Seeing the Light

jdbruewer's picture

(Originally Published Sept. 2008)
I was sitting in the basement on a recent Monday night playing my football video game. The Bengals were moments away from crushing the Patriots, and then everything went dark.
While I was sitting deep in the man-cave of my basement, a storm had blown up and knocked out power.
The first thing I had to do was figure out how to walk through the minefield of kids' toys and half-finished projects from the far corner of the basement to the stairs without breaking another ankle. I realized then that an emergency light in the basement would be nice. You know, the kind of flashlight that plugs into the wall and comes on automatically when the power goes out.
After making my way upstairs and checking with my wife, I realized the bedroom could use a flashlight like that, too.
Then I thought about our sump pump. It was raining like a tropical storm outside and I was sure the pump would be needed. I had no electricity, but when we moved in I had the forethought to purchase a battery powered back up pump.
Since then, however, I'd been lulled into a false sense of security. We'd never lost power in our house for more than a few seconds since we moved in seven years ago. In those seven years, I'd let the marine battery that powers the pump go bad.
Not to worry, I had a backup plan to use a power inverter attached to my car to run the pump.
Unfortunately, the pump needed more power than the inverter supplied. I realized this as I heard the sound of a generator from a neighbor's house. The noise mocked me as I figured out a new plan.
Good news: I realized the inverter could power the backup pump and charge its battery. Bad news: The battery was so shot it wouldn't hold a charge. The pump would make a feeble little whine for a couple seconds, shut off for several more seconds, and then whine again. At this point, the water was rising in the sump pit about a half inch every 20 minutes or so.
I began taking a mental inventory of how many extension cords I had. I think I had enough to reach the neighbors across the street, who still had power. Or, I could just get a new battery for the backup pump.
Say what you will about Wal-Mart, but when you need a deep-cycle trolling, starting and accessories battery at 2 a.m., Wally World is a wonderful place.
A short trip allowed me to get the three things I needed: the marine battery, batteries for the flashlights at home, and electrical tape to fix damage to the inverter (another story for another day).
The new battery kicked the pump to life and the water level dropped before ever getting out of the sump pit.
I checked in with the family, the wife and kids were still sleeping soundly. The kids slept through the storm just fine and didn't wake up until I was starting to fall asleep.
As I rested in bed with no television to distract me and a light breeze blowing through the window, I thought about how simpler life must have been without all of our modern conveniences. I enjoyed a chance to slow down a bit.
Then the power came back on and I rushed to get the air conditioners back on and reset the alarm clock so I could get up early and get a jump on the busy day ahead.