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    Brian McGrory

    Diary of a powerless man

    It’s been said that the purest form of brilliance rises only from the darkest depths of adversity. With that in mind, please allow me to share the best idea I’ve ever had.

    The next time the lights go out from yet another storm of the century, we cut the power — literally, with a pair of oversized scissors — to the homes of the governor and NStar head Tom May. And those severed lines, by legislative mandate, cannot be repaired until every other household in Massachusetts has its lights restored.

    See how they like it, the governor and our very own $9.2 Million a Year Utility Man. See how they like the ornery spouses, the unspeakable odors emanating from unlikely places, the sense of powerlessness that goes far beyond the heat and lights. See if they claim the power companies have “stepped up their game,” as Deval Patrick recently did, or brag on their website that “95 percent [of customers] have already been restored.”


    Here’s the problem with that. There’s still another 5 percent, and yes, I’m in it. Believe me, I have a hunch our little minority wouldn’t exist if Mrs. Patrick and Mrs. May were waiting to get their Keurigs up and running again.

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    Oh, it started fine. These things always do. When a tree crashed into a utility pole up the street late Monday afternoon, we lit a fire, watched movies on fully charged laptops, and dined on peanut butter crackers. It was a grand adventure, and surely a short one given the new laws and all the promises that were made.

    Day 2. It’s perhaps surprising how quickly the rustic charms of a simplified life can evaporate into a dark cloud of discontent, and then a steady downpour of complaint. School was canceled for the second day in a row — with no TV to occupy the little packages of joy. Oh, hot water, how I miss you so.

    I’m not sure firing flares from my rooftop accomplished anything meaningful, but it seemed like the right thing to do at the time.

    NStar rolled into the neighborhood that night, turned on the lights at the nearby high school, and left. From my kitchen sink, I could see the school all lit up. I’m fairly certain that I could stand on the moon and still see that school all lit up.


    Day 3. I delivered what I believed to be an inspiring — and much needed — pep-talk to the other members of my house, letting them know we had it easy compared with the suffering people of New Jersey and New York. It didn’t go over as well as one might have hoped. The kids, home again, announced they’d rather be in class. I secretly read the websites of distant boarding schools on a laptop that I charged in my idling car.

    For seemingly everyone, everywhere else, everything was normal. The sun came out. Life went on. Patrick gave those of us still without power a modest nod, as NStar trumpeted its perceived success. To the public at large, my neighbors and I were the invisible people, barely washed, blinking warily by day, receding silently into our dark houses at dusk. Well, not so silently if you include the complaints.

    Day 4. I carried a flashlight everywhere, even in daylight. Don’t ask me why. I spent an abnormal amount of time thinking about Thomas Edison, calculated how many more linemen NStar could afford if they cut May’s pay package by $5 million a year, and, admittedly fragile, openly wept over a melted quart of Brigham’s Chocolate Chip as we tossed the contents of the refrigerator into the trash. There was now peanut butter coming through my pores.

    “Still no power?” people would ask, amused, like I was a contestant on a reality show.

    Isn’t that funny. But still no power — not until 7:40 Thursday night.


    I want to see Tom May and Deval Patrick face that prospect during the next storm. But if their fate is linked to ours, I feel that nobody will have any problems at all.

    Brian McGrory is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at