Living Off The Grid

Basyang caught us unawares.

The Weather Stone

It’s not a weather stone, it’s a petrological barometer

The weather reports lulled me into a false sense of safety: the latest forecasts detailed a storm track traversing the oft-battered provinces of Northeast Luzon. Being the dormant weather geek that I am, I was confident that my multiple sources of information were reliable. Never mind the pitiable monitoring capabilities of PAGASA, I have data from better-equipped agencies like the JTWC. It pays to know if the storm of the century is churning up the Pacific before you deploy one of your expensive-enough-to-feed-an-African-country aircraft carriers. You know, to kill enemies of democracy. In this regard the US Military never fucking fails!

Incidentally, can I just rant about how sorry I feel for PAGASA? I’ve been to some of their offices, and it breaks my heart to see scientific work being performed in those hellish pits. Please, buy those people decent equipment. There is much hair-pulling over such frivolous expenses in a country where an unacceptable percentage of the population lives below the poverty line. This neglect, however, does say a lot about how we regard scientists in our society: a despicable slave class toiling beneath the upper echelons of vapid showbiz starlets, nefarious politicians, and insidious priests. Not to mention lawyers. Godawful ass-raping lawyers! It reinforces my Faustian decision to forget all about my childhood dream of being a volcanologist and to sell my soul to the money-grubbing IT demons.

(We discount writers from this righteous rant against injustice, because they need to feel the injustice that abject slavery brings. Makes ‘em write better. Fat, coddled, rich writers are soulless bores.)

Anyway, I digress. Indeed the weather reports were correct… for the time period stated. I overlooked the cardinal rule of meteorology: the weather is a jealous woman PMS-ing like hell. Unpredictable. Constant monitoring and gentle ministrations are encouraged. Furthermore, taking into account PAGASA’s epic weather fail, lemme tell you: conclusions are only as good as your data sources. DATA IS GOD. Data is so holy atheist scientists build shrines out of discarded mainframe innards to be able to hold ecstatic orgies of worship to it. Data should be unshakeable in its veracity like the Holy Ka’aba of Mecca. When data is incomplete or poisoned, it’s the shits.

Stubbornly continued with my overtime last Tuesday night until 2330h, trying to finish a dev project delayed to the gills, eventually sidetracked by tending to two ailing servers. Nobody else tends to these sickly little silicon babies except for me. I monitor them because my ass will get soundly whipped (without any sensations of pleasure, sadly) when they finally give up the ghost, because my boss is a deficient dunce who can’t tell an Oracle tablespace from titties.

Started nodding off during the highway drive while listening to Techy Romantics. From time to time I woke up to the harsh staccato of rain on the windshield and the dull anxiety of zero visibility, sleep-deprived eyes blinded by the taillights of 18-wheelers. I was the last person to be driven home, riding in the backseat giving simple directions to the shuttle driver. The night was quiet when we reached Abel Nosce, remnants of last summer’s fervid fire tree explosion scattered on the wet black asphalt, translucent wet like a flattened cloud of orange butterflies. A dull glow internal flame of a reddish ominous cloud lights up the horizon, ears waiting for the softened approach of faraway thunder, which never came, but the streetlights flickered once, twice, darkness on the third. left turn down the street, a storm sullen village hunkering down in the blackout.

The typhoon winds blew sometime during midnight, making the curtains flap, bringing the temp down. I slept with an arm around my daughter, startled in the early morning by the rattling of GI sheets and the scurrying of my grandparents. Old folk like mine get all antsy during inclement weather; we used to live in flood-stricken Manila, and the trauma of inundated ground floors never quite left them.

The 0500h alarm failed to wake me up, and I wisely decided not to go to work. It was a very interesting cost-benefit and probability analysis, that very simple decision.

Point 1: Safety concerns. My workplace is so impossibly far, and the distance and inconvenience doubles during a storm. I wasn’t too worried about being hit by high-velocity shredded billboard projectiles. It was this memory that stopped me: dutiful me in uniform blouse, skirt and SUEDE pumps riding a tricycle to work in spite of the heavy rain. Foolhardy tricycle driver decides to brave the flooded street. The water level reached the passenger seat. I wasn’t able to go back home, so I rode a jeep to the mall, plunked my wet ass into a McDonalds’ seat, and called my uncle to pick me up when he went home after his night shift.

My panties were wet, not with aroused love juices, but with unsanitary flood water. I wanted to take it off, but that would be exhibitionism. I should’ve just went around commando. Ugh.

Point 2: Power was out, Luzon-wide. This meant that there was no power supply to most of the production line, except for critical areas where generators took the brunt of the load while engineers scurried to shut down the process gracefully. Our data center would probably be running on UPS power, and would have to be shut down in an hour or so. No servers, no work. I bet my meager coop savings that management was going to call a superfluous meeting where they consult the unions but eventually decide to call off work, which they should have done the night shift before if they wanted to save on overhead. And oh, save the poor wage slaves the inconvenience.

Point 3 (and perhaps the one with the most weight): I overslept, and there was no fucking way in the world I would be able to arrive at work on time, because teleportation so far only works at the quantum level. The day before that, I was fifteen minutes late. Two days late in a row spoke of a moral degeneration that I did not want to impress the wrong people with.

Wednesday was an overcast day lived off the grid, spent mostly sedated and reeling from all the electrostatic-devoid silence. And I mean, silence… Methinks the electric wires emit this indistinct buzzing just tantalizingly below frequencies humans are capable of hearing. Our bones sense it when the sub-aural assault suddenly stops: it is peace and discomfort at the same time, like the first tremors of a junkie on withdrawal.

Cell phone battery drained empty when a telemarketer called me: it felt like a passive middle finger to the demands of the connected age. The cellular signals were spotty and the phone line connections intermittent. I heard my grandmother trying to contact relatives, succeeding half of the time, assured of their safety. The portable radio ran out of juice, and the world beyond walking distance faded away. I used the last power bars of my mp3 player to amuse my kid and me. Grateful that the batteries on my new vibrator hadn’t given out. Eat, sleep, hula hoop, dance, hair removal, maniped, masturbate, Spongebob Squarepants on the remaining laptop power. Shamefully, did not catch up on reading. Too dark to read. Too lazy to read.

The fridge compressor resumed its rhythmic sequence of mechanical noise. Internet and cable still kaput, more latitude to play around with this newfound freedom brought about by disconnection. Power back around 2030h, Wednesday. Just in time too, before we ran out of potable water. Before I turned hermit-crazy from all that blackout-induced bored meditation.

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