I was sound asleep when Steffie walked into the bedroom. She leaned down to wake me. I sprung up – as if I had been launched.
“The alarm is beeping,” she said.
I was groggy – after all, it wasn’t 10:00 AM yet. I walked down the hall to the panel for our alarm system. The LED readout and another light were flashing. From inside the box came, “beep.”
I turned to Steffie and asked if the power was out? I guess I wasn’t very lucid if I had to ask. It was off.
Back in high school I had a teacher, Mr. Temes, who complained that his Brooklyn neighborhood of Manhattan Beach was connected to the power grid by a piece of zip cord. It sometimes seems the same here.
We had been hit by moderately powerful thunderstorms overnight, with torrential downpours. But the power worked then. We didn’t lose the juice until it was sunny, dry and warm.
I reset the alarm system and went back to the bedroom. As I put my head on the pillow I stopped to listen to the silence.
We live in a world with so many little noises generated electrically that it’s easy to miss them. But you really do hear the difference when the power’s off.
Every electrical appliance with a transformer is vibrating a little when it’s plugged in. Refrigerators cycle their compressor on and off. The pump to pressurize our well water kicks in. There was nothing.
Well, actually, that’s not so. There was mostly nothing, punctuated by yet another beep every few seconds. Years ago we had bought a cordless phone with a great feature. So you don’t take it too far from its base, it beeps when it loses contact with the mother ship.
Every time the power fails, it beeps incessantly.
I was first made aware of the little noises we always hear when I read “The Year 1000: What Life Was Like at the Turn of the First Millennium : An Englishman’s World.” Robert Lacey, the author, talked about the things we’d notice that were different back then, and noise was high on the list.
Before I fell asleep I picked up my cellphone (which now works at home) and called Helaine. She was out shopping. We are so totally dependent on electricity that until recently neither of us carried a key to the house – depending on the garage door opener and then security system protected interior doors.
Luckily, before she returned the power problem was fixed. I knew it when I heard a small motor kick in and the sound of a little extra water streaming into our toilet’s tank.