The Mark Side of UCSB: Outage Illuminates Its Bonding Power

Sunday, May 13, 2007

On Tuesday, I came back from one of the best single day excursions I’ve had in the San Fernando Valley to find that the power had gone out at UCSB. Again. Anyone that’s lived here for more than a year knows what I’m talking about. I’ve experienced more power outages in Santa Barbara than I did during those rolling blackout times during Gray Davis’ term as governor. While I initially found them annoying, my feelings have changed to amusement due to the circumstances that emerge from them. So let me tell you even more about what I like to call “the dark side of UCSB.”

The most interesting power outage I’ve experienced was during my first year. Probably because it was the first time I’ve been in such an unfamiliar situation. The dorms have backup generators that allow for dim lighting in the hallways. While many students went took advantage of the light to study for midterms, others, like my friends and I, used it as a chance to socialize and bond. We went to one of the lounges to find one of our floormates attempting to get a three way going with two other ladies. Seeing as the moment was ruined, he was a good enough sport to turn the situation into a round table session to exchange dirty stories. It felt like a gigantic deviant slumber party.

I thought that first power outage was an anomaly. However, I was proven wrong, as year after year, power would again go out on campus or in Isla Vista. All these incidents have shown that people do tend to overreact when the power goes out. No Internet or television can be a bit jarring, which goes to show how empty are lives are without electricity. Hell, there are even grown people with a fear of the dark. You also don’t come to appreciate how well lit the campus is until it’s not. I was doing some work at the office before Spring Break when all the power went out around Storke Plaza. It was not as bad as it could have been, though, for the fact that it was a new moon. I was trapped in pitch darkness. Good thing cell phones have become obnoxiously brighter over the years.

Yet none of the compares to pseudo-riot following last spring’s power outage. Even though it only lasted for a mere 20 minutes, residents on Sabado Tarde Road rushed out to the darkened streets to light up more than half a dozen couches and to shoot fireworks into the air.

Luckily, power is restored pretty fast around here. Most outages last around two hours in length. The shortest one I’ve experienced was 20 minutes long and the longest one, five hours. This week’s power outage falls within the typical length but occurred at an inopportune time. I certainly sympathize with those unlucky few stuck in the elevators. It’s bad enough being stuck in a cramped space with total strangers or even all by your lonesome for a couple seconds.

It’s not like these power outages are caused by the city’s electrical drainage. One outage was caused when a tree fell on some power lines. Construction workers who hit an underground pipe caused another. Ironically, those workers were part of the Electrical Infrastructure Renewal Project that was attempting to fix the outdated power system on campus.

I’m glad that I don’t find these power outages as annoying as I used to. I spend enough time at home and at work sitting in front of the computer. Even when I’m hanging out on a sunny day, I can’t help but think of what I need to be doing in front of a computer. It takes something like a lack of electricity to free me from the shackles of modern technology. Power outages are as much a staple of UCSB life as ineffective protesting. Don’t think of them so much as a nuisance, keeping you from your precious Facebook, but rather a chance to get outside, talk to your neighbors and enjoy the nature you came here for.

Daily Nexus columnist Mark Batalla once walked in on a game of “who’s in my mouf?” during a power outage.

Posted by Batalla at 10:28 PM  


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