September 23, 2003

by Joe Sobran

     What a week. Thursday night I was frantically 
getting ready to drive to New York the next day for a 
wedding on Long Island Saturday. My daughter and her 
children were up from Virginia Beach, staying at my house 
to escape Hurricane Isabel. My own home, in Fairfax 
County, Virginia, was expected to be spared.

     At 10 p.m. I was talking on the phone to the father 
of the bride when the lights went out.

     So did my computers. So did the radios. So did the 
refrigerator. So did the microwave. In the next few 
minutes I discovered in just how many ways I depend on 
electricity. I groped my way to a flashlight and did a 
little reading, but no more writing -- or packing -- that 

     Power failures in this area never last more than a 
couple of hours. This one did. In the morning my 
neighborhood was still powerless. Trees had fallen on 
every block, one of them barely missing my second car.

     My head was spinning. So many preparations to make, 
and I couldn't figure out where to start or what was 
feasible. I had to leave without getting my bearings or 
learning when we'd have power again. I threw a few 
necessities into my car, said good-bye to the family, and 
set off before noon.

     First I had to stop at the bank to get money for the 
trip. The bank was closed. I had enough cash in my pocket 
for gas and a couple of meals. I hoped I could get a 
little loan from a friend in New York.

     Almost dazed, I turned on the car radio and finally 
got the picture. The news was that we might be without 
water and electricity for a week. Since my daughter had 
to leave for home shortly after my departure, I wouldn't 
be able to get news at home all weekend: nobody would be 
there to answer the phone. My poor dog would be home 
alone. I was due to return Sunday evening. Oh, great!

     There was really nothing to worry about, but I did 
what I always do in these situations: I worried. The 
drive went smoothly, but I was exhausted by the time I 
reached New York late in the afternoon.

     It was a good chance to do a lot of thinking, if 
only I'd been able to think. Some of my deepest insights 
-- the really seminal ones, the kind that change the 
world -- come to me during a long drive. Usually I can't 
wait to get back to my computer and set them down for 
posterity. Not this time. I was seized by an irrational 
fear that I'd never use my computers again.

     The only profound thought that occurred to me on 
this drive was that you never know what's going to happen 
next. I tried this idea out on a few friends over the 
weekend, but it didn't exactly floor them.

     I spent much of the weekend reading the papers, 
trying to glean a little information about what Isabel 
was doing in my area. I learned only what I already knew: 
that countless people here were going to be without basic 
utilities indefinitely.

     Luckily, Isabel was a spent force by Saturday. The 
weather on Long Island was heavenly. The wedding was 
beautiful. I've known the bride since she was a toddler, 
and she was gorgeous. When her father, one of my dearest 
friends, escorted her to the altar, I cried -- first time 
a wedding has ever done that to me. I was so happy I 
forgot to worry. The groom was a gracious, handsome young 
man, grateful to have so lovely a wife.

     The reception was gloriously festive. Gwyneth 
Paltrow was there -- an old school chum of the bride, 
whose wedding gift was the brilliant band that played. 
She even sang with the band, very creditably.

     It was a magical evening. All storms were over. No 
more worrying. At home Sunday evening, the lights were 
back on. The dog was fine. All was well.

     I've been trying to extract a moral from the whole 
experience, but the best I can do is this: no use 
worrying. If you could see even one hour into the future, 
you could soon be a billionaire. But you can't. If you're 
really lucky, though, Gwyneth Paltrow may smile at you 
for a moment.


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