April 16, 2024

ROLLING BLACKOUTS . . . by Joseph G. Evrard, Staff Kentuckian


I just got back from California (birthplace of the rolling blackout).  I guess by now you’ve heard about those rolling blackouts. As a member of the original team invited to tour the electricity storage caverns (remember my column on Stale Electricity?), I was recently called upon to tour the California Blackout Factory where these things are manufactured.

As you might imagine, these blackout things didn’t just happen by themselves and jump onto the scene. There’s a considerable history of development, which provides a fascinating insight into the origins of this phenomenon. I was surprised to learn the folks who perfected the blackout have a long track record of innovation.

They started many years ago by inventing the White-Out. This nasty phenomenon – as all Eskimos know – refers to a snowstorm so intense and thick that you can’t see a thing anywhere around you. White-Out scientists were able to capture this evil creature and bottle it. Today, you know it as the stuff you by at Office Depot to correct mistakes made while writing or typing.

The spelling has changed to With-Out.
It came to the attention of the Wite-Out scientists that folks were beginning to use colored stationery – not just the traditional white. In answer to this challenge they developed Wite-Out with a range of colors matched to the brilliant rainbow colors made by paper manufacturers. Inevitably, they came to create “Grey-Out.”  From there it was only a small leap of logic to create “Black-Out.” This product was initially scorned by critics, but it waited around in the wings until it’s time was nigh.

And that time is now.  California, long home of the new, the offbeat, the Avant-Garde, and the weird, knew the time was right to embrace The Blackout! Early versions of Blackout met with limited commercial success; first to appear was the Crawling Blackout. It was a serviceable product, which moved slowly through neighborhoods causing inconvenience on a relatively small scale.

Further development and refinement resulted in the Walking Blackout. This version caused much more trouble and received mentions in a number of local newscasts. The developers thus knew they were on to something and committed to an all-out effort to create a blackout that was sure to dominate the national media.

Shortly before one of the presidential inaugurations, they turned their creation loose on the poor unsuspecting people of California. It was an overnight sensation! The Rolling Blackout instantly dominated national news, chat rooms on the Internet, conversations at the water cooler, and was rated the number one subject over the back fence in neighborhoods all over the state.

Seeing the effectiveness of this latest version of the Blackout Phenomenon, those of us who had been invited to witness the rollout, decided it was in our best interests to get out of the state as soon as possible and rush home to warn our fellow citizens. One morning we all met at the Los Angeles airport to board our chartered plane. Little did we suspect the horror about to befall us…

As we taxied out to end of the runway for takeoff, we saw it! Coming over the horizon was the dreaded Rolling Blackout! It was coming straight at the airport, at our runway, straight at us!

The pilot, realizing the safety of many innocent souls was in his hands, dispensed with all the traditional chitchat over the cabin P.A. system and jammed the throttles to the firewall. Our heads snapped back into our seats as the crushing acceleration hurtled the plane down the runway, desperate to escape the looming monster gaining ground behind us. Would we make it? Every knuckle was white. Every face a mask of fear. Every heart pumped out prayers that we’d be saved from this horror overtaking us…

Finally, when it seemed that hope had run out, the plane broke the bond of gravity and hurtled into the sky, just as a blinding flash and horrifying BOOM came from behind. As we climbed into an azure sky, we realized we had been spared. The cabin rocked and shook from a monstrous explosion below, but the further we climbed, the clearer it became that we had escaped at the last possible instant. We were safe!

As we turned to breathe a sigh of relief and congratulate each other on our great good fortune, the pilot slowly turned the plane back toward the airport so we could look down to see the wreck of the monster that had nearly been our undoing. There, beside the runway, overturned and burning was the smoldering wreck of the once devastating Rolling Blackout. Now reduced to a pile of rubble, it looked no more dangerous than an overturned Tonka truck in a child’s sandbox.

We later learned that, but for an error of engineering, we would have been overtaken by the Rolling Blackout and probably would not have survived. We learned that in an ironic quirk of fate, the inventors of that horror had made one crucial mistake. They had equipped their Rolling Blackout with Firestone tires.

See ya around,


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