March 4, 1999

Beginning of the Road

By Dane Sorensen


Last Sunday evening the East side of Ely experienced a Y2K moment. Starting at about 6:45PM the electricity went off 7 times. Rumor has it they were trying an antigravity basketball up at the college. Or maybe the EPUC was only trying to figure out a cheaper way to remove the lead paint off the water tower?

In the Sorensen household we tend to eat late. I don’t think I have had more than three meals at 5PM in my twenty-three years of marriage. The main reason for that is we have a long history of being self-employed. When your business is open until 5:30, it is hard to make a 5 o’clock supper date. Our usual time for our evening repast is anywhere from 7 to 8 o’clock.

So last Sunday, dinner was just starting to cook on the old stove top. The first power outage did not overly alarm us. We grabbed our candles and dug out our flashlights. My lovely Snow White was more prepared than the rest of us. She came up from the basement to reveal a secret horde of Y2K supplies. She had a new kerosine lamp and a small propane camping burner. About that time the electricity came back. Meal preparation began anew on the stove, but only for another five minutes because the juice failed again. At this point we were still amused. After all, this is Ely and everyone knows our electric grid is just a hair advanced over what Edison used in 1890. In a way, it is too bad we don’t generate electricity down by Shagawa anymore. Any power plant that predates 1950, probably is immune to Y2K and any other computer year snafu.

By now I was reading the directions on how to put together the propane burner. Just as they were starting to make sense, the power came back for the second time. My oldest kidlet made a daring prediction that the power would go off again in four minutes. We all laughed and went about the house blowing out the candles. Four minutes later we were in the dark again and only the fried rice was done. Once again, we lite our candles and lamps. I went back to the instructions. I commended my oldest kidlet for her genius and asked what the stock market was going to do in the next six months. By now I am wondering if someone at the EPUC was trying to signal passing flying saucers with a galactic SOS by turning off and on Ely’s lights in some strange code.

Before I completed my logical theory of alien communication, Snow White had us sit down to our first, and maybe, only course of fried rice. It was very romatic eating by the dim light of a kerosine lamp. I recounted to my kidlets that their great grandfather worked in a tannery for Red Wing Shoes during the 1930’s for 15 cents an hour cleaning sooty glass globes. If what the mass media is claiming about Y2K, that position might reopen soon.

With the first course out of the way the electricity came back on again. This time my wife turned on the burner full blast to try and cook the stir fry. After two more outages, it was cooked and we finally sit down for the second course of our meal.

To be honest, I lost track of how many times the power went out. It was probably seven, but it could only have been six. However, it was enough to make me consider joining the thousands of people who are on a waiting list for a generator. With three buildings in town, I would be one busy guy trying to keep them from freezing. Every four hours I would have to run to another building and power up the furnace so it could operate. A good wood stove sounds like a better deal. However, stoking three buildings would be a pain in the butt, too.

Considering the high price of a generator, the hassle of stockpiling lots of gasoline, and all the running around, maybe it would be better to just double our insurance and spend Jan. 1, 1999 in Disney World. If any place is prepared for Y2K, it will be the Magic Kingdom. Any other plans sound too Mickey Mouse to me.



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