Sunday, July 31, 2005

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

Twelve hours without power threw my town back a thousand years. Martial law prevailed at unmanned, uncontrolled intersections. Those who made it home spent the evening wandering their property looking skyward for signs that the power might be restored by the same means it was zapped away. Once they got sick of doing that, they flocked to the few remaining locations with electricity, paid their tribute to Lord Barnes or Lord Noble, and enjoyed the feudal protection of an overstuffed armchair planted firmly in a controlled climate.

The freak storm blew through my area as I rode home on the train. While I traveled north flinching at the lightning hitting the Tappan Zee Bridge, my parents watched the power blink off and my brothers dodged falling branches in order to get to a party on time. The air conditioned air was had long leeched out of the house by the time I got home and the contents of the freezer were melting towards soupy.

When I was a kid, I really enjoyed blackouts. I'd haul out my Garfield sleeping bag and park it on the living room floor. My Dad would find his tiny black and white TV and set it up for us. The great DD search for the batteries necessary to run it was even more fun in the dark, and had the oh-so-satisfying prize of a couple of hours of Married with Children at the end. Peeing by candlelight was infinitely more pleasurable than peeing by sixty watt bulb, especially for a girl who had read the complete works of Laura Ingalls Wilder by the time she was ten. Baths were romantic. Eating ice cream was a duty rather than a treat. I dripped chocolate in Garfield’s eyeball in the name of pragmatism, in the name of economy, and by god, in the name of America.

For better and for worse, growing up has brought eighteen inches of height and a more complex notion of patriotism since my early blackout days. Unfortunately, it has also brought a tragically adult dependence on electricity for most necessities and nearly all entertainment. My recent twelve hour blackout was hardly an adventure until I remembered that fifteen years ago, it would’ve been one.

Being old enough to possess a driver’s license (as well as the right to leave my house unquestioned) means that I am almost never marooned. When the blackout hit, I ate dinner, lit some candles, sat around talking with my family, and when I was sufficiently bored I took off with my brother to the nearest electrified oasis to enjoy a frappucino and the Atlantic Monthly fiction issue. Kids, though, are marooned at least sixteen times a day. You are marooned in the grocery store, in the car, in the doctor’s office, paying the cable bill, on the schoolbus, in the bathtub, under the covers at bedtime. You are marooned at the babysitter’s, at the kids’ table, outside the video store where your mother runs into one of her friends and wants to talk for forty minutes while you inspect anthills and try to balance your tapes on your head, and, god forbid, at the Department of Motor Vehicles when your Dad needs to renew his plates.

An electrical storm when I was seven years old was the great equalizer. Everyone, my parents, my whole town, was marooned in the same metaphorical dark bedroom after Mom decided it was lights out. My one woman army of stupid game inventors (“Look, Dad, I caught an imaginary mouse!”) was suddenly a thirty-thousand strong, with new parent generals who were forced to admit that “make-believe” was a rotten excuse for a way to pass the time.

Twelve hours later the power did come back on and I decided that my horrendous, sweaty night’s sleep on the couch was not sufficient to get me through my commute to work. I took a sick day and, in perfect adult-style, spent the afternoon soaking up every possible electron of alternating current once again flowing to my house. I cranked up the A.C. and plugged in my computer. I played Bejeweled while watching MTV. It was a horrible waste of a day. It was great.

Having the day off made obscenely obvious what the tradeoff between kid-dom and adulthood really is.

Summer vacation.

At five, you may not be able to determine a single factor of your life besides whether or not to pee in your pants or save your parents the embarrassment and wait until you get home, but you do get the entire summer off. At twenty-two, I can go where I want, I can drive a car, I can buy all the candy my mother insisted would “rot my teeth right out of my head,” but I still have to answer to a Vice President through all of June, July, and August.

It makes me absolutely crazy.

It makes me want to violently shirk every responsibility I have. I’m not just talking about going to work, either. I want to cease blogging, stop showering, forget to wash the dishes, throw my laundry in the garbage, and let my car run out of gas. I want to watch TV until my retinas liquefy and then maybe sit on some swings for a while.

In dirty jeans.

6 Comments:

Anonymous Your favorite little brother, the one that isn't Mike said...

That is the coolest ending to anything I have ever read ever. You pretty much stated my one goal in life.

10:31 PM  
Anonymous Rebecca said...

You know, the one thing that I felt truly unprepared for upon graduation was working through the summer. Last year, May came and I was thrilled to have made it through the year. A month later, I was wondering why I still had to get up and go to work every day. I was honestly completely confused. Why wasn't I prepared for that?

11:22 PM  
Blogger ktiv said...

I'm actually on summer vacation right now. Yay!

(Maybe it's just me, but I felt a tiny bit cruel for saying that. Ah well, I [sadly]am still a pedestrian, so you've got one up on me. Next year, though, is gonna rock my socks. And I mean that literally, as one of my friends is planning on buying me musical socks.)

8:58 AM  
Anonymous anonymous, so there said...

in other words from wilson phillips - you're a nun.

11:01 AM  
Blogger What'sHerFace said...

I KNOW WHO YOU ARE, ANONYMOUS.

11:13 AM  
Anonymous brad said...

it really wasn't me, so it must have been my mother.

2:56 PM  

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