August 2003: The Blackout: The Idiots!

 
The blackout that started at 4:10 P.M. Thursday, August 14, 2003 saw many good people pull together.  From the people who got out of their cars to direct traffic in major intersections to the neighbours checking on you to see if everything is alright to the young people who hauled water upstairs in apartment buildings to the elderly.  These are the type of people we all want to know and trust as friends and neighbours.   My mother on the Friday, August 15th had my Dad hook up our camping stove to boil water for coffee.  She then walked next door and knocked on our neighbour’s door to see if they would like a cup of coffee.  Good neighbours can be very important in life, that is one characteristic that I have learned from living on my street for so many years.  These neighbours also form a community and towns in which we all live.

However, there are “idiotic” people in every neighbourhood and city during times of crises. 

WATER

Reports were coming in through the media of various instances throughout the crises.  Perhaps the first was reports of people watering their lawns and washing their cars on Thursday on Friday.  The problem is once the power goes out, the electric pumps that draw water from aquifers and lakes stop working unless they are powered by back-up generators.  Thus, if water systems are overburdened two things start to become a problem:

  •  The first is simply water presure.  If water pressure drips, so do the taps causing people to start to go without water. In the heat wave that southern Ontario saw, water demand begins to soar as people look to increase their consumption of water for both drinking and bathing purposes.

 

  • The second is for emergency purposes. In a fire situation, firefighters need access to water. Thus, on normal high consumtpion days residents are requested to reduce their consumption so that there is enough water in order to suppress a fire situation.

At the beginning of the of the crises people were asked to restrict the use of water by provincial and municipal authorities.  While listening to call in shows on the radio about these idiots, I couldn’t help but think that these people just don’t get it?  These idiots must think that since they pay their taxes, then they can use water whenever and wherever they want.  However, the main reason behind paying taxes was it was realized that there are some services that are cheaper to deliver if the services, like water, was done collectively.  So everyone pays their share to save money.  Without the tax dollars going into developing the water and sewage systems in urban areas, how much money do you think would be required to drill your own water wells and treat and dispose of your own sewage on your own property?   So remember that, yes you pay taxes towards the having water, put remember that we are collectively responsible for the water.  Thus, if the city cannot draw and pump enough water, officials are going to request people to lower the demand on water consumption.  If residents do not heed these warnings, the water pressure will drop and possibly even cause taps run dry.  In these cases, if a fire occurs and there is no water, the fire department can only use the water that is stored in the trucks because the fire hydrants will be dry.  If the fire outlasts the stored water, the firefighters have no choice but to pull back and simply let the fire burn itself out.   So remember that when these warnings occur, that it could be your house the firefighters have no choice but to simply let burn due to some idiot down the street wanting a green lawn. 

GAS

The idiocy only continues at the gas stations.  Just a question, if people are requested to stay off the roads, why are people lining up at the gas stations filling up every container they can find?  Then there were people who had other ideas on how to get gas. City TV reports that about twenty people in the Toronto area who were admitted to hospital due to inhaling gas.  It is believed these fine idiots were trying to siphon gas from parked cars.  I have only one comment for the siphoners who ended up in hospital, SERVES YOU RIGHT.   

Gas station owners (read: idiots) were also greedy during the blackout.  Trying to take advantage of the fears over the blackout were several gas stations who posted prices of 99.9 cents per litre.  These outrageous prices for gas compared to gas that averaged around 68.0 cents per litre at the closing on the previous Wednesday.  A picture of a Canadian Tire gas station, one of the culprits, was shown in a Toronto Star picture in their Saturday, August 16th edition.  As a Canadian firm, Canadian Tire should be ashamed of itself for gouging consumers at the pumps during a crisis.  I wonder how far this company will let its corporate and affiliated stores go when the next crisis comes around. How about twenty dollar batteries with no Canadian Tire money in return?  Shame on Canadian Tire for allowing one of its gas stations to gouge consumers in a crisis and make an otherwise good homegrown Canadian company look bad.

TRAFFIC LIGHTS MALFUNCTIONING

Who knew that when power is lost every single traffic light would go out causing traffic chaos in some cases?  Yup the turkeys who are on our roads sure took the cake this time.  On a trip home on the Thursday night after working for the Town of Aurora Day Camps’ Extended Camp (a camp for children who’s parents can’t pick-up their children at 4:00 P.M.),  I counted about three cars that failed to stop at intersections with traffic lights that were not working.  These turkeys luckily didn’t kill anybody.  However, there were bright spots on the roads.  Your average Joe was able to direct traffic at many intersections.  These average Joes and Janes were able to keep traffic moving in what could have turned into absolute chaos.  Imagine trying to navigate who is supposed to go next at an intersection of sixteen lanes.   York Regional Police were so hard pressed to get police officers, according to a report in the Sunday August 17th Era-Banner, that new recruits after being sworn in were wisked away to nearby intersections to direct traffic.  Talk about trial by fire, not even time to have a celebratory dinner with fellow recruits following the formality of being hired and sworn in. Congrats to all the police officers and average Joes who took it upon themselves to ensure that the turkeys didn’t win the battle of the intersection and ultimately kill someone.  

TOWN PHONES NOT WORKING

On Friday morning I reported to work as a Day Camp counselor at the local recreation centre at 6:30 A.M.  This camp is for the parents who are unable to drop their children off at regular camp time of 9:00 A.M.  After reporting to work on Friday morning, I was shocked to find out that none of the Town of Aurora phones were operational.  We tried every phone in the building looking to call camp staff to tell them not to come into work.  Not one phone in the building was operational.  This was in a building that has a pool involved.  If someone broke into the building at night without the maintenance person in the building noticing.  What happens if this person drowns in the pool or attacks the maintenance staff on duty?  Who is going to call emergency personnel?  Also, there was only one single maintenance person on duty at this building.  Again what is the thinking behind this?  To protect the building from looting?  If this person is removed and he/she is on a twelve hour shift, who will find out if something happens?  Trust me this happened, the maintenance person on duty when I arrived at 6:30 A.M. had been at the recreation complex since 7:00 P.M. the night before and his replacement at 5:00 A.M. didn’t show up.  One of the administrators, who overseas day programs, could not access the Town of Aurora Town Hall due to security features that kept the doors locked.  This seems a little silly considering a high up employee in the department of Leisure Services could not access adequate town resources to contact staff in order to ensure people did not try to drive their kids to camp.  Also, parents trying to drop off their children at other Town camps told me that when they called the Town’s main phone number, a message came on saying what was cancelled.  They complained that camps were not even mentioned. The town prides itself in its attention to providing good customer service.  So what happened?   It seems the Town of Aurora needs to reevaluate its resources in trying to ensure the safety of both its resources and personnel.  Also, the town needs to find better ways to inform their customers of what town services have been cancelled and what is still available. 

CANDLES

Officials in the Toronto area, in the beginning, told people to be careful using candles.  However, after a couple of blazes broke out due to these candles being overturned by idiots, officials started saying candles should not be used.  Gee, a candle sitting on a wooden table or near anything flammable has a chance to be tipped over, so why wouldn’t you keep your distance.  In Toronto alone there were at least two blazes caused by candles overturned by idiots.  These firemen were pulled from other important duties such as saving people stuck in elevators and helping seniors living in high rises receive adequate water and food supplies.  However, these firemen were not helping the less fortunate, they were tied up by idiots who had overturned their candles and did not have fire extinguishers.  So next time we have a blackout, don’t use candles if you are an idiot!  It may mean somebody does not get the help they need.

911

Provincial and Municipal officials requested people not to use 911 for only emergency purposes.  I wonder what idiots were tying up the phone lines asking how to bake their defrosting turkey without power?  From an early age, people are told to only use 911 for emergencies.  However, officials were reminding the idiots not to call 911 unless it was an emergency.  Last time I checked a power outage is not an emergency for ninety nine percent of the population.  The other one percent it is because they rely on hydro to power their respirators and other medically necessary devices.  Therefore, remember that 911 is for police, ambulance and fire rescues only and not for how much barbecue fire is required to roast that bird that might not have made it through the night in your defrosting freezer.

POLITICIANS

 Both American and Canadian politicians appeared to be total idiots in front of the media cameras.   New York City Mayor Michael Bloomburg and New York State Governor George Pataki claimed that the blackout originated in Canada.  Canadian Defense Minister, John McCallum, first claimed there was a lightening strike at a Niagara Falls power plant.  McCallum should be congratulated for at least saying something, as the Prime Minister, Jean Chretien, was still on vacation at a cottage in Quebec while his office in Ottawa was working by candlelight.  However, McCallum dropped the ball, meteorologists pointed out there was no record of thunderstorms or any significant rainfall in the Niagara Falls area.  In fact, area residents reported clear blue skies.  John McCallum came back with a possible fire at a Pennsylvania power plant.  Reports from the power plant executives said that a fire had not occurred.  It seems that politicians on both sides of the border looked foolish. With the ongoing investigation around what caused the blackout, experts have been fingering high voltage lines in the Cleveland an hour before the power went down as the probable reason for the power to start cascading.  Also, President of the United States, George W. Bush, admitted that the American electricity grid was “antiquated” and in need of upgrading.  Other American officials called the grid “third world”.   

Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien should quit tomorrow and allow John Manly to act as interim Prime Minister until a Liberal Leadership convention has been held.  John Chretien should resign immediately based on the lack of leadership and confusion emanating from both the Prime Minister’s office and the emergency control room set up.

First, what is Jean Chretien, on the Friday following, still doing in Quebec on vacation?  A real leader would return back to Ottawa and lead his country out of the problem.  John Manley did this during the September 11th crises.  John Manley is a crises tested leader that would do an admirable job if given the job.  No that was not possible, instead we have a former top rate economist trying his best to perform the job of a Defence Minister.  It is no wonder the Canadian forces time and time again complain about under funding.  This is because if McCallum performs his job continuously like he acted through this crisis it is no wonder why the Canadian forces are in trouble.  Canadian forces in trouble, case that proves this, Canadian forces in Afghanistan were wearing boreal forest green fatigues in a country that is mainly sand as far as the eye can see.  Think about it, a large green blob in one of the world’s largest sandboxes, hmm…I wonder where the Canadian troops are?  McCallum should be placed in an economic or financial portfolio and get out of a ministry that he should never have been appointed to. 

Secondly, another Chretien slip up is appointing John Manley a Finance Minister.  As a former Foreign Affairs minister and Industry Minister as well as being a current Deputy Prime Minister, Manley has proven himself an admirable person in negotiating with foreign countries.  Manly would have been a perfect Defence Minister. Manley already has the foreign diplomatic network and foreign relations experience that would have been useful.  The Canadian military is well known for leading peacekeeping missions with other countries’ involvement.  However, this has since changed since McCallum was appointed Minister of Defense.  The funding for the Canadian forces has not received enough money and has been called upon too many times that top military officials are warning that the current mission into Afghanistan has overstretched the forces’ manpower and strength.  The Canadian forces have become an embarrassment to Canada.  So why then is a proven economist doing as Minister of Defence when a proven Foreign Affairs expert doing in the Finance Department?  Because Jean Chretien appointed both of these men to the wrong departments.  Therefore, John Chretien needs to resign as soon as possible and let John Manley take the helm to guide the Canadian government through an interim period. 

TENNIS AT YORK UNIVERSITY, YONGE & DUNDAS SQUARE & TIMES SQUARE

The Canadian Open tennis tournament was going on at York University when the power was coming back online in the Toronto area.  Play resumed on Saturday after power was restored to the area.  However, Toronto Police Chief, Julian Fantino, was requesting that people not unnecessarily travel.  So I guess getting to see the semi-finals of a Tennis tournament would qualify as “necessary travel?”  The idiots organizing the tennis tournament should be more in time on what is going on in the city around them.  Don’t the fans of the tennis game come mainly from around the city that is hosting the tournament?  Also, York University is most likely using power from the main grid to power the court lights, kitchen services at concession stands and other electricity using devices.  These devices could be using energy that may prevent the lights operating in a hospital or other similar healthcare setting.  The tennis tournament officials and York University should be ashamed of themselves for continuing the tournament when every last watt of power in an electrical grid trying to return to normal.

However, the tennis tournament at York University was not the only power wasters.  Billboards at the corner of Yonge & Dundas in Toronto and in Times Square were lighten up.  The large LG Electronics billboard and newscreen located below the billboard were lit up.  In a newspaper story, LG Electronics commented that a technician was required to turn the power off to the billboard and that technician wasn’t available.  Perhaps, a way to turn the billboard off should be changed so a circuit breaker can be flipped or a plug could be pulled.  Requiring a technician to turn off the hydro to this billboard seems a little extreme.  What would happen in an emergency, like a fire, and a technician was not immediately available, to turn off the electricity to the billboard?  What then.  LG Electronics has some explaining to do on this issue about not having a technician available right away at one of Toronto’s busiest intersections. 

Watching CNN on Friday night, with the lights off to try to conserve power, Wolf Blitzer was reporting live from Times Square in New York City.  Behind him was a scene of electric lights.  All the billboards, signs and street lights were blazing.  With the electric grid struggling to come back online how could Times Square in New York City be back up and operational at full light so quickly?  There were probably sections in New York City still in the dark while Time Square was ablaze in electric powered lights.  How do I know this?  Not all residents in Toronto had power on Friday night, so how could a city twice the size of Toronto have all the electricity restored to all its residents?

CONCLUSION

Idiots surround us all.  Some people just don’t know how to utilize their brains in the best of times, nevermind the worst of times.  Consider how many idiots are on the roads these days and you know what I mean.  However, the idiots thought that the whole world was an episode of Survivor because of this power outage causing them to head to the gas pumps and call 911 to ask when the power would come on so they could cook their beloved turkeys in the oven.  Corporate idiots surrounded us to, the large billboards at the corners of Yonge & Dundas in Toronto and Times Square in New York attest to this.   Meanwhile, officials are asking people to conserve water and energy in order to ensure the limited amount of hydro available is being used to benefit the most people.  Therefore, the real heros in this event were the people who checked on their neighbours, and turned unnecessary lights and appliances off.  These heros should not be overshadowed by the idiots who only thought of themselves and their own comfort.
 
 
Links
 
Canadian Tire www.canadiantire.ca

City TV – www.citytv.com

CNN – www.cnn.com

The Era-Banner www.yorkregion.com

Toronto Star www.thestar.ca

Town of Aurora – www.town.aurora.on.ca

York University – www.yorku.ca

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