Got a match? Power failure exposes lightness of being

June 27, 1994|By ROGER SIMON

The power went out again and the flashlight batteries were either in the portable tape player or in the portable TV, neither of which I could find without a flashlight.

I knew we had candles, but I also knew we didn't have matches.

Nobody smokes anymore, so nobody has matches anymore unless the tobacco companies have addicted you to nicotine, in which case you don't even notice power failures because you spend all your time sitting around and smoking anyway.

So I ran over to my neighbor, who was standing outside on his porch.

"Got a match?" I asked.

"Not since Superman died," he said. "You have power at your place?"

"Yes," I said. "That's why I ran over here in a thunderstorm to ask you for a match, because I have power at my place."

"I think they have power across the street," he said, peering through the rain. "They always have power."

My neighbor thinks power failures are directed against him as some kind of divine punishment and gets insanely jealous when he thinks others may be escaping the same fate.

Their house is dark, I pointed out.

"They do that," he said. "They keep the lights off so nobody will know."

Will know what?

"That they have power," he said. "Run over there and ring their doorbell. If the doorbell rings, they have power."

"They don't have power," I said.

"If they really didn't have power," he said, "they'd be standing out on their porch looking to see if I had power."

"They may be doing what those stories always say people do during power failures," I said. "You know, the ones that say nine months later a lot of babies are born?"

"Baloney," my friend said. "During power failures everybody is thinking about where they put the microwave book because they're going to have to reset the clock on the microwave and where they put the VCR book because they're going to have to reset the clock on the VCR and where they put the oven book because they have to reset the clock on the oven. Who can think of all that and sex, too?"

"Are you feeling OK?" I asked.

"It's the heat," he said. "Hey, I got an idea. Let's sit in the car and turn on the air conditioning."

"Where's the car?" I asked.

"In the garage," he said.

"You got an electric garage door opener?"

"Sure," he said.

"Then you won't be able to get the garage door open because there's no power. And so we'll die from carbon monoxide. Our corpses will be delightfully cool, however."

"Not to worry," he said. "My door opener has one of those manual controls on it just for power failures."

"Mine, too," I said. "And the instructions for it are right there in the garage door book. You know where your garage door book is?"

"Somewhere," he said. "Somewhere I could maybe find given a million years or so."

His phone rang. He went in to answer it. It was his wife reminding him not to keep opening the refrigerator door like he always does during power failures to see if the food is getting warm.

"She must think I'm a total idiot," he said, handing me a beer. "Drink up before they go warm."

We drank for a little bit.

"You know, the phones always work even when the power doesn't," he said. "So how come they don't build the power lines out of whatever they build the phone lines out of?"

"And how come they don't build the airplanes out of what they build the black boxes out of?" I said.

"You're in a cheery mood," he said.

"It's because I am missing 'Sleepless in Seattle,' " I said. "I never saw it in the movies, and it was premiering on cable tonight."

"So watch it on the portable," he said.

"You can't get cable on a portable," I said. "Al Gore keeps yapping about the information superhighway, but you still can't get cable on a portable. Even if I could find the batteries for the portable, which I can't because I can't find the batteries for the flashlight which is why I need to light a candle with the matches I came over here to get."

Just then, the couple across the street came out on their porch. They had their arms around each other's waists and they gave us a long, languid wave.

"They're faking it," my friend said. "I know they have power."

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