In other news: power outage shenanigans

(Those of you who follow me on Facebook already saw me posting about this, but this is for everybody who missed the story!)

Thursday morning, around 4am, I got woken up of a sound sleep to discover that the power had gone out. How my sleeping mind knew this: the air filter had gone off.

I need the soft noise of the air filter to sleep–I have a very hard time sleeping in total silence. So when the filter went out and the room was in fact silent, that was enough to wake me up.

Woke Dara up too and while she shut off the servers, I jumped on my phone to check the Puget Sound Energy app and see if they knew about the outage, and if there was an ETA on when there’d be a fix. Didn’t take too long for the outage to show up on their tracker, and it was a BIG ONE.

Power Outage Ohnoez
Power Outage Ohnoez

8,747 customers impacted in Kenmore. You can’t see it in this pic because the modal with the details overlays the outage area behind it, but our house was right on the western edge of the impacted area. FUN TIMES.

Anyway, I saw that ETA repair time of 6am and was quite dubious about it, but there was fuck all I could do about that. So I jumped on the Slack app on my phone long enough to warn my team about the situation and that it might impact my ability to get any work done that day. Then I grabbed my Apple Watch, put it on, set an alarm for my usual wakeup time, and went back to bed.

When the watch fired off at 7:30 I checked the outage report again.

Our Situation Has Not Improved
Our Situation Has Not Improved

They’d cut the impacted customer count down, but now the repair time was 3:30pm.

At which point I went fuck it and decided I was going to have to actually go into the office if I wanted to get any work done.

So I told the team I’d have to do that, and started getting everything together to pack up into the bike bags and head out. It probably would have been wiser to go by car–I had not slept well after the original 4am awakening–but I needed the exercise anyway.

Made it to the office just before 9am. There was nobody there but the security personnel that I saw, although I saw more cars in the parking lot (about seven) that I did security personnel, so maybe at least a couple of people were working? I also saw building management had posted signs on the front doors saying mask wearing was mandatory, so we’ll see if that holds by the time we’re all allowed to return to the office officially.

But there were three problems, one of which I’d realized on my way down the hill from the house on my bike.

  1. I’d neglected to bring my tea mug and fixings for tea. But knowing that there was (mediocre) tea at the office and at least paper cups, I figured I could live without that for a morning.
  2. I’d also neglected to bring the USB-powered fan tray I’ve been using for my work laptop with me. This was a problem, because of the current kernel panic bug in Catalina that’s been causing the damn box to crash on me when I bring it up out of Sleep Mode, and periodically while I’m working in Xcode as well. The only way I’ve been able to stabilize it is if I have the USB fan tray plugged in.
  3. Not long after I got to the office, I saw a text from Paul: the power was back. Way earlier than the 3:30pm estimate. DOH.

I wasn’t about to turn right around and go home, not when I had morning meetings I had to do. Paul thought this was a good idea, as he was of the opinion that we’d probably lose power again the second my front tire reached the driveway if I left immediately. I ultimately wound up heading home around lunchtime, just because the laptop did in fact crash on me once.

I also got email notification from PSE saying the power was back–but, a little disturbingly, noting the cause as “unknown”.

Me, in Signal, to Paul: I’m like ‘how do you lose power to 8700 people and not know why?’

Paul: Practice man, practice

When I got home again, I learned more about what had happened from Dara. Who told me that there’s an actual Facebook group for tracking Kenmore power outages now, because of course there is.

According to people posting on that group, the cause of the outage was a power pole splitting somewhere along 68th. There were reports from people who’d heard a very loud BOOM at about the right time, and a couple of people posted actual pics of the split pole. I can’t use the pic in this post, I don’t have permission, but I can say that what I saw in the pic was the top part of the post just dangling in the air, held up by a tangle of supporting wires. To wit: YOW.

Dara and I were speculating about what might have caused this, and honestly, we don’t know. Maybe the pole had just rotted? Nobody on the group reported any sign of a wreck that might have broken the pole, nor any attendant emergency activity that such a thing would have stirred up.

The general takeways I had from the whole experience at least were, first of all, that I did actually kind of miss my office cube chair. I like working from home, but comfy as working on the couch might be, it’s not really conducive to proper work focus. Particularly when my laptop’s big, when it has to sit on the USB fan tray, and when the level of the coffee table next to the couch isn’t really ergonomic compared to a desk and chair. If the coronavirus situation keeps dragging out I may have to set up a proper home office desk in our library.

Second, if we do head back to the office soon-ish, I’m concerned about what this’ll actually mean for how the work day will go. Mandatory mask use in the building is a good idea, but it also means that eating lunch onsite would be very problematic. I know a lot of people could eat in their cars, but I don’t commute by car, I commute by bus or bike. And the office buildings have only a small number of seating areas outside.

Tea would be less problematic, I could at least acquire a washable straw and drink tea that way, to minimize disruption to my mask.

But I suspect some time in the next few months I might have to consider commuting by car for a while. I don’t like it. But I also like having functioning lungs and not risking taking covid-19 home to Dara and Paul, so there you go.

Anyway. So ended the latest power outage saga at the Murkworks, and I’m at least pleased that the power came back quickly!