Monday, October 14, 2013


It was a tree branch?! Seriously?

Remember August 14th, 2003?

That day, I woke up and debated which shoes to wear, the cute pointy ones or the practical flat ones. My guardian angel must have been whispering because I picked the flat comfortable ones. That afternoon I had a doctor's appointment somewhere way out in Scarborough, so I left the office early and got on the subway. I had transferred from the subway to a bus about five minutes before we started noticing that traffic was suddenly insane, and that all the traffic lights were off. Then I saw that the big box stores (Scarborough! yuck!) were all closed early.

Still didn't realise what was really going on until I got to the doctor's office and the building was shut and all the lights off. Some people were clustered around a van listening to the radio. That was when we learned that the lights were off on the whole right hand side of the continent.

Believe me, some thoughts about the end of the world and the post-apocalyptic movies I'd seen flashed through my mind.

Still, if civilisation were going to collapse, best that I be at home, so I started the long trek back across the city. Got a diesel bus back down as far as Bloor street at Pape station, but after that, had to join the throng heading out of the city on foot. And yes, people were standing in the middle of intersections directing traffic. A guy came out of his shop at one point when I was sitting having a rest, and handed me an ice cream bar. Others were selling bottles of water from ice chests for a greatly inflated price.

It took me about three hours to get home, including a stop at a pub to use the loo, feeling my way to the back of the place in the pitch dark. When I got home, I found all was pretty calm. I sat on the front porch, catching the last of the evening light, reading my book and waiting for my roommates. I put a bunch of the perishables into the freezer and made some dinner by candlelight.

A friend from work stopped by, saying she'd been dispatched by our office manager to see if we were OK over at Muggeridge Manor. They were worried in the office because they'd tried to phone, but, though the phone lines were still working ours was off. It was because our phone was a cordless and needed electricity (this was before every human was issued with a cell). So I invited Gillian to stay for dinner, instead of having to trudge all the way home.

We went for a stroll down Bloor street to see how the apocalypse was going. Disappointingly, people were quite cheerful. Lots of people had brought out tables and chairs and candles, and were sitting on their doorsteps chatting with neighbours and passers by, and letting the last of the commuters/walkers use their facilities. A single ice cream van, its on-board generator run on gas, was blazing with light and song, and doing a roaring business. It was August and about 28 degrees. The only other place with power was a Thai restaurant, so we went in and paid for food we weren't very hungry for to enjoy the cool air.

Another friend, who had power at his apartment building, came by and invited us over to his place, but we all decided to stay put for the night, and so had quite a fun evening. We decided to drink up the remaining mixer while there was still ice.

That night, I went to bed and made sure to switch on my radio so if the power came back on it would play and let me know. The next morning, Friday I think, I woke up, looked over at the dead radio and thought, "SNOW DAY!!" And bounced cheerily out of bed to make breakfast for everyone.

We had a very pleasant day, all sitting on the porch, reading the paper (the National Post had put out a five page edition that morning... the Toronto Star and the Globe were out for the count) and drinking vermouth and soda water. Our favourite diner, Tasty's, was open so we just had our meals out.

They didn't get the power back onto our street until Sunday afternoon. John Muggeridge said it was because there was one house on the block that had voted Tory and still refused to recycle.

It was fun. But I remember worrying about the water. Toronto pumps water out of Lake Ontario. The pumps are electric. There is no more than a few day's reserve. I really did wonder how friendly everyone was going to be when the water wasn't coming out of the taps any more.


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