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In communicado

December 1, 2022

Yep, that’s where I am – in communicado.

We were supposed to be having our dress rehearsal at the community hall on Tuesday. Snow was in the forecast. It started in the morning, didn’t look too bad, then got worse. And then the wind started. Major wind. The roads weren’t great. What should we do? No one, least of all me, wanted to cancel the dress rehearsal, but… I really wasn’t happy about asking people to do something I couldn’t and, since the great blizzard car wreck of a few years ago, I have not been – particularly at night – been able to drive in heavy snow without suffering from flashbacks and anxiety. Still, it wasn’t until we found out the power was out in the south end, including the hall, that we pulled the plug. Heavy snow and strong winds. Yep, a power failure was inevitable. Fortunately we managed to get hold of everyone before the whole island went dark. 

That took a while. Three or four hours of the power going off for several seconds then coming back on for half an hour or so. Repeat several times until around 8:15 when it went off for good. Time to get the generator going.

Waited a while before calling the BC Hydro automated helpline to see if there was any sense of how long this might take. Dialled the number, but nothing happened. Well, it must be bad if the helpline wasn’t working. Figured there was no way the power would be back that night, so just settled down to watch a DVD. (The wifi modem is plugged into one of the outlets attached to the generator, but that doesn’t help. When the power’s out the internet and cable never come back until the power’s back on.) 

Went to bed earlier than usual with my book. (Val McDermid’s 1989 – more on this some other time.) Read until fairly late, went to sleep hoping power might be back on in the morning as I had an appointment yesterday afternoon for my bi-annual haircut. Have to look good for opening night, right?

Got up at 10am. No power. Went outside to get the generator going and make myself a cappuccino. Tried the Hydro helpline again. Still nothing. Called my friend Donna. Like me, she and her husband never switched to a Shaw digital phone service and have an old, corded phone on hand for just such occasions. (Shaw claims digital phones will last for three hours in a power outage, but this is simply not true.) Donna had also had no luck getting through to Hydro on her landline, but did manage with patchy mobile phone service. A crew was expected to be on the island at 10:30. Hmm. Not sounding good for my 2pm haircut, but fingers crossed.

Did what I usually do when the power and internet are off and tried to call my off island friend Catherine to get her to go on the BC Hydro website to figure out how widespread the problem is. Dialled the number. Nothing. Tried my friend Krys in Toronto. Nothing. That’s when I finally realised the phones were also fucked. Called Donna back. Yep. She tried to ring several numbers with no luck, although the phone did ring and was answered at the grocery store. Open for cash only purchases.

Donna called back around 1:30 to say their power was back on. Came on here just after 2pm. I gave it 15 minutes, then headed down to the hair salon on the off chance that the owner had hurried in to open up. Nope. Continued to the village hoping to refill the 20 litre jerrycan with generator gas. (Is it still a jerrycan if it’s made of plastic? If not, what is it called now?)  I had $25 in cash and planned, when I arrived to ask if (a) they still had generator gas and (b) they were willing to take a cheque. If the first answer was yes and the second no I was just going to put as much fuel in the jerrycan as my cash would get me. Turned out neither question was relevant. Pulled in at the petrol station where there were signs on all the pumps saying: “NO FUEL NO LOTTERY”. Really? Not being able to buy a lottery ticket was that big a deal for that many people? Oh, well.

Next stop was the credit union to see if anyone was there and if I could cash a cheque. (I knew the ATM would still be out of order.) Yes, there were lights on and, yes, there were people inside, but the door was locked. One employee unlocked the door and opened it wide enough to tell me there would be no money until today.

Came home. An hour after the power came back on there was still no internet and, beyond Donna, my trusty phone still did not work. (Oddly, a few years ago when a crane that was being towed capsized and ripped out the electricity, cable and phone wired from Vancouver Island and here, she was the only person I could reach during the ensuing five days of no power and no communication.) It was from Donna I learnt that, yes, phone (generally) and internet were down and likely to remain so for at least another day. Fuck.

It’s opening night tonight. We have no way of communicating with the cast and crew (or the audience) that the show is indeed going on. We can only cross our fingers and hope that everyone will assume this is the case and turn up when they are supposed to do so. If not, we are well and truly fucked.

Guess I’ll have something to eat then go over to the stage manager’s home to see if she and the other crew have some sort of plan.

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