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Pique'n'yer interest

Living in the dark ages

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I wrote this week’s Pique’n’yer Interest the old fashioned way: by hand.

It is not that I particularly enjoy the feel of pen on paper or that I am seeking out this solitary activity as a political statement against technology. It is not even that I am in the Middle of Nowhere without computer access.

I am actually writing this column by hand in front of my computer. You see, the power is out in Function Junction again, probably for the fourth time this winter, turning Whistler’s industrial-slash-commercial district into a ghost town of darkened storefronts and quiet offices. Businesses have closed down for the day. The traffic lights leading onto the highway are off. Even a hot cup of coffee is a tough feat to find.

Along Alpha Lake Road, you can see a human-sized dust ball slowly bouncing along the tarmac…

Writing by hand is strange. I do not know how all the Great Writers, pre-Microsoft Word, did it. Instead of hitting the delete key when I make a mistake, I have to cross things out. My notepad right now is riddled with X’s and arrows connecting different paragraphs and ideas together in an indecipherable mess.

And as far as fact checking goes, forget it. The Internet is inaccessible. So is my phone, which is part of a networked system too fancy to function without power.

Everyone has left the Pique office for the day. There really is no point sticking around, because everything we do at the paper — from selling ads to designing covers to writing articles — requires the flow of electrons through our computer wires. Without power, we cannot create a paper.

We’re not the only business in Function affected by the power outage. From the graphic design studios, to the hardware stores and the quaint cafés — everyone is feeling the pinch. In the restaurants workers sit and chat with patrons as they brainstorm ingenious ways to heat up a sandwich. Even the auto shops down the road have temporarily suspended service because they require power to run their heavy machinery and order car parts.

This is the fourth time a power outage has failed to light Function this winter. I am pretty sure power outages are rare in other areas of Whistler, but in Function it has become a regular occurrence.

So what gives? Why Function? Why have we have we been left in the dark so many times?

Once the lights came back on, I called BC Hydro to find out.

The woman I spoke to told me that the outage problem is related to the new substation they installed in Function in 2006, which was built to meet Whistler’s growing demand for power.

She added that BC Hydro has no idea why the power was out from 12:28 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. on Friday Feb. 8, affecting 511 customers.

“Unfortunately, we still are really not sure,” she said. “We’ve patrolled the area, the line, extensively, and we couldn’t see anything that was obviously causing the problem. Sometimes we know it is a tree down on the line or it’s birds, or there is something obvious that may have caused it. And we didn’t find anything. So we’re diligently working at trying to address the issue and to continue to improve the reliability and reduce any further power disruptions to the customers there.”

Okay, so will it happen again if you can’t find a problem?

“Unfortunately that is always a possibility, but we’re certainly hoping that it doesn’t,” she said, adding that four circuit outages have occurred since the new substation was built.

Not exactly comforting to know that no one knows why the power went out, though I am a little relieved to find out why Function has been isolated in the power outage maladie.

Hopefully BC Hydro finds out what the problem is sometime soon. While a power outage is annoying on a Friday, it is terrifying on a Wednesday afternoon when the paper has to be edited, laid out, and sent to Vancouver to be printed for delivery the next morning.

Also, I do not want to even think about what would happen if the power went off in the athletes’ village during the Olympics. Malfunctioning sustainable heating systems aside, it simply will not look good when world renowned athletes can’t switch on the lights, or miss an event because they slept through their alarm.

Until the problem is fixed, all I can do is sit here in the dark. At least my penmanship is improving.

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