I hadn't realized until after we moved into Segredos that the electrical utility for Wallace Avenue is actually Hydro Zaire, where their aim is to keep the power on 24 hours.... a week. This past Thursday/Friday/Saturday was our 4th extended outage of 2009 and Hydro Zaire staff restored our power a mere 36 hours after it went out this time, a marked improvement over the last few outages. They must have got a direct flight from Kinshasa or something.
A massive tree branch rendered Segredos dark and powerless during Thursday night's storm leaving a few secondary hydro cables (including ours) laying across the road. The initial emergency crews and the City of Toronto forestry department removed the tree bits on Friday morning but the cables were still laying across the road and very possibly still connected at the pole (it was hard to tell). The cops put up yellow “do-not-cross” tape about waist high across the entire road allowance on both sides of the downed wire and from my vantage point in the forward machine gun nest, I began an all-day observation vigil on how the people of Toronto act during an emergency.
About 80 percent of the pedestrians simply ducked under the tape (and half of those stepped directly on the cable) and continued undeterred on their way across this temporary no-man-except-me-land. After about 15 people had stepped ON the cable and not slumped in a smoking, quivering mass of electrocuted jelly, I assumed the cable was dead. Where the wire ran up to the pole, a small triangle of open and clear territory on the opposite sidewalk served as the path most took to avoid the extra 45 seconds it would have taken to go down any of the 5 alternate routes and not cross the police tape. About 11am on Friday, the first of many vehicles drove up on the sidewalk and blew through the tiny triangular opening and onwards to the obvious emergency their actions implied. The cops came back around 1pm and positioned their cruiser across the road after receiving a 911 call (I assume from a neighbour witnessing the same display of abject stupidity as I was). I talked to the cop and mentioned that people were actually driving their cars through the tiny wireless opening to which she responded “ What are they crazy?” I suggested that few people were as well placed to make that call as a Toronto Police constable. She smiled and nodded. We shared the secret knowledge that the humans are indeed out of their fucking wee minds. It's a bond you can only share with others and it connects you with the handful of others that have survived the awareness holocaust of the last 20 years.
The cop's presence stopped all but one attempt by a driver to go straight on through the death zone. The cop had to physically stand in front of the car to stop them from driving up on the sidewalk and making their way around the cruiser and through the yellow emergency tape. The driver was incensed that he had to turn around. I'd have shot him. One little girl with her Grandmama actually pulled on the cable repeatedly like it was a giant skipping rope. Grandmama just looked on in splendid isolation. Only 40% of the pedestrians were now crossing, past the cruiser, stepping over the tape and continuing on their merry way. The cop stopped bothering to tell them they couldn't do this after about 30 minutes and sat slumped and dejected in the cruiser until the first Hydro Zaire van pulled up at about 4pm Friday afternoon. By this time I would estimate around 300 people had walked over the wire and 30 cars had ran over or under it (at least while I was watching). With big orange rubber gloves the Hydro dude disconnected the cable from our side of the road and coiled it at the base of the pole on the other side. I later asked him why the big cartoon gloves to which he replied, “So I don't get killed. That cable was still alive. It's still connected to the buss.” He pointed up to the wires overhead and sure enough they appeared to be connected. The ¼ inch of plastic insulating jacket on the cable had protected countless people from being zapped over the course of the day and each and everyone of them was oblivious to this fact. You know they would have sued Hydro.
The Hydro dude replaced the cop and sat in his van until 1am Saturday morning when, at hour 28, a Hydro Zaire underground repair crew of about 15 Belgium Congo guys showed up. They exited the two vans did a lot of furious pointing and gesturing and realizing that all of the cables in the area were overhead, packed back into their vans and vanished into the night. At 5 am Saturday morning as light barely broke on a new day the overhead crew showed up and by 6am we had power again.
I bring all of this up in a sort of nervous defense of the tone of some of the pieces in the latest Buff Review. Nobody's complained, but I'll admit to wondering if - taken together - some of the writing in it might seem a little overly critical of Torontonians. Any thoughts that I should have tempered it a little vanished watching the humans fuck around with a live wire for a day and a half on Wallace Avenue. It was the very incarnation of the “me-world” we've descended into. Rather than acknowledge and adjust their actions to protect themselves, they ignored police warning tape and marched right on through. If it was 5 or 10% of them, I'd write it off as you-can't-fix-stupid, but it wasn't. It was MOST of them. Young, old, male, female, fat, skinny, wealthy, poor, white, Asian, black – it didn't seem to matter. A dog wandered up the street, took one look at all the potential danger, turned around and went back the way he came, one of the rare examples of an actual cognitive decision-making process occurring on Wallace Avenue that afternoon.
It isn't helping my spirits these days having just finished Chris Hedge's new book Empire of Illusion, a must-read for the chronically-depressed that describes modern day western society as a veritable “clown-culture”. That's the nicest thing he has to say about us. Every single supposition offered in this hyper-critical treatise on our disturbingly banal and aggressively self-centred culture of social-network mediocrity was reinforced and proven beyond a shadow of a doubt from my purview atop Segredos this past few days.
I'm putting a pool in the basement and not leaving the house accept for midnight spins on my new bad-ass Mickcycle as soon as they're both finished. Howard Hughes was absolutely spot-on.
I think Hydro Zaire should rethink this cable insulation thing too. A huge opportunity to substantially thin the herd was lost by covering up the wires on our electrical service cables. I pictured myself hiding the smoldering dead bodies of closed-road runners and listening behind a rock like Wiley E. Coyote for the next unsuspecting “Mee-Mee!” (the call of the Torontonius Stupidius Maximus species native to this area). Instead of birdseed on a paper plate, I was thinking of putting an iPhone in the middle of the road to draw them into the deadly embrace of my Acme Electro-Dehumanifier. I thought better of it when I recalled Wiley E. always ended up getting run down by some giant asshole in an SUV that didn't feel it necessary to treat an intersection where the traffic lights are out as a four-way stop. Then a giant-ass rock invariably fell on him.
It would seem that my tiny umbrella is just too small to protect myself from the human onslaught so I'm just going to swim around in my basement and avoid them.