I was in the basement office of a longtime client working on either their Exchange mail server, their MSSql Server or their SAN. The building facilities people were working on the 440VAC power system to connect a new printing press. I had just received permission to take down the servers for maintenance and my contact was standing next to me when I shutdown the equipment. Ironiclly as I hit the power button and the equipment shut off so did the lights.
I look around in the dark and said, “I didn’t do it…”
There were approximately 40-50 people working in the offices of this space and it was every bit as pitch black as you’d expect a basement to be. Fortunately I had a mini LED flashlight on my key ring so that we could find our was to the stairs up because obviously the elevator was out. At first everyone one thought that the electrical workers shorted out the power but once we were up on the street it didn’t take very long to ascertain that the entire block was out.
Quickly grabbing my laptop bag, I ran from the client to my own office. Normally I would enjoy the 20 minute walk between offices but as the CTO od a busy ISP I knew that if the power was out there then it would only be a matter of time before the batter backup systems expired. Upon arrival I examined the telco SmartJacks and noticed that they were powered off so I made the decision to shut down the entire COLO. I figured that if the T1s & T3s were offline then it really didn’t matter if we had operational mail, DNS and Web servers because there was not internet to connect them to. Besides the air-conditioning was off line and it was getting very warm in the space so the equipment would have been severely damage for no particular reason.
Once the equipment was off line I spliced an old trimline style handset into the land line MDF so that the employees could check on their families. After all the cel towers were mostly offline as well. Once we all had calmed our nerves some of us decided to venture out to see how bad things were. The streets were packed with cabs and cars of various sorts. It reminded me of 9/11 during the great exodus out of the city only it was a lot hotter.
Eventually we made our way to the area near 23rd & 3rd so that one of our cable technician’s could meet up with his wife she was working in a local pub back then. Once we arrived I realized I didn’t have any cash and fortunately once of my co-workers was able to loan me something to make it through the night. It’s funny that even ten years we were highly dependent upon technology. Sadly none of the ATMs were functional so there were a lot of people sailing with me in that boat.
We each bought a beer and chatted for a bit about the weird events of the day. That’s when we saw these yuppie type come into the candle lit pub with a strange hard shell backpack asking for ice and a bottle of tequila. My friends and I over heard something about frozen margaritas which seemed very off kilter so we went out to see what kind of magick they were smoking.
To our surprise they had a gas powered blender in a hiking case. They spent 20 minutes fiddling with it and taking turns trying to get it started. They had actually drawn quit a crowd from all of the commotion. I leaned over to one of my coworkers and said, “I could get it started…in fact I’ll bet you a fiver that I can.”
My coworker looked at me and smiled, “That sounds like a bet.”
I shouted out to the two trying to start the engine stating that I could get it running. They both looked at me and said, “Knock yourself out…” I adjust the chock and in one pull it actually sputtered, making the sound for the first time as if it really could start.
One of the two younger men leaned and shouted that if I got it started I would drink free for the rest of the night on them. I smiled back at him, “You’re on.” I then adjusted the priming and choke again two more pulls it started right up. The crowd cheered and I drank frozen margaritas late into the evening during the NYC 2003 blackout.
Late in the evening when most of my coworkers had gone home to their apartments I headed back to my office because I wanted to make some phone calls and well I honestly had nowhere else to go. Besides I had less than the $20 my friend had lent me and the food options were limited as a result of the whole lack of power situation. For some strange reason though in stead of going directly back to work I wandered the pitch black city. Walking from 25th & 3rd through Gramercy all the way down to Washington Square Park.
When I got to the park is was about 1 am. The moon shined bright over the people sleeping everywhere. It was kind of surreal because in all my years in the city I’d never seen that many people laying on the ground, on the benches, and the walls of the fountain circle. I remember seeing a person’s silhouette laying down on the concrete circle wall around the fountain as if they had expired. They had stayed up a long as they could and now they just fell down asleep. It was kind of unnerving.
I thanked my lucky stars that I had a couch in my office where I could return and at least lay down safely for the rest of the night. Unfortunately it was a very hot and sticky night on the vinyl sofa. To this day I think I might have been better off camping out under the stars in Washington Square Park like everyone else.