Where were you when the lights went out? In the Northeast, we were stuck in the dark. That afternoon, a relay in the Midwest tripped and sent a power spike east. As it cascaded from grid to grid, the lights went out.
I was living in a second floor apartment. Mr. and Mrs. C lived downstairs. We had kind of adopted each other. She was a great cook, and I was a great eater. They cooked, I fixed. They fattened me up, too. Broken vacuum cleaners, refrigerators, computers, dining room chairs… I even cold called by email potential Jdate women for one of their sons. He was going out with someone they didn’t like. “I’m a Lawyer who spends time in both Tampa and Upstate NY” So, Mr. C just had me email women in both places. He hovered over my shoulder dictating notes that I normally wouldn’t write to strangers. I certainly won’t write it to you.
He was very particular about the content, many times correcting my typing with some vinegar. I have to admit that I had fun at his expense, but just once or twice. His son collected sports memorabilia. Mr. C, not being a sporting man, didn’t approve of the hobby.
“Hey Mr. C, says here she likes the Buccaneers, what if we tell her ‘I sleep in Trent Dilfer’s jersey’”
“Is he a good player?”
“Went to the Super Bowl”
“OK, put it in”
I never heard back on that email, but their son did get rather mad whenever the subject of jdate came up. I just told myself that I was doing him a favor. He bought a lot of useless crap on Ebay. For all I knew, he did have a #12 jersey in his closet.
Ah, yes, the blackout. I’m a semper paratus kind of person, so I had a couple flashlights spread out by the time I heard the expected knock.
“Hey, Mrs. C, how are you doing?”
“Do you have a flashlight? This one’s dead.”
“Sure, I just took a couple out, take one of these”
She was looking at the fluorescent lantern on my coffee table. It was my favorite, but I gave it to her anyway.
“Hey, we’re going to get some ice cream, want to come?”
“Sure” We collected Mr. C, and got into their Corolla. That blackout had a strange pattern in my town. It didn’t affect everyone. One side of the street had power, the other side was dark. Luckily for us, the ice cream shop had power. The line was out the door. We waited our turn and got a round of blizzards. I started eating just a little too fast, and a big chunk of Oreo scraped the back of my tongue, lodging itself in my throat. I gagged and looked at the man behind the counter. I don’t know what he saw, but the expression on his face drove me staggering out the door into the parking lot. I could get maybe 10% of the air I needed past the cookie. I could feel it wedged in there. I tried to break it up by chopping my Adam’s apple. All that did was knock the shallow breath out of me. I made it back to the Corolla and slumped on the roof to catch my breath.
“The door’s unlocked, get in, we’ll turn on the AC.”
I looked at her and made a choking sign.
As she came around the car, I tried looking straight up. I was trying to make myself sneeze in a street light. That did it, the cookie must have turned, or broken, because a flood of fresh air followed it into my grateful lungs. Mrs. C was just in time to hit me in the back as hard as she could.
I’ll admit that I’ve barfed in a couple parking lots, but this was the first time with cookies and a grandmother.
We spent the rest of the night huddled in front of my lantern talking about modern life. I heard more than one “back in my day” stories. It was comforting, and I didn’t dwell too much on my close call. I suppose that’s why it doesn’t hold much power over me. I don’t think about it when I eat Blizzards. As I said before, I’m a good eater.