23 August 2003

End of emergency in Ontario

Last evening the Premier announced an end to the state of emergency caused by last week's massive power failure.

This morning our family drove out to Kitchener to visit the Doon Heritage Crossroads, a recreated village and two farms set in the year 1914, just before the outbreak of the Great War. At that time, of course, the city was known as Berlin, soon to be renamed for essentially the same reason that St. Petersburg became Petrograd and our own royal family of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha became Windsor. (In its new incarnation it would bear the name of a Briton famous for undertaking the first triangulated survey of the island of Cyprus. . . oh, and possibly for a few other things as well.)

While we were in the general store the young lady behind the ancient cash register said that they were at first unaware of the blackout. As electricity was still uncommon in 1914, the actors at Doon Heritage Crossroads cook with wooden stoves and perform a variety of tasks by hand or by a human-powered mechanical device such as a sewing machine. Clothes are washed in wash tubs and hung out to dry. True, the 25-watt bulbs in the store were out, but she assumed there was a problem with the bulbs themselves. I don't know how much time elapsed before they learned the truth, but it was by no means immediate, as it was for the rest of us.

Obviously we cannot reverse the historical process, and I wouldn't argue that we should. Were we to attempt to get along without electricity at this late a date, we would quickly feel the consequences, which would be, not only unpleasant, but downright dangerous.

All the same, I find myself wondering whether we ought not to keep at the ready bottled water, a little extra cash, a yoke of oxen with cart in tow, several sturdy candles, an hibachi, an ice cellar, and a typewriter. . . just in case.

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