Sunday, July 27, 2014


Dear RED in the Parallel Universe:

Sorry about that solar flare — I mean, sorry in a girl way, sorry that life sucks right now for you. Over here we missed it by one week. How fucking lucky are we? 

The plasma cloud that smacked you in July 2012 shot past us, so we never got the Flintstones treatment. Not trying to make light of what happened over there, but a return to the Stone Age must have sucked. Really sucked.

The flare was like lightning on the long lines — direct current on cables meant only for alternating current. The cascading wave crisped the lines and ruined the electrical grid. Even if power plants used local generators to make electricity, there was no way to get it to what the energy companies liked to call "lower-voltage electricity distribution systems" — cities, suburban neighborhoods, rural cooperatives. That was, in the oblique slang of the utility companies, an "adverse synergy."

No more power grid. No more choice anxiety at Hy-Vee. No more flushing toilets, for Chrissakes. Forget the death of cell phones and poached WiFi; you couldn't even flush the toilets because the water grid runs on electric pumps.

Without electricity there was no way for the media to tell people what had happened overnight, and no way for people to use social networks to ask the question on everyone's mind: what the fuck just happened?

Without electricity, air conditioners were turned into large, dead hunks of metal, useless against the heat and humidity of summer. 

Without electricity, transportation control systems died. Traffic and railroad signals blinked out. Tanker trains and trucks couldn't deliver gasoline. Gas pumps wouldn't work. People searching for some unaffected place drove until they ran out of gas, and then abandoned their cars on roads and highways.

Without electricity, financial systems couldn't operate. Bank accounts couldn't be accessed. The electronic economy collapsed immediately, and in silence, and the gap between the rich and the poor vanished.

Suddenly and inexplicably cut off from what they knew as civilization, people became uncivilized.

An intelligent animal will try to chew off its leg if the limb is caught in a trap; its instinct to survive seizes control. Humans, not being the most intelligent animals, let panic be their guide. They raided and looted supermarkets, convenience stores, distribution warehouses — any place where they might find food and water. After the first wave of people emptied the stores, the second wave came and, angered and frightened by the empty shelves, set fire to the buildings. The smoke and flames brought emergency crews. They tried to restore order but were set upon by the new arsonists, who quickly became new murderers.

It took six hours for a federal state of emergency to be declared, six days for the first government teams to make it to the worst-hit areas, six months for the first parts of the grid to be repaired.

By then most population centers had been routed.

We missed all that shit by one week. Give it up for us, why don't you? The greatest civilization living in the greatest era — EVER — and turns out we have the greatest luck of all time. Shit would have gotten ugly and we don't need that. We have things to do.

It's been two years now and we're still copacetic. We haven't done much to upgrade the grid after the near-hit, but hey, crossing fingers and we should be good.

We are blissful in our always-on life. A little flare-up in Gaza, a little Ebola is Africa, but the new iPhone is almost here. They say it's got a bigger screen. And it'll take even better pictures.

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