Part of our whole-house makeover was a large generator. After we'd put so much money into the glorified fish tank (our 125-gallon reef aquarium), we hated to see a prolonged power outage destroy it, and the power does go out here quite often. Usually only for a couple of hours, but once for twelve, and a blackout like that would kill all our coral, and possibly our fish.
I was skeptical, but if Harry wanted a generator, sure, we'd get one. My only question was whether it would run my computer.
So Harry got us a generator. (For you electronic nuts, it's a Briggs & Stratton 10KW unit, about four feet by five feet in size.) Some nice man came and hooked it up to power and gas (if the electricity and natural gas are both out, we're out of luck, but at least we don't have to buy diesel) and set it to do it's weekly cycle on Sunday morning.
Weekly cycle? My generator lessons had begun: the generator, once a week, kicks itself into gear for about half an hour (sounds like me on the weekend). It runs and then shuts itself down. Making sure it still works, I guess.
We went along that way for a good, long while. Then the time changed, and I thought maybe the generator ran too early in the morning on Sunday. It's not a really noisy unit, but it does make noise. I asked Harry to reset the time on the weekly cycle, and he set it for Thursdays at 5pm. I wrote in my planner to check the next Thursday to see if it ran.
The next Thursday I got home, brought in the mail, let the dog out, marveled over the blue lights on the aquarium (the "dawn" cycle starts at 3pm), got my email, sorted through all the paper mail, and did assorted other chores. Soon the dog wanted out a second time (his routine) and this time I waited at the back door for him. As I was leaning there, I heard a monotonous hum. Puzzled, I tracked it down to the (you guessed it) generator. I checked the time.
I checked my planner. Yep, "check the generator at 5." Why was the generator running at 3:30? I scratched my head and wondered about it for a minute, then decided maybe we'd not got the time right. I let the dog back in and went back to the things I needed to do. Then I realized I was hungry, and went to nuke some frozen food. Standing at the microwave, I again noticed a monotonous hum. Incredulous, I looked outside, and sure enough, the generator was still merrily thrumming along. The time was 4:45pm.
With an absent look on my face, I closed the outside door and went back inside. "Ding!" The microwave proclaimed my food ready-to-eat. I shook my head. Why would the generator be running? It was well past the time the weekly cycle should have been over, if the thing started between 3 and 3:30, like I thought, and not the 5 we'd expected.
I ran to the Green Room window and looked out. The bar, however, is gone, so I couldn't check whether I had power by noting their neon Budweiser sign. Looking around, I realized I couldn't see any lights at all which would tell me if my section of the world had power. The sun still shone, so the house way over there across two streets wasn't lit up yet. I dug out my electric bill and called the number of my electric company.
After pushing several numeric choices, I was treated to a recording which stated they were aware of my power outage. The power had been off since 3:06pm.
I marveled. I laughed. I kicked up my heels and danced around the house. I went and visited every piece of equipment I'd used since I came home: house lights, aquarium lights, computer, trash compactor, microwave. I visited the ones we never think about, which are always there: aquarium pumps, refrigerator, beer dispenser.
Each and every one worked just fine.
I reveled in the feeling of control and power, and I delighted in the knowledge that my house - alaHouse, the house with something extra - had electrical power when every other house on my block was dark. I microwaved my food again, to reheat it, and ate.
At 5:36pm, there was a minor flicker in the lights. I wondered what had happened and went to check on the generator. I looked out and there it was, humming along. So what was the flicker? As I stood watching, the generator gave out a couple of chortles and powered down. Apparently, the flicker was my wonderful generator giving control back to the electric company. I was once again just like everyone else on the block.
But inside, I knew I was special. Inside, I knew alaHouse was special, and all the work we'd done throughout 2005 was special, too. I laughed and went back inside.
Yesterday I found out it wasn't a fluke, either. At about 4:45pm, the power went out. A huge thunderstorm massaged our valley with lightning, and one of the bolts found an electrical substation. Three towns were plunged into relative darkness.
Inside alaHouse, Harry and I paused and began to count. At 30, the generator rumbled to life. At 60, the lights came back on. For nearly three hours, we played pool, ate dinner, and watched television, while the rest of the area went out to eat or wondered what to do.
The generator at alaHouse rocks.
Copyright 2014 Michelle Hakala