I live in Portland, Oregon, which mostly receives electrical power from Portland General Electric. Founded in 1888 the company was eventually owned by Enron Corporation from 1997 until 2006 until Enron went bankrupt.
See? I just used a writing technique known as foreshadowing.
Foreshadowing is a literary device by which an author hints what is to come.
By dropping the name Enron, you are now on notice that this story does not bode well. The portends are decidedly not in our favor. It’s time to omen up.
Yes, I’m being mysterious. I’m trying to leave you in the dark. Just like Portland General. Bazinga!
Being a major metropolitan area, the City of Portland is designed with security and reliability in mind. Power outages simply do not happen unless:
- The wind blows up to one (1) mph
- A squirrel gets hungry
- Water magically falls from the sky
- A drunk person, in a trillion-to-one event, rams their car into a pole
Such simple criteria means the city loses power about every 42 minutes. Who knew that cramming 625,000 people in the same area would make stuff happen? Yes, I live in a city where squirrels are frequently blamed for power outages.
At least Portland is safe. No one, not even a terrorist, could ever fuck with this city unless:
- A tweaked out kid needs to take a whiz in a city resevoir
- The wind blows and a branch falls and an entire power grid goes haywire
- Water magically falls from the sky
Portland has many names. The City of Roses. Bridgetown. Stumpdown. Rip City. Little Beirut. PDX. Cloud City. But, during autumn at least, it could also be known as The City of Leaves. (Leaves are the unpredictable byproduct of shitloads of trees.) And the city has a great strategy for dealing with them. “Clean ’em up your own damn self. You want your storm drains to work? Better get on it. By the way, we’re adding a street fee. You need to pay more taxes for this.”
So it rained on Sunday. We were out running errands. We had to retrace our steps. We drove through St. Johns. Then it started to rain. An hour later we went through the same area. It had already flooded the size of Lake Erie. It wasn’t even a heavy rain.
There had been a few brief gusts of wind. So, yeah, the power was already out. We pulled into a bar just as thunderous lightning spooked everyone in the place. They were amazed. Lightning? Wowwee. Perhaps Portland has exactly the power company it deserves?
We continued on our way and that’s when I noticed it. The traffic signals were are dark. None of them were red. None were yellow. None were green.
You know what that means, right? The entire city went Starman on steroids. Perhaps we can add “Starport City USA” to our lengthy list of nicknames?
[Starman is driving the car, and speeds across a recently turned red light, causing crashes for the other motorists]
Jenny Hayden: Okay? Are you crazy? You almost got us killed! You said you watched me, you said you knew the rules!
Starman: I do know the rules.
Jenny Hayden: Oh, for your information pal, that was a *yellow* light back there!
Starman: I watched you very carefully. Red light stop, green light go, yellow light go very fast.
Apparently the collective wisdom of the hipster lumbersexuals in PDX is this: No street light, go very fast.
That’s weird because the law says an unpowered traffic signal is to be treated as a four-way stop. It’s so weird that no one in Portland knew that. Keep Portland weird.
So we sat at an intersection watching an endless stream of cars whiz by at top speed and we never got a turn. To pass the time we celebrated several birthdays. And I plotted revenge. Now I understand where Joker, Riddler and Penguin are coming from.
This may be my last blog post for a while. I’ve decided to keep my computer turned off when I think Portland General will be unable to keep the grid powered. By my calculations that means I’ll have a 42-minute window of electricity per day.
Rather than go to the neighborhood grocery store down on the corner, I did something unusual (for me) and went downtown to give a different store a try. They have slightly better bagels.
If you know anything about my luck by now, you know that’s the exact moment when everything took a turn for the worse.
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