Saturday, December 27, 2008

[BDP] I don't remember the power going out this often in the Reagan Era.

And what you have to remember is that, except for six months in Peoria IL at the very beginning and four months at the very end in Springfield MO, I lived WAY out in the sticks during the Reagan Era. We're talking you-can't-get-cable-here country, where if you were lucky, you could get three TV channels but more often than not it was just two, and it was not unusual to just get one, which was the Government Programming Channel with the poofy-haired painters and the puppets and the in-depth documentaries on Inuit sockmakers.

Occasionally, when the atmospheric conditions were just right, a Mexican signal would overwhelm the KYTV station, an NBC affiliate, and you'd be treated to about thirty seconds of a cornflake commercial where the sparkling green rooster would qui qui ri qui at you for no reason, or some loud, urgent gentleman would try to sell you some gawdawful ugly stone cats. At least I think that's what he wanted. The puppets had only taught me enough Spanish to understand about every fifth word.

My mother was convinced the interference came from Castro, who was obviously trying to jam our broadcast signal. Why Fidel would want to deny us the day's Chiefs/Oilers score from Ned Reynolds (or, as he pronounced it, "Nid Rinnilds,")is beyond me. A few times I explained to her that Castro is Cuban, not Mexican, but it didn't do any good. The next time it happened, she'd be back to blaming Castro. Or worse, she'd be at the local gas station/pop & cigarette store and the topic of bad TV reception would come up.

"It's Castro jamming the signal," she'd tell anyone who'd listen, matter-of-factly, as if it had been proven, or some bit of secret information God had given her personally. It's bad enough she BELIEVED it; did she have to TELL it to people -- people we KNOW? I tried my best to melt into the floor, or to appear invisible and/or adopted.

But I digress about two levels deep. First, let me dig back up to only one level deep.

After about 30 seconds, the KY3 signal would momentarily fade back in, and we'd be treated midsentence to a stern Tony Beason lecture about how, yes, the bottom of the West Plains sewer system fell out, but those of us who were downstream along the many underground waterways of the Ozarks should just pretend we don't see the little brown specks floating in our well-drawn tapwater.

Twenty seconds later, the Mexican channel would re-emerge and there'd be an interview with the country's el Presidente, sitting on a tacky yellow couch that would be circled by a sad clown on a tricycle who would squeeze his bulbhorn at random times.

Ten seconds later, back to KY3. They would switch back and forth like that, at decreasing intervals, until they meshed together into a giant mess that looked like someone had electronically vomited a Dali painting onto the screen and sounded like a banshee was forcibly sodomizing a walrus. That's when you knew there'd be no more NBC watching for the rest of the day, so you'd get up and change the channel (back in those days, you had to actually remove your ass from the sofa and physically CHANGE the CHANNEL, but then there's no reason to channel surf when you only have two channels) and see if the vampire puppet could teach you anything about counting six bats.

But it's time to corral this train of thought and get back to being all non-digressy. What was I saying? Oh, yes -- I told you all of that just to flesh out exactly how out in the sticks I was.

It wasn't suburbia, or even exurbia; there was no urb within a hundred miles. If anything, it was a-urbia. Even the word "rural" didn't do it justice. It was the type of place where you didn't go out into your own yard at night unless you HAD to because, just beyond the edge of the glow thrown off by the buzzing vapor light in the yard, there was a very real possibility that a pack of wolves, a bear, a mountain lion, Bigfoot, Nell, Sling Blade, and the two gentlemen from Deliverance were hiding, salivating at the thought of dragging you off into the darkness, never to be seen again.

That's how remote and isolated it was, and even under those conditions, I don't remember the power going out all that often.

Maybe it's just that we weren't as dependent on technology as we are today, so it wasn't as big a deal as it is now. If the power went out, you could go outside and shuck corn or garden or decorate a Maypole or do whatever else a rural family does outside. Maybe play a banjo or Jew-harp down by the moonshine still until the power came back on, I don't know. Yeah, maybe the power went out every other week and we just don't remember it.

Maybe, but I don't think so.

Because it sure doesn't seem to me like the power went out more than a couple of times a year. The problem was always fixed in a relatively short time, and when it GOT fixed it STAYED fixed.

Here in the present, it seems the power's been going out about once a month for a while now. And like Baghdaders or Californians under Gray Davis or Brezhnev-era Soviets or the beaten-down American society in Atlas Shrugged we just accept this as the Way Things Are and don't believe anyone can do anything about it. Nobody wonders why, with the advances in technology, power outages aren't happening LESS often, but MORE. Nobody wonders, because there's no point in asking questions that nobody can answer. Who is John Galt?

The power went out twice today, once at 3:00 for an hour and fifteen minutes, and once at 6:00 for twenty.

Have some vodka, comerade. It will help you not to wonder why things are the way they are, and why there isn't anyone left in the world with the desire or the ability to do a damn thing about it.

1 comment:

Tom Hanna said...

Sorry, Mr. Galt, but it's not federal or even statewide. Power goes out here during storms, but Empire has crews out actually fixing it before the storms are even over. Ditto for New-Mac out in the rural areas. I'd look less to the collapse of capitalism and more to the local utility company's commitment to customer service. Or maybe it's global warming.