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The Engineer

The Life and Times of Donald F. Simmons

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The Day the Lights Went Off in Toronto

The Great Blackout of 2003 is now just fading into most people's memories now. I was one of the luckier ones, my power was only out for 14 hours, coming back on about 6:30 AM Friday morning. My brother just north of me across Bloor was out for 41 hours, as we Aaron and Janet on the other side of Ossington. Then again, some people's was apparently back up in as little as 5 hours.

I was at home when the power went, and just assumed it was a local thing. I was chiefly miffed because I was going to a seminar in the evening, and the address was on my computer. But I figured it wouldn't last long, and just went into the backyard to read and eat some watermelon.

After about an hour, I went back in and the power wasn't back yet. Wandering outside, this guy in a car was telling a neighbour the whole Eastern Seaboard was out (something of an exaggeration).

The biggest handicap with a blackout is that you're cut-off from your usually sources of information. No TV, No Internet. Big things were apparently happening, and I had no way of finding out what was going on! Fortunately, I remembered that I had an old Walkman with a radio. Stumbling around my dark apartment (no flashlight) I found it and scavenged some batteries from my various remotes and thankfully re-entered the information age.

As you all know Thursday we were getting all sorts of information, little of it useful, but it was clear this was going to last a while. I unplugged my computer just in case and grabbed what I could out of the fridge to eat, and settled down in the backyard with a book for as long as the light lasted, my brother joining me.

After it got too dark to read (about 8:30 - 9PM) we wandered over to Aaron and Janet's, as you're supposed to huddle with friends when the lights go out. It's weird walking down residential streets with no streetlights and no moon (yet). People keep looming out of the darkness at you and you keep expecting the Living Dead to show up.

At Aaron and Janet's house, we listened to more meaningless radio commentary for a while. The best line was that we should all watch out for one another (rather than the less menacing look out), which lest Aaron helpless for a while. Wandering out to look at the stars (Yay, stars in the sky!) we found the Milky Way just visible, and then a really spectacular meteor flashed by, leading to the usual cries of LOOKATTTHATMETEOR! followed by "where? where?" for the unlucky ones (usually Janet) looking in the wrong direction.

We made out way over to a park on Dufferin and laid down for a hour or so to watch. Saw several more good meteors before the Moon rose and started to swamp out the stars. A bunch of teenaged girls formed a circle near us and started singing recent songs (we thought it was a fertility cult at first), and some idiot parked nearby and kept his brights on for a while.

Wandering back home later, I unfortunately found my keys had fallen out of my pockets at some point. Dave was carrying his spare key to my place so I able to get in and read by candlelight for a while (had to bum some paper matches from upstairs). Next morning the power had come back on so I didn't lose anything in my fridge or freezer, but going back to the park I couldn't find my keys. They did have a War Amps tag on them, so maybe they've show up in the mail.