It was a power outage, or was it?

(Essay)

On June 14, 2021, in the evening, it started to rain in Ellicott City, Maryland. Not just a drizzle but a heavy, pounding proverbial cats and dogs rain. The wind splashed water against the window panes of our new home. The morning paper had said there was a chance of rain but this ferocity was unexpected.

We had just moved into a new townhome villa and were still in the process of settling down. Due to the Pandemic, the delivery of a new sofa we had ordered was late. There were only chairs on the first floor, not a comfortable arrangement for after-dinner TV watching or reading a book. This necessitated us to move to the second-floor loft where we had the sofa from our previous house as well as our old TV.

That evening after dinner Bharati went upstairs as per our routine. After finishing a few chores, I was planning to join her.

“It says here that the CNN channel cannot be started,” she was saying. “See if you can get it downstairs.”

I tried turning on CNN on the TV downstairs. Same message. The TV was starting and displaying the channel number but there was no video. I tried other channels. No luck. I didn’t know what could be wrong.

I joined Bharati upstairs.

“I think there must be a power outage,” I said. “Let’s just wait. It will pass.”

We turned off the TV and settled down to read the books we had borrowed from the library. I was reading Saving Grace by Jane Green. Grace the protagonist had just caught her husband Ted in an uncompromising situation with his assistant Beth. The story was getting very interesting. After an hour or so we called it a night and went to bed hoping the next day the storm would have passed and everything would be back to normal.  

The first thing we wanted to know the next day was if the TV was back on. It wasn’t.

“Call Verizon.” Recommended my son-in-law, who is an electronics engineer and knowledgeable about these things.

We wanted to use the landline to call Verizon. Alas, the landline was also dead. Fortunately, the iPhone was working. Bharati googled Verizon for their customer service number.

The Verizon robot informed her that there indeed was a power outage in our neighborhood.

“They are saying they are working on it and they should be done by 5:45 in the evening.” Bharati surmised.

“Well, not much we can do,” I said. “We just have to wait and see. Did they say anything else?”

“They will text us.”

We spent the day, grudgingly, sitting on our covered patio, reading the newspaper end to end and the books. For pollical junkies like us, it was difficult to pass the day without TV. Bharati watched the View religiously and enjoyed the banter between Whoopie and her team. She was going to miss that. That week especially with Biden in Europe we wanted to get the instant scoop on how he was doing. How is he preparing for his meeting with Putin? The number of articles or op-eds in the newspaper is not a substitute for watching live-action. The reports from traveling journalists, the interviews are simply worth it.

Five forty-five came and there was no text from Verizon. We thought they were probably still working on the problem.

“I can’t believe it would take them this long,” I said. “Do they have to clear broken trees or something?”

There was no way to know. We missed the evening news.

After dinner, we decided to take a walk in the neighborhood to see if our neighbors had the same problem. In the block next to us we could see TVs on in some houses. As we were returning to our house we noticed our neighbor in the block in front of our house enjoying the cool breeze of the evening from his front yard.

In a small talk that ensued, he confirmed that he never lost power or TV reception.

“I’m so sorry.” He said as if it was his fault that he had the service and not us, just a block away.

On returning home Bharati texted Leslie, who occupied a house on the other end of the four attached units. She immediately responded that she had no problem and that her TV was working.

We tried to see if Verizon can provide any updates. Unfortunately, Bharati ended up with an alternate site on her iPhone that required payment to continue the diagnosis.

“They are saying it will cost me five dollars to chat with a technician.”

“That can’t be. Are you chatting with a real person?”

I asked her to get out of the site immediately.

It was getting late and I didn’t know whether to go to bed or give it another try. I went upstairs to the loft and turned the TV on, punched on the Menu button, and then Customer Support. They had instructions to reboot the Wi fi.

“Unplug the Wi fi.”

“Plugin it and hold on to the button for at least two seconds.”

I climbed down to the basement equipment room where the Wi fi was located. I did everything as per the instructions. No lights on the Wi fi. I repeated the sequence with no success. Assuming the wall plug had tripped the circuit breaker I walked up to the electric panel. Fortunately, the tabs on the panel were marked. I toggle all the tabs that were marked for basement lights. I came back to the equipment room and tried to reboot the router. No success.

Bharati came down to see what was happening.

We carried a pole lamp and plugged it in the outlet to see if it was live. The light did not turn on. The wall outlet was dead.

Bharati came up with a brilliant suggestion. She suggested that we use an extension wire and use a working outlet from the basement hall outside.

Luckily we were able to find the extension cords we needed. We plugged in the router. Within a minute the on/off button on the router started blinking.

“Hoosh! It worked.” We both said in unison.

“So, there was no power outage after all. It was the dead wall outlet. “Then what were the messages from Verizon?” I remarked.

“Who cares,” Bharati said. “Let’s go upstairs and watch the TV”.

Upstairs Bharati turned on the TV. Don Lemmon was smiling as he was making his commentary. I’ll call the builder to send in an electrician to check the dead outlet I said to myself and joined Bharati to watch the TV.

Author’s note: On June 25th the electrician showed up. He instantly knew what the problem was. There was a GFI outlet four feet away from the circuit panel on a vertical pole. It had tripped and needed to be reset. We missed it because it looked like a regular wall plug.

11 thoughts on “It was a power outage, or was it?

  1. Interesting tale of modern adventure. Very conversational presentation makes it easy to read. Keep up the good work!

    Lee

    Like

  2. This must have been one of a kind incident.

    Now looking forward to your next about your moving.

    Like

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