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Addicted to power

-November 02, 2012

A post called “addicted to power” in November of an election year in the US might just be about the upcoming presidential election. But, this one is not. As my home state plunged into darkness, and, for some, terror, on Monday night, I am hit by how addicted we are to power.

Advances in electrical engineering have changed our lives forever. As we all clutched our smartphones in the dark over the past week, I was so grateful for the ability to send out quick texts to my loved ones up and down the eastern seaboard.. “U ok?” 
“Yes.” What a relief those three letters spelled. For many, home landline phones were ripped down, so those cellular base stations humming along on their automatic generators were a lifeline for those needing help, relief, or just a “voice” in the dark.

All across New Jersey, trees fell with reckless abandon. Cutting us off from communications and trapping us in our homes. As the trees get cut up and some power restored, we are now trapped by lack of gasoline. Not only are we unable to get to the gas stations, but, when we do (dodging death on roads with no traffic lights functioning), they frequently are either out of gas or cannot pump due to a lack of electricity. The truth of the matter is: our society is addicted to power.


Figure: A tree fell on my friend’s car parked in her driveway. Of course, the tank was completely full of gas as she heeded all pre-storm instructions. For those still waiting in line for hours to fill their red tanks with generator fuel, this would be a useful source!

Even when running on a generator, there is that nagging fear that it will somehow fail (ours did, but we got it back working), or you won’t be able to get fuel (my parents drove to Pennsylvania yesterday to get some). All because we need power. Yesterday, we got our power back, and our home was a welcome refuge for friends and family who needed a hot shower, a warm meal, and a place to charge their portable electronic devices.

Inventors and innovators of cell phone technology, thank you. I thank you for me and my friends and family who huddled in corners and basements with shingles ripping off, limbs hitting windows, rising waters, and a desperate fear for anyone who was not in the room with us. Thank you for that ability to text in the dark, “U OK?,” and get an immediate response.

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