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Recent blackout awakens latent neighborliness

April 30, 2011

The monster tornadoes which gobbled up much of north Mississippi and Alabama on Wednesday were devastating, but folks in my town did the best they could to cope.
For us, the experience had a very thin silver lining, if only because we were unaware of the ravage imposed on neighboring cities for a blessed few hours.  All power to my area was cut mid-afternoon as the twisters damaged TVA’s transmission system.
Instantly, we were cast into isolation from the rest of the world.
Restaurants and shops dependent upon electronic cash registers, closed; the television (which my Daddy refers to as the “idiot box”) was silent; computers were rendered impotent. 
Withdrawal from all things electronic was painful. Rumor had it we wouldn’t have power restored for two or three days!  The brain couldn’t comprehend what that meant, and my mind began churning out possible solutions to a coffee-less morning-after.
What’s a person to do? I sat for a while staring at the Idiot Box, willing it to come to life.  Rebel and Lucky Dawg stared at me as if I had lost my mind.  They enjoy America’s funniest videos at 6 p.m. and pleaded with their doleful puppy eyes to punch it on.  They would have done it themselves, but they don’t have thumbs. (Thank goodness.)
The battery on my cell phone was dangerously low, so I plugged it up in my car and took a spin.  The traffic was backed up for blocks since there were no functioning traffic lights.  I couldn’t believe how courteous the drivers were.  Everyone treated the intersections as if they were four-way stops.  Many drivers let me go first, even though it wasn’t really my turn.
As darkness fell, people began coming outside.  I live in an old neighborhood where most people have little-used front porches.  Suddenly folks were joining together to rock and discuss the weather. They speculated about what the continuous parade of bad weather means and when it will come to an end.
Some of them (or was it only me?) met some of their neighbors for the first time. 
The side-walks were filled with couples walking their dogs or pushing strollers.  I thought I had died and woken up in Mayberry.  Next thing you know, Barney Fife would show up with the Mayberry marching band and we would all join in with pots and pans. 
Food and refreshments were shared and we were in awe of how bright the stars twinkled without competition from man-made light.
Above all, gratitude was expressed that our homes and lives had been spared.
Isn’t it funny how tragedy often uncovers the best in us all. 

Emily Jones is a retired journalist who edits a website for bouncing baby boomers facing retirement.  She welcomes comments at www.deludeddiva.com.

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