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Lynn Hudoba: The Night the Lights Went Out in Downers

In the dark and wondering WWJDD: What Would Jebediah Downer Do?

I'm sitting downstairs, with my daughter supposedly sleeping upstairs. I simultaneously hear the thunderous storm outside, that dead-duck sound of everything powering down, and her screaming, "OH NO!  MY AAAAANGEL!!!!"

It seems her guardian angel took a powder along with the electricity. The guardian angel, who also happens to double as a night light.

It's really hard to explain to any child, let alone a child with autism, what electricity is and how it makes the angel glow and how, no, I can't fix it by putting in a new light bulb like last time, all while wondering if the house was headed for Oz and whether that angel would have recommended that we get to the basement if she was around to look after our well-being.

God knows our tornado sirens weren't giving us any guidance. I live practically underneath the tornado sirens at 55th and Main. The next day, Downers Grove Patch reported that a tornado touched down in Downers Grove.

But not just anywhere in Downers Grove; the site literally said "at 55th and Main." So unless the tornado actually took the siren pole with it, don't ask me why it didn't go off. I guess the sirens are only meant for waking us up at 1 a.m. on calm, clear nights or for driving every autistic kid in town ape-shizz at 10 a.m. on the first Tuesday of every month.

After the storm passed and morning dawned, we awoke to a suburban hellscape of untold carnage, marauding gangs of looters, and a lawless society lorded over by bands of goth teen zombies.

Wait. I meant to say whatever is the exact opposite of that. It was actually like after the Grinch stole Christmas and the Whos hold hands and sing that "Yahoo Doris" song.  Everyone was out chit-chatting, cleaning up the debris, helping each other out, checking on the elderly, and comparing notes about their damage. In case you hadn't already figured it out, I'm not nearly nice enough to live in this town.

Ours was one of the few houses that didn’t have much to clean up. The tornado gods must have known that I’d have my hands full trying to entertain my daughter without any power. Autistic kids, more so than typical kids, are fairly obsessed with all things noisy and flashing, and I’m not talking about the homeless people at the train station. I’m talking about electric-powered, battery-charged, whizz-bang fun: computers, iPhones, Nintendo, TV, DVD’s, CDs and more.

Like many children on the spectrum, my daughter is challenged when it comes to imaginative play. When left to her own devices, she would always rather be, well…left to her own devices. I’ve often wondered if autistic kids existed in the 19th century, and what they did to entertain themselves. Last week, I got a very small taste of what it might have been like, as we were forced to make like Little House on the Prairie

*Drums fingers*  

Man, I read every one of those books too, but I can't remember a single thing that those girls did to entertain themselves. Braid Pa's beard? Sew rickrack on their bonnets? Huff liniment?

It was a desperate situation, with my very bored daughter whining and crying and not understanding what she was being punished for. I would periodically stand out on my front porch and listen for the drone of a generator, fantasizing about how I would threaten the owner with the business end of a downed tree branch if he didn’t charge my daughter’s DSi. Then I remembered that this was Whoville and that anyone would gladly do that for me if they could.

But I felt embarrassed that I would even think about asking for such a trivial thing while people were worried about rotting food and flooded basements. Plus it completely takes the fun out of it if you can’t threaten someone with a wooden spear.

I briefly considered trying to score a gas-powered generator of my own, but then the electricity came back on and the thought quickly left my head. I left that problem to Future Me, who will no doubt be viciously cussing out lazy Present Me, the next time the power goes out, for not following through on that. Screw you, Future Me. I’ve got charging to do.

Jennie June 29, 2011 at 12:46 AM
So glad everything was okay at your place. One of your funniest yet, Lynn :)
Jen July 01, 2011 at 02:29 AM
The second I see a dark cloud in the sky, I charge everything. The DS the laptop (for movies), the portable dvd player...there is NO way we can survive a power outage around here.

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