Our oldest son and his family are in a New Jersey area hard hit by storm Sandy. Their home was spared, but they went a week without power. He was resourceful enough to have a generator and gas, so his home was a haven for the neighbors, some of whom lost their homes to fallen trees and the like. As I write this, they have their power back, but some neighbors don’t and may face a week more without it. Mike donated their generator to one of the neighbors still without power. One of their friend’s parents had a home on the N.J. shore. It looks kinda OK in pictures until you realize that the entire outside front wall of the house is gone. They were able to save pictures and other mementos out of the house, but little else.
My 8th grade physical science class is studying electricity and magnetism this month. One of the spontaneous discussions early last week centered on what the kids would miss most without electricity for a week or more. The - not surprising - number one item was their cell phone.
Reflecting on the first few days of the N.J. incident, we communicated with everyone frequently by cell phone because the phone companies had erected emergency towers for limited coverage and our kids had generators and cars to keep their phones charged. That line of communication was never completely cut during the power outages. For me, the most surprising fact is that this cell phone technology has been developed for our universal use only within the last 15 years.
And today, cell phones are changing the face of communication. Indeed, several writers have recently published how Africa is being changed by the cell phone. It’s hard for dictators to cover up atrocities when the activity is being posted on the web by cell phone users.
I still get 75 to 100 emails a day. But most are ads or newsletters from companies with a pitch. A huge percentage of my personal communication now is by cell phone messages or calls. Pictures too. I’ve even stopped getting emails on my phone because the vast majority are not of immediate interest or of no interest at all. Besides, I’m semi-retired.
If you lost electricity for a week or more, what would you miss most? If it’s your cell phone, join my 8th graders.
Gene Canavan is a retired West Point Graduate and Paper Mill Utilities Manager and lives in Prattville, Alabama, USA.