Thoughts While Hunting for Matches in the Dark

Thursday evening I sat down to the computer, ostensibly to write
my column. Unfortunately I had no topic. So I sat and grumpily read
my e-mail and thought about how tired I was of

local, Cynthia, local

when suddenly the lights went out. My monitor screen dimmed away
like a grey ghost.
Thursday evening I sat down to the computer, ostensibly to write my column. Unfortunately I had no topic. So I sat and grumpily read my e-mail and thought about how tired I was of “local, Cynthia, local” when suddenly the lights went out. My monitor screen dimmed away like a grey ghost.

I waited for a moment or two, enjoying the silence and the dark. The lights usually come on within a moment or two. This time, they did not, so I got up and began to look for a light. My mood had lightened considerably. I thought cheerfully to myself that a power outage was God’s way of saying, “Take the evening off without pay.”

We keep the matches in the left-hand drawer of the hutch in the kitchen, so I moved blindly through the house and groped through the appropriate drawer. No matches. I recollected that I had been lighting candles in the living room of an evening lately. The matches were probably on the corner table – or on the wall unit – or on the piano. Probably.

Rather than search the whole living room, I made my way to my bedroom.We usually have flashlights on the dresser. No flashlights. I always keep a little pocket flashlight in my day pack. No little pocket flashlight. I remembered, belatedly, that I had loaned it to one of my co-adult staff at camp. That was three months ago, and I had not yet replaced it.

Remembering camp made me feel embarrassed. See, I am a Boy Scout, or, more accurately, an adult staff member of Venture Crew 122, which operates under the aegis of the Boy Scouts of America. I am supposed to “Be Prepared.” I am supposed to set the example. Where were the dang matches?

In desperation, I fumbled through my left hand desk drawer, and found, amongst the litter of batteries, a lighter. Hallelujah.

Just then, headlights flooded the driveway as my husband drove up. I lit candles while he put away groceries. I found the matches, on the corner table, and put them carefully into the left hand drawer of the hutch.

Then we searched together for a flashlight, it having occurred to me that Anne was out at the stable, and that if the lights had gone out there, she probably wasn’t getting much tack cleaned.

The first three flashlights we located either had no batteries, or dead batteries, or corroded batteries in them. To our chagrin, when we finally located a working flashlight, it was in Anne’s drawer. So, fine, she is the Boy Scout, or Venturer, anyway.

As I drove out to the stable to collect her, I could not help thinking, if this had been an actual emergency. … What if this were the Big One, the major earthquake that we Californians are supposed to be ready for at all times?

We have water… but not a gallon per person for a week. We have food … but not enough propane for the camp stove to last a week, and cooking over the barbecue outside would exhaust our firewood and our charcoal within a day or two.

We have sleeping bags and camping gear, but digging them out of the debris of the garage would be problematic at best. First aid kit? Yes, but when was the last time I had restocked it? At least I know where the pipe wrench is, for turning off the gas.

Anne was cleaning tack, unconcerned. The power had not gone off at the stable. It had been restored when we got back home. My husband had found the oil lamps, and the house smelled reassuringly of lamp oil. I turned on the (electric) oven, and 20 minutes later we ate dinner, by candlelight, just for fun.

So this weekend I will make a list of batteries and first-aid supplies and propane and water, and I will go shopping and restock our emergency supplies. When, not if, the Big One hits, we will Be Prepared. As long as it doesn’t come this Friday.

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