My mother is 84 and she is in great shape physically and mentally. She heats the house with a woodstove, wheelbarrowing logs from the wood stack to the house and hauling them inside next to the stove as needed. She reads a book a week and is learning Spanish. Before the pandemic, she had a personal trainer at the gym and was in the local book club
She has a big house and maintaining and cleaning it helps her stay in shape. It’s an enormous task. Although she has a busy schedule it must be a lonely journey because she lives alone. With Covid-19 terminating travel and mom alone we came together and are we having a truly fun, good time.
But . . .
The Evil Power Company
Mom lives in a remote area, an area prone to high winds and fire. As a result of these conditions, the utility company often shuts off the power – for days at a time.
The utility claims they cut off the power so that if high winds blow down a power pole causing the lines to spark, a fire will not start. We all question this explanation since the power is often off when there is no wind and is often on when there are high winds.
Living With No Electricity
We imagined it would be terrible for mom to be sitting alone in a dark house for days. Now we are certain it is terrible because the three of us are sitting in a dark house for days, but at least we are all together.
Living as if we are in a third-world country without electricity is an adventure, fun – at first:
- Heating a pot of coffee on the woodstove
- Lighting candles throughout the house
- Eating and playing games by kerosene lamp
- Being unable to work
It’s Not Fun Anymore
However, after a few days, the situation is not adventurous, not fun.
Warming water, coffee, soup, and such on a wood stove works fine but cooking on a wood stove – NO.
Candles make a charming setting but when you have to rely on them for light they are not as charming:
- Wax drips on the carpet
- They go out if you walk too fast
- Candles don’t actually provide very much light.
The kerosene lamps remind me of adventurous 19th-century travelers and my great-grandparent’s homestead (one of the lamps is from the homestead). However, even with reading glasses, I can’t read by kerosene lamp. The lamps leave an oil odor and I don’t imagine the fumes are improving my health.
Of course, I’m happy to have an indisputable reason not to be working. But we all know that today’s leisure is tomorrow’s double workload. And do I take vacation days because of the utility’s botched handling of the situation?
Overall the situation is not as dire as it could be. We all take it in stride (with some occasional cursing). Mom has kept the kerosene lamps from her grandparent’s homestead in working condition plus she has plenty of candles. The wood stove heats the house and we can eat leftovers for a few days. We are in a third-world situation, not a third-world country.
Or are we?
Is America A Third-world Country?
I started to think about this when mom asked me if this happens much in other countries.
It does not.
Globetrotting about, I’ve lived in 5 countries. I never experienced power outages in England, China, or Taiwan. In Thailand, the big tropical storms sometimes cause power outages for a few minutes, sometimes an hour. Only in America have I experienced days without power.
Kim and I have traveled to 60+ countries between the two of us. Neither of us recalls power outages for more than a short time and rarely happening.
I understand the utility is purposely turning off the power in San Diego. This is different than a power outage due to outdated or unmaintained equipment failing which is sometimes the case in developing nations.
Old, Unmaintained Equipment
But, and this is a big but, as I’ve been told, the utility is turning off the power to avoid fires due to outdated and unmaintained equipment which is now being replaced.
I’ve been told the power cuts in San Diego came about due to another power company that did not use its customer’s money to replace or maintain old equipment. That old, unmaintained equipment caused a major fire and the courts found the company liable.
As I understand it then, the power company is shutting off the power to reduce its liability. This is good business. This method of reducing fire danger is significantly more cost-effective than updating and maintaining equipment. Since the utility is a monopoly, the customers have to put up with it.
“Compensation” The American Term For Corruption
So what did the utility do with the money they collected from their customers over the years? It appears to be the same thing some corrupt third-world countries do with their citizen’s money. They took it.
For example, according to Salary.com, executives at the of the utility’s parent company and the power company make millions of dollars in .compensation. One executive makes more than $12,000,000 annually. All these millions represent money paid by customers and given to individuals instead of used to update or maintain equipment.
Executives need to be paid but do they need that much when equipment needs upgrading?
The irony is that at some point a candle, lit because the utility shuts off the power, will cause a fire. Will the utility be held responsible?