Ryan Daniels | A tale of two shutdowns
Daniels, Straight Up | Finding the similarities between my power shutoff last week and the government closure
October 21, 2013, 8:23 pm · Updated October 22, 2013, 12:26 am·
Daniels, Straight Up
Around midnight last Wednesday, as the American government passed a last-minute bill to end its shutdown, mine was just beginning.
I came home to find my lights not working and a bright red slip at my doorstep. The Philadelphia Electric Company notice informed me that my apartment’s power had been disconnected. However, I’d never applied for service.
Days later, when my power was finally reconnected, I read various news analyses of the government’s shutdown and found a few similarities between the shutdown and my earlier predicament.
A main reason for both of our crises was naive neglect.
In the weeks leading up to Oct. 1, politicians in both parties spoke ominously of a failure to compromise in time. However, many also affirmed that government closures almost never happen and that this would be politics as usual — another debate down to the wire.
Similarly, I gently reassured myself that setting up a PECO account was unnecessary. In my previous off-campus apartment, the landlord covered utilities as part of rent, so — despite not confirming this with anyone — I believed this to be the rule of off-campus living.
Also, electricity was already flowing when I moved in. I, too, just wanted to cut unnecessary spending wherever possible.
The government and I simply thought: What’s the worst that could happen? Well, apparently a sudden shutdown that detrimentally disrupts daily life.
There were many repercussions confronting Americans. Most obviously, we saw 800,000 federal workers furloughed, gates constructed around federal tourist attractions and billions of dollars disappear from the economy. Less obviously, our food and workplaces became less safe due to an absence of regulatory agencies, and we couldn’t access federal websites.
For me, dozens of reflexive light switch flicks upon entering a new room were the most obvious hindrances. Each one made me nostalgic for the services I used to so deeply enjoy, albeit ungratefully.
I also had to gamble on whether or not a 10 percent battery life could last until 10 a.m., lest my alarm clock app die before I wake. I quickly learned to mitigate this by stealing juice from cafe outlets under the pretense of doing homework — but not without some close calls of missing class.
Shaving, however, is less acceptable in public spaces. Since my bathroom has no windows, and candlelight proved inadequate for detecting whiskers, my best solution was to bite a flashlight that reflected off the mirror. It was during this experience that I finally understood the true pain of a shutdown (hint: it feels a lot like razor burn).
Next came the blame games. While each party blamed the other, I blamed PECO and our legal system (who probably blamed me).
Then we saw many quick-fix attempts. Republicans proposed minor bills to fund bits and pieces of the government, making the shutdown a bit more manageable. None passed, and they all proved too meager to solve any of the real problems anyway.
I placed tea candles on almost every empty surface and angled a full-body mirror near a westward window to redirect the setting sunshine. The former attempt was uncomfortably romantic and dangerous, and the latter only helped between noon and 4 p.m.
In one particularly desperate act, I snaked an extension cord underneath my front door and into a hallway outlet, syphoning currents from my building’s power grid. I gathered three power strips and five lamps to engineer a functional — albeit obnoxious — solution for my living room.
Finally, the elusive solution arrived. Mine in the form of a PECO worker, the government’s in the form of a vote.
The worker jammed a screwdriver into my fuse box, and I envisioned President Obama gracefully maneuvering his pen, signing the final budget plan — two wizards waving their proverbial wands at a shutdown.
When I reentered my apartment, it was as if nothing had ever even occurred. My lights and devices flickered and glowed like the relieved eyes of Americans and my fridge and ceiling fan were instantly humming obsequiously like federal employees.
Like my utility payments, the congressional bills passed last week only cover the next few months. No one knows what will happen then.
Politicians might continue to play games, but I’ve learned that putting things off has real consequences. When my bills arrive, I’ll do anything to avoid another shutdown.
Ryan Daniels is a College senior from Philadelphia. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. “Daniels, Straight Up” usually appears every Wednesday.