You may have heard about the Great San Diego Blackout of 2011. Guess where I was. At the San Diego Quilt Show at the Convention Center, Hall H.

At about 3:30 in the afternoon the hall went pitch dark. An “oooh” went up all around. A few seconds later the emergency lights same on, about one-eighth power. You could see to get around, but the quilts in the show and the wares in the booths were only dimly visible.

The convention center announcer came on the loudspeaker and informed us that the power had gone off.


A few minutes later, the voice of the cenvention center came back on and told us that the power outage was county-wide. Wow. That’s when we knew we were in for it.

The show attendees started to trickle away, because really, when you go to a quilt show it’s nice to see the quilts. We vendors hung around for awhile to see what was going to happen.

Rumors started flying! No power from Mexico to California! It’s all the way to Phoenix!

My neighbors and I were chatting in the twilit aisle, and what should come around the corner but a conga line of show committee members. We laughed and laughed. “It’s all we’ve got!” they said as they conga’d down the aisle. I thought that was so sweet.

There was no water in the sinks at the convention center. They were those fancy automatic power faucets. The custodian helpfully suggested that we could rinse our hands in the water fountain outside, which was still functioning.

At about 5:30 the vendors started to straggle out. Getting back to the hotel was not that much fun. Rush hour, and no traffic lights. A ten minute drive turned into about half an hour with the lovely four-way stop at each intersection. There were lots of emergency vehicles and sirens whizzing around, as apparently some folks forgot that a dead traffic light is like a stop sign.

I made it back to my hotel safely and was very glad of it. Thankfully the room key card worked. Fortunately (because there were no restaurants) I had a salad in the mini fridge and a microwavable lasagna, but of course no power for the microwave. I ran the last of the hot water over the container. Lukewarm lasagna… hey, not that bad considering the circumstances!

It was still light out but the dark was coming. What in the world would I do until bedtime? There was no TV! I tried calling my husband, who was at Cape Kennedy in Florida to observe the launch of the GRAIL moon mission. There was no connection to the cell-phone network. The towers were down. By the same token, there was no email function on the phone either. No wifi, no internet. I picked up the landline in the hotel room. Nope.

bitty-flashlightIt got truly dark and I dug something out of my purse that always stays in there but is rarely used: an itty bitty flashlight that Dana had given me years ago. You squeeze it for a burst of light.

My brand new iPhone also provided a modicum of light if held out before me like a beacon. Together with the itty bitty flashlight I could get around the room okay. But I was worried about the battery in the cell phone.

All of a sudden, I remembered that I had brought the netbook along as a “backup.” A backup to what I wasn’t sure, except that the cell phone was so new. The netbook had a really good battery! With it I could charge up the cell phone! So that was one less worry.

For something to do (did I mention there was no TV?) I considered using the netbook to write a draft of this post, then realized that I couldn’t see to type. (Alas, touch typing is a skill I never acquired.) But I discovered that if I slanted the monitor way forward, it shone enough light on the keyboard so that I could see and type! Amazing.

Since the hubby and I were supposed to talk that night and couldn’t, I hoped he had heard about the power outage on the news or perhaps googled “Has San Diego fallen into the ocean.”

So many things we take for granted in our day and age. It was very interesting to be powerless. It really gets you thinking. Just imagine:

No traffic lights
No cell phone
No telephone
No restaurants
No microwave
No internet
No email
No wifi
No light
No air conditioning

It was a lot like Falling Skies except that the cars still worked.

But I was safe and I was fed, and that’s what really mattered. The power came back on in the middle of the night and the next day at the show we were back in business.

More later,
By Kay Mackenzie