Sunday, November 20, 2011
The day was Thursday, August 14, 2003. The weather was perfectly fit to go to the beach. My mom was off running errands while I was in my room watching old re-runs of Roseanne and my little brother, that was five at the time, was playing in his room. 4:10 PM struck (Eastern Standard Time) and all there was, was silence. The chatter from the idiot box wasn't stirring. The mellow roar of the electricity wasn't buzzing. It was silent and it demanded our attention. I didn't think much of the electricity failure seeing as how black and brown outs were common in my neighborhood. Keeping in mind that I had to start getting ready for work at 4:30 PM, I patiently waited for the subtle roar of the electricity to claim it's presents once again. But there was none. I decided to get myself in the shower giving myself a head start on my pre "going to work" preparations.
After getting out of the shower I headed back to my room to continue with my personal hygiene routine to prepare for my 5:00 PM shift at Meijer (grocery store). The bedroom window was wide open letting in the gustily light breezes of the mildly warm day. While I was preparing for my evening departure, I heard "Yeah yeah yeah, man. I just heard on the radio that there's a power outage that stretches all the way up to Canada!...". My ears were insulted. I was in disbelief as I listened to my across the street neighbor talk to my next door neighbor about the days events. In the matter of seconds I came to the realization of my reality as I heard the radio waves seek into my Caress wild berry body spray scented room. By the sounds of the lingering disconnected silence, conversations could be heard throughout the neighborhood.
Once my mom returned to care for my brother, I loaded myself into my candy apple colored 1989 Geo Spectrum, I so proudly named Georgia, and drove my two mile drive to 13 Mile and Little Mack. During the duration of my two mile drive, I couldn't believe what I seen before me. Every major street corner I took a gander at was voided of its monotonous tri-colored light signals and replaced with enforcement officers. The streets were packed with observers and everyone the like. There was no optimism in my mind. The world was going to end.
Much to my surprise, the grocery/department store was packed with people from the neighborhood and others that drove in far from Detroit and of various suburbs of Detroit. If there was an "Everybody and their mama!" moment, this was it. The big one. The apocalyptic shopping trip. One that I wasn't prepared for.
The store was running on two power generators. At my 18 year old age, I can admit that I didn't even remotely know what they were or what they did, but by the end of my five hour shift, I got to know what the two power generators did very well.
There were crowds of people in every corner of the cookie cutter box shaped store. The lines stretched far beyond the "three people per line" capacity. The lines of customers were so long that they no longer resembled lines anymore, but of one big mass that never stopped short of growing. A humans will to live is truly a remarkable thing. All of a sudden, little things like money and objects lost their appeal. The value was solely placed on food and water. And suddenly, the instinct to live kicked in. I saw the desperate look of survival in the eyes of many.
Surpassingly enough, the crowds of people matched with the limitless merchandise of the giant grocer seemed to transcend smoothly only until the first power generator failed just short of sun set. One generator was all we had to carry us through the 24 hour retailer store hours. During some point after the first generator failed, people started to freak. Me? I was practically sitting back enjoying the show. I find human behavior fascinating. One of our cashiers took it upon herself to climb her hefty ass up on her register and started yelling at the crowds of people to calm them down. Management wasn't doing much to keep the crowds tamed, so us in Department 40, had to do what had to be done, even if it took a little gusto on our parts. We had to do it. Throwing bows and all. Working the front end of a grocery store isn't all glitter and unicorns. Having balls is a requirement not and option.
Right after 9:00 PM, the second generator failed and it was every male, woman and child for their self. In the moon light that was dimly shinning into the large window walls overlooking the registers, I observed the civilized becoming very uncivilized. During the last stretch of this fiasco, management decided to start giving out flashlights. I ceased the moment and took the most expensive flashlight I could identify. The aluminum coated flashlight, fitted with two heavy double D sized batteries with a comfortable red and black silicone button to push for luminous pleasures screamed out to me like it, itself was afraid of the dark. The heavy smooth coated expensive device came equipped with a rope for easy hanging. I'm not 100% positive if the staff could take the flashlights home with them. But as I fast forward throughout these eight years I see that, that wasn't my concern considering how I still have that flashlight with the original batteries. Still works!
I walked towards my hoopty along with my co-workers. Among my co-workers was one of my bestest friends, Hasani. I didn't have time for lollygagging. My goal was to make it home quick! The mood of the town was like being in a basement with only the residual lights of the upstairs shining in from under the door. Drving down Gratiot Avenue (GRASH-it) I found only myself and the stars above me. I drove the speed limit all the way up to 15 Mile Road and Willis to stop by my Nana's house before going home to see what everyone was up to. When I pulled into the pebble lined driveway, I observed the heavy candle light glow emerging from the brick glass of the dining room. I listened to the voices from across the street at the Oxford Square town homes where I spent most of my childhood. The heat and humidity we dealt with that night wasn't fit for anyone without electricity. People were camping outside as if we were in a third world country.
After leaving from my Nana's house, I drove up four blocks to my house where my mom and brother were. I don't know how they did it, but they were fast asleep. I cuddled up near my open bedroom window to keep cool during the very warm and very humid starry night. I imagined what my boyfriend, whom I'll refer to as Andrae for this blog post, was doing . We hadn't spoke since before the power failure. And seeing as how cell phone signals were down, we didn't speak for the duration of the day. I sprawled out across my bed and dosed off to the sounds of crickets and distal conversations.