Every thunderstorm reminds me of the night when the troubles that keep me awake didn’t wait till three A.M. They started at four in the afternoon when, on a day the thermometer hit 100 degrees and kept rising, my electricity went off. It stayed off for 12 hours.

I’ve known electricity is important to me. My whole life is plugged into some wall socket or another. The food I eat is plugged into an outlet behind the freezer that’s filled with Lean Cuisine dinners and meat. The meat, raw beef, bison, and venison, is for Mr. Magoo and costs about the same as caviar. It’s not insured. Its loss could mean I’d need a second mortgage.

Do I Iook happy?

Do I Iook happy? No! It's hot in here.

My entertainment runs on electricity. My laptop had just enough battery power to give me YouTube for an hour. Reading wasn’t an option because when I lit enough candles to read they smoked up my contact lenses. Sleep was my only choice. But I’m a night showerer and I can’t fall asleep without it. The water was frigid because the instant hot water heater I normally love for its unlimited hot water, needs electricity. How could water be so cold in a heat wave? Forget washing my hair. Without a blow dryer I was better off with dirty hair than hair that slumped down to ends frizzed as though they’d been electrocuted.


Finally Mr. Magoo and I looked for the coolest place to try to sleep.


Do something!

He found his on the ceramic tile floor under the kitchen table. I considered it, but my back wouldn’t let me, so I chanced opening the freezer long enough to grab a cold pack to cool my neck and took the couch in the living room.

It was a rough night but there was a larger problem. The thought that sent bile to my throat the minute the lights went off was not the loss of TV and web, or the fear of food spoiling, or even sweltering in the steam bath that was my house. The worst thing was the dread of knowing I would have to reset clocks and reprogram things. There it is. I suffer from chronic fear-of-programming.



Like so many phobias, I can date mine back to a traumatic experience. It happened my first day of junior high school. Starting a new school, changing classes, and having different teachers every period were all intimidating enough, but something worse was to come – I had to learn to open a combination lock.

The experience taught me two important things:

First, when people say, “Please feel free to ask all the questions you want,” they don’t mean it. And when they say, “It’s simple. Just follow the instructions,” they mean they are going to judge you based on your mastery of the “simple” task.

At first, I was excited at the idea of having a locker. I accepted the lock with its accordion-folded instructions with enthusiasm. Then I unfolded the tiny paper and began to read it.

#1. Turn the dial to the left for two complete rotations and stop at four. I had a question already: “Should I start it at four to be sure the rotations were truly complete? And if I have to start at four, should I spin it twice first?” She made me repeat the question twice. Then she said, “Just spin it.”

#2. Turn the dial two times to the right and stop at seven. I raised my hand again. “If I started at four and turned it two times to the right, I wouldn’t be at seven. I’d have to make two and a half turns to get to seven, or should I stop at the seven that’s just one and a half …”

The teacher grabbed the paper out of my hand and pulled me to my locker where she made me do it over and over again, even after the bell rang for first period and kids flooded into the hall. For the rest of the year I was sure whenever my name came up I was sure the kids laughed and said, “You know who she is – the one who couldn’t do her locker.”

Eventually my electricity came back on. I had lights again. I cooled down. No food was lost. But until I can get someone in to reset them, my televisions allow access to all million or so available channels, including the porno channels. And as for the clocks on the stove and coffee maker, no happy ending either. The time is still blinking 0:00.


  1. Beth says:

    Ruthi, maybe I will stop by and set your clocks. I can program VCRs too. And teach my fella’s 80+ dad how to work the TiVo. Patience with technophobes and capacity to distill steps in the process = magical skills.

    When you asked questions, did you listen to the answers? I suspect the issue is you were way too smart, and thinking fast and far past what they expect of ordinary people.

    I bet your problem with the clocks isn’t that you can’t. Is it that it’s boring, so you won’t?

  2. Ruthie Cobb says:

    Ruthi, my brother Mark said I should check out your blog. As always when Mark says I should check something out i do it. First because I happen to think he’s a genius at following the learning curve, and second, well frankly he’s my big brother and I still find myself inclined to do what he tells me to.

    The moment I signed on, I was at once aware of why Markie led me here…………..he knew the only thing I would see was “I am Ruthie and I am Real”. I am so entranced by those rare human beings who take the world’s “dare” to be themselves.To chance the back lash of shouting it out loud, and their bravery to duck and dodge the subsequent torpedos that are certain to follow.

    WOW, Ruthi, I love the authentic, the raw honesty that is mostly found by those with their hand stuck in the cash register. You bleed that….(likely in red, white, and blue). I am certain to follow your blog, I suspect your raw honesty, your taking the dare if you will, will help me to sustain my own.

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