Whilst at work the other day I was stood outside waiting to be ridiculously busy and found myself staring up into the sky to a full moon that was directly above me lighting the roofs of the houses opposite. Now I am not a simpleton and know that the light from the moon can be very powerful on a clear night where there are no lights to impede it. But a thought struck me – How would we cope if all the electric failed and all that lit the street, town, country was moonlight?
Just imagine it, your street is completely blacked out as you scrabble for candles, torches, anything that will give you some light… To many people this is something out of nightmares as they are left alone in the dark. And i cannot deny that for many ill and elderly people it would definitely be terrifying to be alone in the dark and possibly with no way to help yourself find light or heat. But for me the question that followed on was how would the mass crowds of people react?
Following recent events, such as the riots and the apparent widespread culture of violence and gangs, it would seem the obvious answer would be that all “decent” folk would lock their doors and light their candles as the rest of the world went crazy looting and vandalising their local areas. Possibly burning buildings and attacking innocent bystanders like we saw in the appalling riots only months ago. And how would the emergency services cope with such an event? Without a single second of CCTV footage, unlike the earlier riots it would seem impossible to prosecute anybody other than those caught in the act, most people would go unpunished and unchecked until power was recovered. Not only this but how would the police, fire service or ambulance know which part of town to respond to? As most people would rely on their mobile phones which would probably be unable to be used with the towers being without power.
Yes, from such experiences as we have recently had it would be impossible to imagine how anything other than these events would occur. Without power in our towns, it could only descend into a madness and violence which mirrored the 1997 blackout of New York. Where 550 police officers were injured, 35 blocks of Broadway alone were destroyed and countless stores looted and set on fire.
However, such apocalyptic events were not the images that popped into my mind. I imagined countless people flooding onto the streets laughing over dripping candles and helping each other with their quickly de-frosting ice cream and dangerously warm beer. In short I imagined the Orange Cinema advert without even realising it…
Although you may scoff at my somewhat idealistic idea of the events that would follow such a blackout, it cannot be denied that in 2003 when much of North East America was faced with such a blackout, that these events did not occur. Yes many people were stranded in New York as the city’s streets became blocked by traffic, many were unable to contact home and had to stand in queues for payphones in the middle of a burgeoning heat wave. But there were also restaurants that simply cooked up what food they that would be spoiled, dished out their melting ice cream and turned many New York streets into an unusual block party that was simply not to be missed.
So where do you think you would be in such a situation? Locking yourself in your safe house with as many candles, torches and night vision goggles as you could gather expecting mayhem to explode throughout your town. Or would you be out on the street enjoying the novelty of the situation and making memories to last a lifetime?