Last Saturday night my wife Gimalle and I were home watching a movie. It was one of those movies that started off making us think we had made a bad selection and yet became more and more entertaining as it progressed.
Just as we were getting to the really good part everything around us turned black.
We immediately looked out a window and saw nothing. The buildings around us were in pitch darkness it was obvious that a power outage had affected our entire neighbourhood.
As a member of our condominium Board of Directors I felt duty-bound to go down to the lobby and see if there was any way in which I could assist.
It didn’t take long before we began to learn the extent of the outage as varying on-line news feeds informed us of a massive underground explosion in an electrical substation two blocks from where we live.
As it turned out we were to be without power or water until the following Thursday.
Within a few hours people from various city agencies visited our properties and advised residents to evacuate until power was restored. Gimalle and I decided to stay in the building and do whatever we could to help protect the property. We brought in additional security personnel and, over the following days, learned very quickly how to deal with and manage many of the requirements and things necessary to maintain two largely unpowered high-rise towers.
We arranged for a steady supply of diesel to keep our generator functioning, shut off access to our parking areas on instructions from the Fire Department which was concerned with potential rising CO levels from our diesel-powered generator, closed out garbage collection rooms for the same reasons and served as an information source as best we could.
In essence, the five days without power and water represented nothing more than a minor inconvenience although, in listening to the whining and griping of a tiny minority of our residents, one could be led to believe that what was happening on our property made Hiroshima appear to be nothing more than a walk in the park.
There is a wonderful, helpful and nurturing side to human beings. We were overwhelmed by the incredible offers of generosity, support and assistance from so many different people.
Not only did friends and acquaintances contact us immediately with invitations to stay at their homes until this incident was past, but also among our residents there were countless folks who constantly stopped by to ask how they could help, what they could do or to simply offer to relieve us so we could get some much-needed sleep.
Granted, as is always a case in situations like these, there were those few who felt the need to vent their anger in our direction and indeed, in listening to how some of them addressed me, I learned a great deal about myself, my family and my heritage simply by the names I was called.
Perhaps the most entertaining slight of all, was directed at me by one of the many people I sternly asked not to park in our one permit/handicap parking stall. He glared at me and said “You’re a f***ing racist, if I was white you wouldn’t have said anything to me.”
I have been called many things in my life but never a racist. Those who know me know the extent to which I deplore any form of racism and unfortunately I did not think fast enough to tell this person that I was speaking to him angrily not because of his ethnicity but because of his stupidity, neither of which, by the way, will ever change.
Going back to the wonderful people who helped us it is indeed heartwarming to be surrounded by neighbours as caring as ours. From offers of coffee, to those who volunteered to accompany me up the stairs each day as I knocked on every suite to check on the welfare of our residents as requested by our Fire Department, I can only say how heartwarming it is and how grateful we are to be part of such a marvellous community.
On Thursday evening, with everything restored to normal, as we were heading up to our condo, one of our neighbours asked Gimalle what had been the most challenging and stressful part of this whole ordeal.
With a mischievous smile my ever loving and supportive wife explained, “The most stressful part was being in our condo. With no power we could not watch TV nor read, so we had to talk.”
Interestingly this experience served as a powerful reminder of the topic we have discussed so often in the past. Every experience in our lives has only the meaning we place upon it and most people place a meaning of minor inconvenience on these few days while some interpreted this event to be the most stressful and damning of their lives.
Those who interpreted it to be a minor inconvenience, experienced minor inconvenience and those who interpreted it to be unsettling and stressful, stressed themselves to the max.
The power outage had nothing to do with their experiences. The power outage was just a power outage.
The response from employees of the City of Calgary, provincial agencies and volunteers was beyond anything we could imagine. We were inundated with offers of help from Police, Fire, EMS, Search & Rescue, Red Cross, Alberta Health Services and an endless assortment of folks from other city departments.
Like Gimalle and I, most of our residents expressed their enormous gratitude to these folks while a few derided them for not doing enough and for not doing it fast enough.
Yet another example of perspective.
Personally, Gimalle and I feel privileged and blessed to live in a city where, when bad things happen, good things happen.
Till we read again.
P.S. My book Life Sinks or Soars – the Choice is Yours has its very own website. Please visit us at www.lifesinksorsoars.com and let me know what you think.