At just after 4:00 o’clock in the afternoon, Thursday, August, 14, 2003, the lights went out on our little horse farm compound in Alexandria, Ontario.
We knew by the suddenness of the loss of power, that this one was no ordinary little flicker caused by a blown transformer. But what we didn’t know, was how big a problem it was.
I heard over the car radio that this power outage blacked-out an area which included Toronto and New York City. And then of course, we soon learned that it was even bigger than all of that.
In about 15 minutes, by 4:30, we had the emergency generator running. And the only thing not functioning was the airconditioning system. No big deal. Everything else worked as normal. Our offices, home and stable.
So; truth be told, a power outage to us, isn’t even a slight imposition or hardship. For us, life just continues as usual, as long as the generator has plenty of gas.
And to make certain there would be plenty of gas, we headed for Quebec which had no power failure.
We drove to a Harvey’s Hamburger Restaurant a little after 5:00 o’clock, just on the Quebec side of the Ontario/Quebec border on highway 40 where it meets the 201.
We had supper with a few hundred other kindred spirits, and then purchased more gas for the generator.
We like to keep enough gas on-hand to power the property for at least 5 days if need be. This is our survivor mentality as a hold-over from the Ice Storm.
By the time we got back home, night and darkness already cast the most beautiful image of a non-light polluted sky, illuminated only by the stars and a bright moon.
If the power failure wasn’t such a difficulty for so many people, it would have been a great respite. But; because it created so many hardships for other people, our pleasure was gilded with guilt.
We turned on the television to watch the news broadcasts, which were basically all the same, regardless of which cable network we viewed. But, what was incredibly fascinating, was the commonality of the American spin of Canada.
They went something like this: New York, Ohio, Buffalo and Canada are in the dark.
Don’t these American news geniuses have any idea how big Canada is? They did mention Toronto in the same breath as New York City and Buffalo which is correct. But Canada?
It was like saying that the power was off in the United States of America when in reality the power was only off in a few Eastern cities. Albeit, they were large cities, but the States of New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania hardly constitute the USA.
To listen and watch the American News reports, you HAD to believe that ALL of Canada was in the dark. The Americans have just no idea whatsoever about Canada.
Not even the most “trusted”, “respected” and so-called “best informed” news anchors and reporters could get it in their minds that Canada is far more than just Ontario.
It was the same with SARS. According to these “most” knowledgeable people, Ontario AND Canada was infected. Where in reality, it was only Toronto. Nonetheless, all of Canada paid the price.
Then there were the proclamations accredited to Prime Minister Jean Chretien: pronounced by the Americans as Crai-ti-en.
First the Prime Minister is quoted as saying:
1 – “There was a lighting strike on a power plant in Niagara Falls on the American side that started the problem”. But that proved to be false. There was no lighting strikes in the area at all.
2 – Then the Prime Minister is said to have said: “There was a fire at a power plant in Niagara Falls on the American side that started the problem”. But that wasn’t right either. There was no fire.
3 – Then the Prime Minister is said to have said: “There was a fire at a nuclear generating plant in Pennsylvania, and that started the problem”. Wrong again. There was no fire at any nuclear generating plant in Pennsylvania or anywhere else.
It got to the point, where Prime Minister Jean Chretien was sounding like Baghdad Bob.
One of the American cable news announcers (CNN or MSNBC) finally said after running off the litany of Crai-ti-en proclamations: Stay tuned to hear what Prime Minster Crai-ti-en has to say next about the cause of this massive power failure.
All in all, everyone seemed to cope better than anyone could have imagined given the circumstances. The American news elite showed just how much they (don’t) know about Canada. And Jean Chretien, Canada’s Prime Minister gave everyone that much needed comic relief.
As it turns out, it was the numbskull Defense Minister John McCallum who continuously took one foot out of his mouth just to insert the other in his stupid and unsubstantiated pronouncements. He was more reliable when he was drinking.
For what could have been a very bad situation, it worked out to be not quite that bad at all. I guess that’s because the politicians didn’t get a chance to get involved.