How To Stay Cool and Calm When Your Power Goes Out

Thanks to either global climate change or an angry Satan turning up the thermostat in Hell, it's been hotter than a leather corseted scrotum outside in most of the country. And as everything gets intolerably hot, people are retreating to their enclosed indoor spaces and cranked up the air conditioning. This uses a lot of power, which can lead to power outages and blackout and fuse overloads and nights spent in sweaty, smelly misery. So what's a scrappy, resourceful gal do you do if your power goes out in the summer?

You'd think this would be basic, grown up stuff, but the first time my power went out during a heat wave when I was living on my own, I had no idea what to do, so I filled my tub full of cold water and slept next to it on my bathroom floor, because I had the street smarts of Sweetpea, the baby from Popeye that was constantly almost dying in construction accidents. It was the middle of the night. I didn't know where to find my circuit breaker box. I didn't know what a circuit breaker box was. I was too embarrassed to call my parents and ask them what I should do, because I was dead set on being an autonomous grown up living in the big city like someone who knows how to put her pants on without help and calling my parents and saying "Help! My lights have turned off and it's hot outside and it's the middle of the night and my air conditioner isn't working!"

Anyway, the best thing a person can do once the lights go out is rule out the possibility of the "blackout" being brought on by circuit overload. Check your circuit breaker/fuse box to make sure you didn't just plug in too many appliances. You'd think this would be part of Being a Grown Up 101, but you'd be shocked by the number of times a friend of mine who owns a rental building fields calls from tenants who don't understand why their lights aren't working after they've plugged literally every appliance that a person might need in a bedroom into the same outlet. No, you cannot run a hairdryer, straightening iron, air conditioner, microwave, and minifridge from the same outlet.

Once you've determined that your lights and air conditioner are not turning back on, you'll have to use alternative light sources. Candles are romantic and playing with melted wax is awesome, but if you're concerned about keeping your living space cool and not-burned-down, don't light things on fire. Use a flashlight, or your cell phone held out in front of you like an anti-monster talisman, or just download an app that will turn your phone into a bright light. For iPhone or Android phones, the app's called "Flashlight," and on Blackberry, it's called "Flashlight Free." Easy enough.

It's safe to assume that all power outages are caused by Zuul or similar supernatural Ghostbusters-related shenanigans. As such, when dealing with a blackout or brown out, unplug your computer, TV, air conditioner window units, and other appliances that were running when the power went out, because when the power returns, it might return in an otherworldly surge that could damage your stuff.

And while it might be difficult to entertain yourself with most of your screens devoid of their power sources, and even though that boredom may lead you to want to snack, leave your fridge and freezer closed. The food in your fridge needs the cold air to stay put.

Now, to staying cool while stuck in your dark, air conditioning-less place. If you can leave, consider heading to a local movie theater or mall or bookstore or restaurant and mooch off their air conditioning. If you can't leave your house for some reason (it's late at night, everything's closed, you're too lazy that it's not that bad), take a cold shower or bath, run water over the inside of your wrists, lie on the ground and move as little as possible. Be naked if that's how you roll. Be Prepared Boy Scout types say that freezing bottles of water to prepare for a blackout is a great way to assure that you'll have something to drink and something to press against your sweaty neck when things get too steamy.

If it gets really bad, most major cities have cooling stations for people who are displaced by blackouts — it won't be the most fun night of your life if you have to go to one, but it's probably more fun than trying to sleep on your bathroom floor.

As far as I know, complaining incessantly hasn't been shown to lower the temperature in or outdoors.

Image by Jim Cooke, source photos via Maksym Bondarchuk and Willem Tims/Shutterstock.