The power has gone out in my building. I feel like St. Thomas Aquinas, writing in the light of a candle. The neighbor on the third floor, who spends her days reading moronic newspapers and watching even more moronic TV shows, has run out into the hallway, screeching “the great worldwide blackout is here! I knew it!” I’ve tried to explain to her that I don’t think it’s the zombie apocalypse. I’m more inclined to believe that the hippie on the first floor has gone back to smoking cheap weed and spilled a bucket of water on the electrical panel. The guy from the 10th floor, who is more left-wing than Lenin and Mao combined, illuminating me with a small lighter, is pointing his finger at me, “your f—ing climate change denialist way of life has brought us to this!” I just blew out the flame from his lighter, slapped him in the face, and blamed the lady from the third floor: “Hey, lady, violence isn’t going to get us anywhere!” They kept arguing and I went back to writing my article.
This dress rehearsal for the big global blackout is proving to be more fun than dramatic. For example, I’ve invited the pretty neighbor over for dinner, letting her know that I have a gas stove for just such occasions and that I know how to cook roast chicken (naturally, I’m going to order it online; I’d hate to die of indigestion, charred and in the dark) and I’d love to be able to tell people years from now that our romance started with a blackout. I find that incredibly elegant.
What I have discovered is the technology gap. The little old lady on the seventh floor has come out onto the landing with a church candle in her hand, while the gamers on the second floor are lighting up the doorway with powerful lasers coming from their watches. As for me, an old Christian, I have emerged onto the stairs with an Indiana Jones-style torch, chanting in Latin. Nothing too unusual.
After a while, we all met at the entrance. Even after checking that the rest of the city has electricity, the hysterical woman from the third floor still says that we are facing “the great blackout.” The good thing about people who live in a permanent conspiracy — whether it’s the virus, the blackout, or climate change — is that you can convince them of any old nonsense; I told her myself that last night I saw a dinosaur hovering outside her window, and that I believe it’s part of Putin’s tests to revive extinct animals. I made it up, of course, but to my surprise, she interrupted me: “I know perfectly well what it was and from which secret laboratory it came from, you have to protect yourself.” The lady talks about the genetically modified dinosaur with the reassurance and familiarity of someone that shares a bedchamber with it. The problem is that it gets a bit irritating if you talk to her for more than 40 seconds, so I told her: “Madam, sorry to interrupt the conversation, but the Yeti is waiting for me for dinner.” She didn’t laugh. And my pretty neighbor heard me, didn’t laugh either, and canceled dinner. At least I was spared the roast chicken.
On the way back to my flat, I stumbled and head-butted a lamp on the landing, breaking it, and the neighbors, far from helping me, just amended the agenda for the next meeting to include that I should pay for it or leave the building. These guys are ruthless like a Democrat politician.
The silent married couple from the fifth floor has aroused quite a buzz upon finally starting to speak again after the Internet went down. Legend has it that in 20 years of marriage they have only spoken to each other once, he to her, and that was to say: “lend me the charger.” She, who was too busy playing Candy Crush, replied something like “uhum.”
Then I checked the Austrian government’s guide to coping with the global blackout. It recommends filling the bathtub because the supply could be cut off. I’ve gone to do it and not a drop has come out: all the damn city water is already in the bathtubs of the paranoid others. I also read in the guide that it is essential to keep the tank over half full. I’m not sure if it is referring to the car or to me, but just in case, I drank seven beers in one sitting. And it also says to always keep the pantry full; I went to check mine and there’s only one can of tuna left, expired since the 80s; it’s exciting to think that this fish may have swum with Jim Morrison.
Inside the flat of the guy on the eighth floor, who is away on a trip, all the alarms are going off. It happens every time the power goes out. He has one of those smart homes full of wireless switches and talking machines. One of them, I think it’s Alexa but it could also be the toaster, is saying on a loop “Something’s wrong, something’s wrong,” which makes me suspect that it’s actually a really insightful machine. I’m looking for my old Winchester 73 to shut the robot’s mouth from the window looking out over the inner courtyard. I’m all for free speech, but I can’t stand to have things repeated back to me.
Anyway, if you can’t read this article on Saturday, it might mean that the light never came back on, and that now I will have probably been devoured by the crazy-lady-on-the-third-floor’s dinosaur. Either that, or the pretty neighbor has finally accepted my invitation to a chicken dinner in the dark, and I’ll be cracking open champagne, trying to kill a chicken, and singing rancheras at the top of my lungs.
Itxu Díaz is a Spanish journalist, political satirist, and author. He has written nine books on topics as diverse as politics, music, and smart appliances. His most recent book is Todo Iba Bien. He is a contributor to the Daily Beast, the Daily Caller, National Review, the American Conservative, The American Spectator, and Diario Las Américas in the United States, and is a columnist for several Spanish magazines and newspapers. He was also an adviser to the Ministry for Education, Culture, and Sports in Spain. Follow him on Twitter at @itxudiaz or visit his website: www.itxudiaz.com.
Translated by Joel Dalmau