Fool’s Gold: Lights Out

February 10, 2015


I’ve traced my ancestry as far back as Paleolithic cavemen and rural West Virginians. Yet I never understood their rough subsistence—not fully—until my power went out.

So I didn’t have electricity. Big deal, right? We humans shape the world with the mere strength of our minds. Borders, governments, religions, and the continued success of ABBA could not endure without our constant and combined mental fortitude. Climate change does not exist, so long as we refuse to acknowledge it. A little loss of electricity should hardly matter to such a superior being as I.

And it didn’t, for a half hour or so. I played FreeCell in actual peace and quiet, without the refrigerator complaining and the neighbor’s television murmuring. Then the unthinkable happened, and it was more unsettling than any blizzard-induced Whole Foods riot in New York City:

My laptop battery died.

I plugged it in. Nothing. I flipped the switch on my surge protector. Nothing. Odd, as the old unplug-it-and-plug-it-back-in school of IT repair never failed me before.

But I could not allow this predicament to conquer me. I am a rational being! So I did what any manly American male would do in such a situation; namely, I flipped the light switch in every room I entered—completely on purpose, mind you, just to see if the problem was isolated in an ungrounded oscillating fuse transmission cable box router, which sounded likely.

But no matter how many rooms I wandered through, I still could not find a flashlight. That’s when the gravity of this situation finally weighed on me about as much as normal gravity: if the lights didn’t work, then the microwave might not work either. I could very reasonably starve to death in the time it took me to cook a can of beans on the stovetop.

For the first time since my little sisters pooled their allowances to buy a Spice Girls album, I panicked. I needed to find the answers, and I needed to find them RIGHT NOW.

So I went to look up “how to survive a power outage” on the internet. I pounded the computer power button five or six times and promptly realized I was an idiot. You see where this is going, right? The internet could not save me. It is nothing but a rabbit hole of “37 Reasons You Broke Up With Your Ex, Explained By Eighties Movies Soundtracks.” It would not contain the answers I sought.

Actual useful information, on the other hand, was stored in books before they went extinct. Fortunately, I own enough books to make me look smart. That trick finally paid off! But if I wanted to stay awake while reading the manual on surviving the end of the world as I knew it, I required a cup of coffee. I pulled out my coffee grinder, poured in the beans, pressed the button, and discovered that my electric coffee grinder runs on none other than… electricity.

(It’s obvious to me NOW, smarty-pants, but duressed operating conditions are precisely why electronics companies ought to add one more line to the warning tag; i.e., DOES NOT FUNCTION DURING POWER OUTAGES OR IN RURAL WEST VIRGINIA.)

The scene was not pretty. All I can say is, thank goodness I’m not one of those people addicted to coffee, or else I might have REALLY lost my cool when I went to boil water to brew some whole-bean coffee and discovered that the ignitor on a gas range also runs on none other than electricity, and I needed actual matches to light the flame, only I didn’t HAVE any matches because for MONTHS the grocery store has stocked only the foot-long variety.

After timeless hours of anxiety, despair, and fetal-positioning in an unheated corner until my teary eyelashes froze together, I shifted my paradigm. I decided to look forward to “roughing it”—camping out in the living room; reading a good old-fashioned data-packed book by lantern light; guzzling hot cocoa, ideally before the milk curdled in the dead refrigerator. Heck, I would do so every night for a week, and it would be kinda fun, until I had to resort to eating toothpaste.

I hoisted myself up by my hillbilly bootstraps and relied for some time on my primitive ancestry. First task: get warm. Find thick furs. Grrnh.

Still hunt for dead animal skin when cloud-fire flash! Hear growl, whir, hum, strange birds. Saber-tooth? No. This hurt eyes and ears. Too much strange fire!

Only… only better than fire. White light not burn hand. Must make words for new strange power. Call it, Just In Time For Lunch.


(Photo by Patricia H. / CC)

This piece was written by:

Zach Hively's photo

Zach Hively

Zach Hively is the brilliance behind Fool’s Gold, the weekly column. He contributes regularly to the Durango Telegraph, and he is also a fiction writer, craft beer blogger, and work-for-hire editor. If you have nuggets to share, tweet @ZachHively or visit

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