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Monday, August 18, 2003

The Survivalists, or "How the Price Family Heroically Overcame Serious Inconvenience."

In a story red in tooth and claw, the East-Side Prices managed to survive Blackout 2003.

I was at work when the power went off at about 4:15. It happened 20 minutes after I'd filed a brief with at the Federal courthouse in Detroit. The timing of it all still inspires nervous laughter, sometimes with a hysterical edge to it.

Lawyers understand.

Anyhow, the power flickered, came back, flickered, came back, then said "Screw it!" with some finality. I was walking over to make a copy of the cover letter for the brief, but no such luck. I ducked my head into a colleague's office, and we briefly discussed the incident, the word "terrorism" entering into, and ultimately killing the discussion. Then I called home to inform my wife of the outage, and she informed me that the house, too, was without power. And the water was coming out in a sickly trickle. I told her I would probably be leaving soon. It turned out to be the last call I was able to place without difficulty that day.

This was unnerving, and I went over immediately to tell my boss. Along the way, another attorney in my office said her sister at the GM Mound Road plant was also reporting a loss of power. She was hypothesizing a blown transformer. That didn't sound right to me, and the anxiety level was officially raised to Code Orange. I told my boss the info I had, and said I was out of the high rise for the day. He said no problem, and I walked down the stairs. Some of my bolder coworkers, trusting to the generators, took the elevators. No thanks. As it turned out, some poor woman in the Fisher Building ended up staying 18 hours in an elevator following the outage.

Just what I was afraid of.

As I exited the building, I noticed others starting to slowly empty out. I increased my pace, determined to beat the normally high traffic that was about to be transformed into the Rush Hour From Hell. I hopped in the car and turned on News Radio 950 to discover the problem was international. Time to raise that ol' threat elevation level? The station had generators and/or a muscular hamster, so it kept an invaluable low power broadcast going through the metro area for the next day and a half. The local Catholic stations, apparently generator-free, were beaming static into the heavens.

I got to the expressway without difficulty, and was advised to avoid the surface streets by the otherwise-invaluable radio. The theory was that surface streets would be a giant pain in the keister due to the failure of traffic signals. Not a bad theory, but one that ignored that the highways were becoming parking lots due to the exodus from Detroit. I took a chance on exiting on to a major surface street, and was rewarded with what turned out to be pretty much a straight shot back home.

Along the way, I was told that ice was vanishing like, well, ice on a hot August day. Then, I formulated a cunning plan: I would go shopping for necessities.

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