The One With The Power Outage

In the seventh episode of Friends, entitled, “The One With The Blackout,” New York City encounters a massive power outage, leaving the friends stranded without electricity for hours, and of course, shenanigans ensue. Now, while last night didn’t end with me fighting off a violent cat, meeting a flirtatious Italian, or getting trapped in an ATM with a Victoria’s Secret model, it DID end with adventures and fellowship brought on by a sudden power outage in my hall of residence.

While I am here studying abroad at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, I am living in University Hall Apartments. There are five levels of flats, each flat housing four or five students per flat, all-in-all accommodating over 100 residents. So, when the power went out at 10:30 PM, you can imagine that there was quite a bit of unrest amongst us residents. 

Look at all of us, huddled together with whatever light source we could scrounge up! Photo by author.

Where was I when the power went out? In the most convenient of places, of course; right in the middle of washing my face in a bathroom with a single light and a closed door. So my world was suddenly shrouded in darkness as soap and leftover mascara seeped into my eyes. For a brief moment, I wondered if perhaps the combination of the two substances that was currently stinging the hell out of my eyes had rendered me blind…did blindness really take hold that quickly? But then, I flailed my arms about until I found the light switch, wherein I discovered that I was NOT blind, but in the middle of a power outage, or, at the very least, in the middle of a horror movie. I was halfway expecting to get attacked by some bloodthirsty New Zealand mythological beast who only feasted on the flesh of pasty American girls (hey, poorer plots have been produced!).

I finally managed to scrape the soap/mascara nonsense off of my face and join my bewildered flatmates outside of our apartment, where we found about twenty other residents looking equally bewildered, clutching phones, candles, and flashlights (or, as the Kiwis say, “torches”). After a few minutes of quiet speculation, the fun began. I finally met our next-door neighbors (who hilariously called my American accent, “jarring,” for the record!), then went on an excursion to the very top floor where a large group of power outage-refugees had gathered to commiserate. It wasn’t long before one flat had managed to find the resources to throw a miniature rave, complete with lighting and music from the interior of their darkened apartment. After awhile, myself and a few friends crashed the flat of another friend, who had somehow managed to rig up twinkle lights and was subsequently one of the most popping venues in the vicinity. We shared stories, laughed at our ridiculous circumstances, and very simply enjoyed each other’s company.

Now, I’m not about to preach some sort of “anti-technology” moral, because believe me, I love Netflix as much as the next guy (Season 4 of House of Cards, amiright?), but this moment was oddly beautiful to me. If the power hadn’t gone out, every single one of us would have had a very different night. I would have washed my face, gotten into bed, checked Facebook and Instagram one more time, fallen asleep, and that would be the end of it. But since our electricity was forcibly (albeit accidentally) taken away from all of us at the same time, it forced us all to go outside and socialize face to face, rather than on a device. The fact that I hadn’t even met my own next-door neighbors is astonishing and quite sad. I crashed a flat of someone I barely know and had fellowship with people I might never see again. I laughed and now have memories with people I can’t possibly recognize in the light of day because it was so terribly dark, but isn’t that magical in a way?

Nothing like a late-night party in a the candlelit flat of a stranger! Photo by author.

To whatever or whoever caused the campus-wide blackout for an hour and a half last night, I sincerely thank you (and if it’s a “whoever,” I hope that you are taking your recent firing relatively well), because had it never happened, my night would have ended fine, but flavorless. What is life without the crazy detours and unexpected turns? So if there is a moral to be had, might I simply recommend that you not wait for life’s power outages to place you into a new social situation, because they may never happen. It’s nights like this that you remember for how absurd and alive they make you feel.

Now, if you don’t mind, since the power IS back on now, Ima get back to House of Cards…

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