(Andy Rooney voice): Ever noticed how you don’t appreciate something until it’s gone? I sure don’t. Take electricity: Everybody uses it. Heck, you can’t do anything without it. Most of the time we go through our daily routines counting on electricity to just be there, almost like the air we breathe -- except air doesn’t come out of the wall.
I admit I don’t really know how electricity works. I was never a whiz at the physical sciences, or anything else that might be described as “useful”; I guess that’s why I write about the media for a living. Electrical engineers go on about watts and amps and volts, but as far as I’m concerned electricity is just a special form of fire magic, helpfully channeled by Wotan into outlets.
Of course, electricity can also be an expression of divine wrath. Lightning bolts are one of the classic means for smiting the unworthy and depraved. That’s a lot more terrifying than being turned into a pillar of salt, which just doesn’t seem very frightening, if you ask me. I guess it might be scarier if you’re worried about your blood pressure.
When the electricity goes out we all go crazy. During the big Northeast blackout back in August 2003, New York City was like one big party, at least where I was in the Lower East Side. Kids were knocking back brews and smoking weed on the roof of my building like it was Mardi Gras. And maybe the Carnivale analogy isn’t too far off. Electricity is so central to modern society that when the power goes out, it’s like the world is turned upside down.
Still, I understand most East Coasters might not be feeling particularly merry right now. After all, it’s not just a matter of the power going out: Hurricane Sandy screwed up a lot of other things, too. And even in the best of circumstances, the novelty of not having electricity wears off after a couple hours; then it’s just annoying. But look at this way: When you’re finally able to power up your smartphone and log in to Facebook, you’ll appreciate it a lot more.