Brown is Out

The weather in the past few days’ been predictably unpredictable. For 4 days in a row, its been on a rhythmic pattern of 10 minute downpours , then lulling for about 5 minutes, then raining again. For some strange reason, Im loving it. Weve been bracing ourselves for a power outage because of the rains, and today, it finally came. “Brownout” or, Blackout – as the rest of the world knows it, came early evening.

As we took the candles out (conveniently placed nearby because electricity always comes off from time to time) and lit them, I was brought back 15-20 years ago, when my cousins and I, all brown and reeking of the sun and sweat, would clap our hands and cheer when electricity goes off. “Yehay!! Brownout!!” Our elder cousins, just because they have the capacity (then) to scare the younger ones, would place lit flashlights under their chins, and try so hard to look like the scream mask. I remember I felt so cool and “in” when I was finally able to run my finger across (not above!) a candle flame.
And when dinner time came, we would all pretend we were in Paris, or somewhere more cosmopolitan than Olongapo or San Juan, and that we were a group of sun burnt kids having a romantic candle lit dinner of Spam and fried fish.
When lights came back, we would all be momentarily blinded by the flourescent glare, then race to blow the still lit candles.
Those were happy days of “brownouts”.

I didnt expect that 20 years later, on the other side of the world, the last thing people will associate with blackouts are carefree childhood days of pretend and play.
Early this year, I was in Los Angeles for a 2 day layover. I visited some relatives, and slept over at their place. Just as they were about to take me back to my hotel, there was a blackout. Since it was a household full of kids (and young boys at that), I was expecting the similar cheer and excitement over a power outage. But everyone was deathly silent. One of my cousins started her car and tuned in to the radio for news of…”attacks”. My aunt gathered everyone in the living room and asked everyone to stay where they are. In place of candles were flahslights, emergency lights, and torchlights. I tried to make light of the situation by telling them how often blackouts are in the Phils, that its no big deal. But I could sense that they were really tense, and remarks like “..this never happens..” and “ what did the news say??” would break the conversation.

Well at this day and age when nine-eleven does not mean an upgraded convenience store, and when its almost necessary to be bare naked in order to board a flight, its not so paranoid to be scared of blackouts.

Its interesting to know that in a developing country, children delight in blackouts and use the opportunity to be creative with play. And in developed places, children and their parents fear for their safety when power goes off.

Suddenly I have a brillant plan: In the far far future, if and when I have children, and if they happen to be in a place where blackouts are scarce (in other words, a ‘developed’ country), I would, from time to time, switch the main voltage off – preferrably while one is in the middle of shower, and the other is just about to watch his favorite show on TV.

Its ridiculous, but its certainly a happier world where kids would shout “Yeahhh!” and not “We’re gonna diee!!” when lights go off.

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