Power’s out

San Francisco had a major power outage this evening. I was initially unaware of it, because I was riding BART on my way to tonight’s performance of the Messiah with the chorus. The first I heard of it was when we stopped at the Montgomery BART station and the operator said “We’re not stopping at Powell or Civic Center station”; since Symphony Hall is at Civic Center, I grabbed my bag and jumped off the train.

So here I am in my tux in downtown San Francisco. I’m about a mile and a half from Symphony Hall. BART personnel tell me to take a MUNI bus to Civic Center. I look down Market Street. It’s gridlocked. All the lights are out, including the traffic lights. I decide it’d be faster to walk than to wait for a crowded bus that would then sit in traffic.

Walking down Market Street with the lights out was absolutely bizarre. The picture to the right gives you an idea of what it was like, with all of the buildings blacked out, and the only light coming from car headlights. And lots of flashing lights; there were police cars and fire trucks everywhere. I was walking pretty fast because I was already late, but the surreality of the situation still struck me. Each intersection was a total mess without traffic lights. Some of them had cops directing traffic, but others had been reduced to survival of the fittest, and it was kind of scary trying to cross those. It’s just amazing how much of our modern life we take for granted, and how helpless we are without those things.

The funny thing is that I figured it was okay to be late, because Symphony Hall would be blacked out too. City Hall was blacked out, but apparently Symphony Hall is on another PG&E subsystem, because they were brightly lit. I get to warmup, and I’m the last person there; it turned out only one other person had taken BART, but he’d left himself plenty of time, unlike me. The ironic thing was that I’d taken BART rather than driving so that I could avoid stress. But it all turned out okay, and the performance went off without a hitch (well, okay, except for starting late to accommodate the numerous patrons who were delayed by the traffic). The show must go on.