It’s difficult to impossible to think of all things we take for granted in our daily lives – until we don’t have them.
Things like three meals a day. We take them for granted, until we miss one.
Or a good night’s sleep. We take it for granted and don’t appreciate how important it is, until a night when we lie awake with insomnia.
Or the electricity that powers our homes and so many other things. We take it for granted, rarely if ever give it a second thought.
Until we don’t have it.
The power went out at our house recently. We figured it would be one of those fleeting outages, power back on before you really miss it, but it stayed off for quite a while. Long enough to realize how much we rely on it.
“This would be as good a time as any to mow the lawn,” I said to my wife. “There are a lot of other things I want to do but can’t with the power off so I’ll mow the lawn instead.”
Except for time in the Navy and college, I’ve been mowing lawns regularly since I was a kid. Some of my neighbors who used to mow their lawns have hired a guy who does it in a fraction of the time with a riding mower. One of the few holdouts in the neighborhood, I continue to mow mine not because I enjoy it but because giving it up is a concession to aging that I’m not ready to make.
That, or maybe it’s just stubbornness.
So, out to the garage I went to get out the mower. It’s an electric mower, but the battery was charged so it didn’t need power.
The garage door opener did, however. Without power, it was impossible to open the door to get the mower out of the garage. So much for that idea.
Wondering how long the power would be out, I picked up the remote to turn on the TV for the noon news. Maybe there would be an update.
Duh. No power, no TV.
“We could call the power company for an update,” my wife suggested.
“Good idea. Why don’t you do that while I run an errand?”
Some things ordered from a store downtown had arrived the day before, and with the power out it seemed like a good time to drive down and get them.
The mower wasn’t the only thing stuck in the garage, of course. I realized this after getting my keys and striding confidently to the car – temporarily rendered useless by the inoperable garage door.
What to do? Couldn’t mow the lawn, couldn’t watch the news, couldn’t go anywhere in the car. Maybe it would be a good time to catch up with emails.
Or would have been if my computer had been working properly. Some of the emails that had been there the night before had inexplicably vanished. Quite a few of them, actually. You wouldn’t think the power going out would affect a laptop.
Or would it? Could it have affected the router? It seemed possible, even likely. Whatever the reason, the laptop had gone on strike.
Along with most of the clocks in the house.
Including the sprinkler-system clock. It would have to be reprogrammed, a task that involves resetting the time of day, the time the sprinklers would start in the morning and the time each station needs to run – all while being sandwiched into a minuscule space bordered by two walls, a work bench boxes of books, bags of lawn-care products, bicycles, a kiddy pool and an air compressor. Just thinking about it gives me claustrophobia.
The power was off an unusually long time. A long time, that is, for this part of Idaho. We’re accustomed to reliable power with infrequent outages, usually of short duration. We take that for granted.
That’s not the case in many places. At our family’s cabin in Washington State, the power goes out often and for long stretches. Neighbors who live there year-round tell winter tales of wearing coats and huddling under blankets around wood-burning stoves while waiting, sometimes for days, for the power to return.
We take so many things for granted. Our homes, our health, our families …
Until we hear about people who have lost those things in a heartbeat and pray that it doesn’t happen to us.
The people who lost everything to Hurricane Ian may have taken their homes and lifestyles for granted, even living in a state where hurricanes are regular occurrences.
People in Ukraine may have taken their lives for granted, until a ruthless dictator turned them upside down.
The scariest thing to take for granted is our democracy. We thought we’d always have it. We’ve taken it for granted all our lives. Now there are multiple threats against it.
You might want to think about that when you vote next month.
Maybe we shouldn’t take anything for granted.