I’m writing this from the upstairs living room because the power is out, again. I swear, this COVID crisis is like a video game, and every week we survive, there’s just another level with a new challenge. And this week’s challenge was “Being forced to stay home with no power.” To those of you with children, I can only hope you had some extra lives saved up from the previous challenge weeks so you could make it through.
It could be worse: it is Daylight Savings Time, and I have big picture windows, so the natural light is working well. And luckily, I live near someone with a Generac, so I was able to microwave my dinner. Please note: I said “Generac” person, not “Generator” person, because there is a difference. Generator people will happily dig out a dirty, portable gas generator from the back of their storage shed, heft it onto a Radio Flyer wagon or something like it, get their house juiced up, then head down the road with generator in tow like the Electric Fairy, charging up their neighbor’s fridges, deep freezes, and what have you.
Generac people will certainly offer you the opportunity to use their microwave, wash machine, and get refreshed in their working AC in the summer, but you have to first suffer through their superior “Oh, is the electric off again? I hadn’t even noticed!” Yeah, we get it: in 13 seconds, your house lights up again like a night game at Mountaineer Stadium and the only way you know there’s a problem down in the Valley of Darkness is when the serfs come up on Mount Lights- On looking to warm up their frozen Lean Cuisines.
I say all that with love, because I remember vividly the times before my parents became Generac people. Remember the blizzard of 1993? At one point, my family had been out of electricity for so long, I used to answer roll call in sixth grade homeroom with “Here, and no, the electric isn’t on yet,” because I was the last kid whose electric came back. There’s not been a blizzard where the power didn’t go out in the Hollow, and they always end with me swearing up and down that this will be the year I get my emergency stash of flashlights in order. Checked my stash today: once again, I have only one flashlight and a whole lot of regret.
Now on one hand, I know living without electric for that long can stir that part of the human soul that connects us with our caveman forefathers and that sense of survival. You do feel accomplished when you start a fire from relatively nothing, or when you figure out clever ways to cook dinner with no heat. And even the Generac occasionally goes out, and nothing makes me feel more accomplished than figuring out the manual re-start mode after standing knee-deep in snow on the steep side of the hill while my dogs “helpfully” jump all over me, causing me to lose the tiny key to the Generac cover in the snowdrifts, and my temper, all at the same time.
And from that perspective, West Virginia, which seems to suffer power outages with a frequency which boggles the mind, has probably been more prepared for quarantine life than any other state, given that not a year goes by that our citizens don’t spend at least a few hours in the dark. Who better to understand how to entertain ourselves with nothing, to create meals from nothing, and to come out on the other side a little bruised and battered, but still smiling? We could be offering master classes to the other states in how to hunker down and power through the worst that COVID (or, AEP/ Mon Power) can throw at us.
So take heart, Jackson County, as we enter Week Seven of COVID quarantine, that we who have survived weeks-long power outages in the oppressive heat of July, in the bitter cold of winter, and (as seems to be the case in Southern JCO), whenever the wind barely puffs the wrong pole, we will survive a quarantine at home for however many weeks longer it needs to be. We won’t like it, but when it’s all over, it will stir that part of us that finds satisfaction in remembering how to survive, as so many of our people did, and still do, living in these West Virginia hills.
But in the interest of total honesty: I would totally give up that satisfied feeling in a heartbeat in exchange for a Generac at my house. “Satisfaction” is a great feeling, but nothing feels better than knowing you have a working air conditioner in August and consistent heat in January. And I can survive a lot better if I’m not relying on my one flashlight and questionable battery supply to get me through to tomorrow.