My story

I was in downtown Toronto. I was chatting with a coworker when the power went out.

Or should I say, the primary lights went out. Emergency lights flipped on, and the racks of Opteras and other Nortel equipment continued running, on uninterruptable power supplies.

Looked outside. It looked like this part of the building had a brownout. Walked outside. Wow, the whole block.

Oh well, I have some time to make some calls. I decided to call Silverlotus, to see if she had V’s work phone number. The guy wanted to have dinner when I was in town, but lost his cellphone, didn’t know the number of his loaner, and neglected to tell me what his work number was. :rollseyes:: “I’d love to help,” Silverlotus said, “but we’ve had a blackout for the past fifteen minutes.” That was when the hair stood up from the back of my neck.

It was like 1964. But it also was not. Most buildings had backup power. Fire elevators hummed along their protected shunts. People were on mobile phones. Bell’s voice and data networks were at 99% functionality. They were a bit congested at times, but they worked. We always take dialtone for granted. If you had a laptop with a modem, you could log into your Sympatico account and surf the web.

Couldn’t check into my hotel at first, because they needed their computers to look up my reservation. Silverlotus got my bedside radio clock working, and was my primary source of news for the next few hours.

When I was hungry, I went downstairs to find a hot dog vendor. The booth sat empty. “He ran out of buns, so he went to get more,” another would-be customer explained. I looked at the bumper to bumper traffic. Hell, if he ever returned, it wouldn’t be for hours.

As night fell, they barricaded all the doors to the hotel except the main entrance. Police cars roamed outside, their headlights creating surreal reliefs of grooves and potholes in the asphalt. Used the glow of the LCD screen of my digicam to use the pitch-black washroom. I fell asleep to the murmur of a hundred diesel generators.

The power had returned, at least briefly, during the night. Unless I dreamt it. In the morning, I brushed my teeth, went back to the sink, and discovered there was no more water. Water is piped in with electrical pumps…

The Bell building had full power, however. This will make a lot of businesses rethink they’re business continuity plans. It’s not good enough to have a backup datacentre in another building; maybe it needs to be in another province all together. And fully stocked with UPSs.

Later, I was sitting in a VIA train en route to London, immobilized somewhere east of Brantford. Trains run on diesel – but signals run on electricity. The ride eventually took over 5 hours – a normally 2 hour trip.

Came home, took a shower. A cold shower. No hot water.