I was in line at Costco the other day, with stuff in my cart, along with many other people in line. Some people had their carts full and I had to chuckle at all of us. It had only been a few days since the holidays, after all the shopping hubbub, and here we were, back at the store again. Obviously, our life-sustaining supplies had run out and we were all scraping by. That’s amazing, considering that a few days previous, we had so much food around that we didn’t know what we were going to do with it.
You may sense a bit of sarcasm. That’s because I have enough food in my pantry to live on for months, but for Pete’s sake! If you get a craving for Costco’s vanilla ice cream (which is divine!) or you can’t live without a rotisserie chicken, then it’s worth the arduous 9-minute drive. Actually, only 4 minutes for me.
I admit it, many of us are a pampered bunch. We live very differently than people lived 100 years ago, or even 30 years ago. Inventions and innovations have made us a society of convenience. For those of us who reside in cities, there are stores all around us. We don’t even need to go to a store. We can get on the internet and have products, and even food delivered right to our door. Some people can even just speak to a box named Alexa and order things.
We have forgotten how to be self-reliant. When there is an electrical power outage the stores are full of people, and the shelves are soon empty. Power outages are good reminders and good drills. We have all experienced them from time to time and they can be inconvenient, but rarely are they more then just a few hours. One time we experienced one for 10 days.
When our kids were young, we lived in a little mountain town in the Sierra Nevadas. The town was at the bottom of two mountains and separated by two rivers and the roads were twisty and on big ravines. It was remote, and in the winter it would snow. This one particular storm took out some power lines which resulted in the power being out. As usual, we joked about it and presumed that it would be out for hours. We were fortunate because we had a wood burning fireplace, so we were able to keep warm, by closing a few of the rooms and living mostly in the family room with the fireplace. We also heated up pans of chili and soup on the fireplace. Hours turned into days, and because of the snow, people were unable to leave the area to get to stores 30 minutes away and trucks were unable to bring food to the town. The little local market was empty. We stored our food from our fridge and freezer in the snow. Fortunately, it was a close-knit community and people helped those around them and made sure everyone was warm and fed. A few days turned into a week and a week into 10 days. Not all of the food could be cooked on a fireplace, plus the food was defrosting faster than we could eat it. We shared as much as we could but we did some lose food.
The good things that came out of this was according to the kids, it was an adventure! We would use lanterns and flashlights in the evening. We told stories and played games and of course, there was no TV. We gathered together in the family room and spent time together. We learned that we could make it on the basics and we were forced to slow down. True, after about day 5, it wasn’t as much fun, as laundry piled up and food went bad, but fortunately we have always tried to have extra food on hand for such an emergency. After that, from time to time, my husband and I would scheme, and he would trip the breaker and we would moan, “Oh no, the power is out!” The kids would then cheer, we would get the lanterns and flashlights out and we would have a fun change of routine, for that evening.
We can drink pre-bottled water, eat pre-peeled oranges, stay in our cars while we bank, microwave premade meals and do just about anything on our phones, which do more than a computer from the 1990’s could do. We can start up our cars with a push of a button, wash our hair with waterless shampoo, clean our floors with a small robotic cleaner, and in the summer turn on our automatic sprinklers. We should have so much time on our hands, that it’s ridiculous. We all should, but we don’t. We are busier than ever and life is not simpler. But once in a while, we need to bring the simplicity back. I think that’s why people love camping so much, it’s simplicity and where you make do and it’s all right, because you’re all together… and maybe that is why we loved short power outages. We look back on those times with fondness. They are sweet memories and all the trips in the world to Costco can’t replace that.