streetlights, the occasional flashlight beam, and little huddles of people. I drove defensively, expecting pitchforks and shovels to pummel the car at any moment. I watched for the horde. I made it home alive, but it was the kind of experience that make you not want to repeat it—ever. But guess what? We’ll likely get to do it over this weekend and with the extra bonus of smoke-haze pollution and ash showers. So, now the random people on the streets will be wearing face masks…