Early evening during the Great Blackout of 2003

As I biked in to work yesterday, heading home was business as usual for me, save for the busy traffic on the roads. Thankfully, I only travel through a handful of intersections on my ride and so there wasn’t much problem getting home. Most of my ride is on trails, so I was able to avoid the mass exodus of traffic.

When almost home, I heard one woman mention to someone else that the entire grid was affected, from New York to Ottawa to Detroit. This seemed so outrageous that I refused to believe it. (I wasn’t able to confirm the extent of the outage until I was able to speak to my sister at around 7pm.)

Once home, I didn’t know what to do and so passed the time trying to get a hold of everyone close to me. Unfortunately, many of those only had access to cell phones and so I wasn’t able to get a hold of all of them. The only time I was worried was when my parents didn’t answer their phone. Talking to my mother later, she said they went out to get something to eat, thinking it was only their neighbourhood which was out.

Thinking for a moment, I was secretly hoping that the power didn’t come back on before midnight as this would result in an excellent opportunity to see the stars in the city. I vowed to head to an open area later for some gazing.

Figuring that the best action was outside, I set out on my bike for a short trip around the city. Yonge and Eglinton was packed as the station and the bus bays were closed. The swarms of people making their way up Yonge had to wait on the curbs for busses to disgorge their loads, only to fill up again. Mount Pleasant was busy northbound but completely deserted southbound, making for a fun ride down to Carlton. It was the Becel Ride for Heart all over again!

It was really nice to see people dropping everything and taking over various intersections, directing traffic until the police came by. At one intersection on Mount Pleasant, one man was being constantly thanked by passing motorists. At another near Church and Wellesley, a policeman just arriving at a manned intersection, beamed and heartedly thanked the volunteer who was there.

There were lineups everywhere, mostly at bus stops and hot dog stands. I considering trying to get a hot dog, as I was craving warm food, but decided I didn’t want to wait in line.

Heading home from downtown was a little more difficult as every major road was packed and moving quite slowly. Travelling up Bay, I hit my right pedal on the curb and nearly lost my shoe trying to squeeze past the cars. The pedal hasn’t been the same since.

Arriving home for the second time, I went to have a shower expecting luke warm water at best. I was instead greeted with hot, soothing water. I had forgotten that our building’s water heater is gas-powered. Ideas on how to exploit this fact flashed through my head. These ideas were pushed to the wayside as I realised that there was a gas stove where my friend Jenever lived! A gas stove meant warm food! However, it was getting late and dark and there was no way I would have been able to get there before it was pitch black out.

Talking to Jenever, I realised that I had no blackout amenities in my apartment. I had no flashlights, no batteries, no working radio and only a few tea lights as a source of light. Without light, information, conversation and only the constant rhythmic buzzing of an alarm downstairs to keep me company, I knew I would go mad. Jenever offered to put me up for the night, but that meant biking from Yonge and Eglinton to the Beaches in darkness, with no headlight. It was too dangerous to risk, or so I thought.

I wrote a continuation of this entry once power was restored after a rolling blackout.

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