The Lights of Roswell

Last night I was heading home from the Atlanta Civic Center, having rehearsed (rather briskly) the second act of Carmen.

As I drove toward Roswell Road, a half mile or so from 400, every freaking light in that region of Sandy Springs went out.

It was eerie. I was passing a QT and saw it’s lights go and it’s emergency lights kick on. I passed two other gas stations and it occurred to me – what the hell do you do if you are pumping gas and the power goes out? How does that get rung up? How easy would it be to do a drive…nope, not going there. (Insert your own mental image of a somber-faced state trooper holding out your license and the legend saying “Driveoffs will be prosecuted.”)

Tonight I was reading Caitl├în R. Kiernan’s blog – she’s a novelist who lives here in the ATL. (I almost said horror novelist, but that wouldn’t be completely accurate in Ms. Kiernan’s case, and she probably wouldn’t appreciate it anyway.) She was telling of a mid-Ivan trip to Tar-jay and described the experience in a way that was so appropriate to someone whose novels can keep you up long after midnight, jumping at the shrubs tapping the windows;

“…The store was deserted and running on a back-up generator. Which was actually pretty cool. It had this whole Dawn of the Dead vibe going for it. I was kind of sorry we couldn’t sit out the storm in that vast empty temple to consumerism. We bought our batteries and headed back out into the blue-silver-grey veil of the storm…”

It was that “Dawn of the Dead vibe” for me as well, as I made a slow turn onto Roswell Road. An unfamiliar darkness over strip mall and restaurant, rain sputtering over my old ’97 LeSabre War Wagon, fitful gusts of wind still toying with the dead traffic lights. I crossed over a different Chattahoochee – the silken surface of that wide bend in the river had gone dull yellow red and begun to bully it’s banks.

As I exited the bridge I drove into the lights of Roswell. All the lights on. The streetlamps gave a brassy gleam to the curtains of rain. I turned onto my street and pulled up to my little house, the windows filled with welcoming yellow light. Another swath of wind laced with rain blew by. I stood there for a minute.

Four people have been killed by the remnants of Ivan here in Georgia. There will probably a declaration of disaster made. A grand old tree at my voice coach’s home on Piedmont in Midtown crashed down on a couple of cars at the height of the storm. On the way to rehearsal my usual 20-minute trip downtown was stretched to an hour and a half. My parents were physically safe in Birmingham from Ivan’s wrath, but their home a mile north of Gulf Shores, Alabama is not a sure thing.

But last night when I got home, the lights were on in Roswell, and for a moment I was grateful. Sometimes you take what you can get.

2 Comments so far

  1. Billy Mack (unregistered) on September 17th, 2004 @ 11:53 pm

    I remember once, during my first few months in Atlanta, I was doing my grocery shopping in the Cobb Parkway Kroger at about 11pm on a Friday night when the lights went out.

    Because I had nothing else to do (I knew no one in Atlanta at that point), and because I expected them to get the lights back on at any minute, I kept shopping. I spent the next hour wandering the aisles with my overloaded cart, trusting my nightvision to find the items on my list (as well as a bunch of items that weren’t–I’m a big impulse shopper when it comes to food).

    Eventually, I decided I had shopped as much as I could, and I headed to the front. Right about that time, the store manager made an announcement. He shouted, since there was no working PA, and notified everyone that they wouldn’t be getting power back anytime soon, but that he wanted us to take our groceries with us as we exited the store. Even better, when I pulled my cart to the front, the manager and his remaining employees quickly and courteously bagged everything I had selected, and thanked me for shopping with them!

    I left there with at least eighty dollars worth of groceries, and didn’t pay a cent. At the time, I wished I had done even more impulse grabbing. Looking back, however, I am grateful for what I left with. For a poor person who likes to eat like a pig, it was a night to remember.

  2. Jen (unregistered) on September 18th, 2004 @ 2:42 am

    Billy — That’s great! The Publix in Peachtree Battle, who was without power for about 18 hours, was tossing all their frozen food into a dumpster.. what a waste!

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