My small neighborhood has had two major power outages in the past five days. The first began sometime Friday night and lasted until about nine Saturday morning. I first knew of this power failure when the emergency light I keep in my bedroom came on and woke me up. I got this light after the Northridge earthquake. It's great. It looks like a big flashlight, which of course it is, and I plug it into an outlet. The moment the power goes off the light comes on. Friday night I didn't look at the clock to note the time of the power failure. I just got up, unplugged my emergency light, shut it off, put it next to my bed and went back to sleep. When I woke up Saturday morning, I realized that I had no access to news. I no longer have a battery powered radio. I had no Internet access because my cable modem depends on power as does my television. I didn't know if the power outage was specific to my home, to my street, to my neighborhood, city, state...you get it. So I went outside and asked a neighbor out sweeping his driveway if he had power. The guy had already taken a walk, found utility folk, and found out that the problem was specific to our neighborhood and repair would take a couple hours more. I went back to bed.
Last night I got home from work a little after nine. When I turned into my neighborhood it took me a second to realize that what seemed different was the complete darkness. It's an eerie feeling to drive on streets normally well illuminated by street lights and house lights. Everything seemed so still. As I drove up my hill I started itemizing my shopping list of emergency supplies. Of course, the first items on the list would be a battery powered radio and more flashlights. I couldn't remember where any flashlights might be aside from my emergency powered one which was upstairs and of no help getting into a completely dark home.
Unable to open my garage door from the outside, I pulled into a parking space -- and was greeted by my neighbor. You remember that she's the one who didn't run for vice president.
"Here's a flashlight,"she said. "You shouldn't have to go into a dark house."
I added that to my list of essential emergency supplies -- a good neighbor.
Here's the thing about having a good neighbor. You can't go out a buy them. And they don't come along very often. But they're always there when you need them.