Letter to Pepco: Thanks for all the power

Dear Pepco Undoubtedly youve received many irate messages since last Sundays storm rendered so many in our region powerless. Bethesda, where I live, was hit particularly hard. But Pepco, this is not another irate message. This is a thank-you letter for giving me these three days to restore my own power. Lets be clear about one thing: Electricity and me, were tight. There are maybe two dozen days a year when I dont have either my air conditioner or my furnace running. My microwave beeps some half-dozen times a day, which is almost as often as my coffeemaker. I run the dishwasher daily. The only time my computer gets turned off is when it needs rebooting. My own little obsessive-compulsive bedtime ritual involves double-checking that my cellphone is charging. When the lights went out, I was certain it was just a blip. But as the hours wore on, I grudgingly accepted that the power might stay off into the night. Getting my boys Zain, 10, and Zach, 6 into bed would be a challenge. Its one thing to corral them at 8 p.m. when there are CDs to listen to, air conditioning to keep them comfortable and our nightly negotiation over which hallway lights stay on. In the hot, dark silence, I let them stay up till they got tired enough to fall asleep quickly. By late Monday morning, Pepco, I admit I was pretty annoyed. Not only did we all sleep poorly, but the boys camp was canceled because of the outage. I used matches to jump-start my gas range and managed to cook a fairly impressive brunch. (Cook, mind you, not microwave.) By 11 a.m. we had played all the board games I could take, and Zach was complaining of a sore throat. We headed to the pediatricians office, where he was prescribed an antibiotic which required refrigeration. But by Monday night, I was starting to loosen up. In the cool-ish darkness of my basement guest room, I realized that I had made it through almost two days without power. It brought back memories of childhood summers visiting relatives in Pakistan. There, even in the more expensive homes, the electricity was intermittent. Central air was unheard of. After a few days of complaining, we adjusted and simply played with our cousins. Lying there, I also realize I felt the way I had a just few months ago, when I took up running and went on to complete my first 5K. A little bit impressed with myself. Kinda powerful. I mulled over my cousins upcoming wedding in Canada, a 10-hour drive with my boys that I hadnt been sure I could handle. And suddenly I realized that I could. That night, I stopped reading when the sun set, and contemplated how out of touch I am with the rhythm of my environment. There are people, I know, who always sleep when the sun goes down and rise again when it comes up. People who dont keep their hermetically sealed homes frigid in the summer and toasty in the winter. I just never pictured myself being one of them. Normally I struggle to rise by 7 a.m., having inevitably stayed up too late reading, or surfing the Internet, or drinking coffee too close to bedtime. But on Tuesday, sure enough, I woke at dawn. Running errands that morning, at first the cars air conditioning felt wonderful. Then it started to seem too cold. So I opened the window, which felt good, but weird. I went back and forth, AC then window. I imagined this is what it feels like trying on a new dress after losing weight and not believing that it fits. Coming home with the kids that afternoon, our block was still dark, and I was surprised by what I felt: relief. Again I thought of running, how I like to slowly raise the speed on the treadmill. I was curious to find out what my threshold was. As we got closer, however, Zain spotted a light in a neighbors house. When we opened our door, our lights, too, were on. The kids were happy. I walked around the way one does after being away for a long time. I checked everything. I turned off all the lights. The fans I left on. The windows I left open. I didnt turn on the AC. I did plug in my cell phone and make some coffee. I knew Id get used to it all again, but maybe not as soon as I would have thought. So Pepco, thanks for the refresher course on Third World living. I almost enjoyed it. Just dont let your friends the gas company and the water system know how badly I needed to see the light. Reshma Memon Yaqub (Bethesda) - The Washington Post

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