The Blackout of 2003

August 14, 2013 § 2 Comments

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If you lived in Southern Ontario or the American Northeast in the summer of 2003, chances are, you have a good story about the blackout of 2003. This blackout wasn’t your typical hot summer day, the grids are overheated sort of blackout. It affected more than 50 million people and for some, the power wasn’t restored for two days. Of course, it was the middle of August and also sweltering hot.

I will never forget where I was when the power went out. I had been working at The Agency Group for just two months and was on reception when I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me as the lighting was getting dimmer. When it finally went out, we all groaned and sat there, waiting for it to come back in a few minutes. When it didn’t, the guys went outside to play basketball while the ladies chatted. Soon, we could see out the window that people were just deciding work was finished for the day. Rather than join the traffic, most of the office just stayed put. We had actually been planning a company party bus trip to London for that weekend and already had a stash of alcohol and snacks waiting. Well, special circumstances dictated we needed to dip into our rations early!

Hours later and still no power, we realized we had probably start to figure out how to get home. Obviously the subways and streetcars weren’t viable options. I was going to walk, but Ralph, a SVP, offered me and Omar, an agent, a ride home. He was parked in the underground parking garage. As we entered, we could see it was dark down there, but there seemed to be some lighting once you got further in. Unfortunately, we were quite far in when we realized the lighting was headlights of a car and once it passed us, we were left in complete darkness.

The office had a huge box of Three Days Grace promo matches that we all kept handy. I had some in my purse and lit one, expecting it to be like a movie and give us some light. It did NOTHING. Ralph was carrying a NOW Magazine and dipped it into the match to use it as a torch. The thing burnt so quickly, he immediately dropped it on the floor. Omar lit his magazine and we got a bit farther before he dropped his too. Now the fire alarm is going off and we are just a bit closer to Ralph’s car. Ralph is growling about how he pays for this parking spot and there should be some goddamn emergency lighting. I don’t know how we got out of there alive, but by the time I got home, I faced another challenge: getting to my apartment on the 17th floor with no elevators.

Long story short, my boyfriend at the time and I had a dinner of peanut butter and crackers and went to bed hot and sweaty. The next morning, we had no running water for showers because the electricity couldn’t pump it that high up. I went to work the next day just to have somewhere to go that wasn’t a hot cement box in the sky. That day ended with the best idea we could think of though: going to see Freddy VS Jason in an air conditioned movie theatre while drinking smoothies.

Bonus photo: Adam Countryman, king of the party bus, (with Greg Henderson and Glenn Vogelsang) on our way to London to see Nickelback, August 16, 2003.

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What’s your blackout story?

(Top photo: The CN Tower is silhouetted against the setting sun, as Toronto was faced with a massive power outage, Aug. 14, 2003. Reuters/David Lucas)

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