Tech: Stronger Than the Storm

Member Group : Freindly Fire

Thank God for Starbucks. Or, more accurately, their Wi-Fi. Because of that "gift," many who lose power during storms don’t miss a beat being themselves, otherwise known as anti-social, bratty, and downright rude behavior caused by an acute obsession with iPads and smartphones.

Hey, I love technology as much as the next guy. Lost? Activate GPS. Need to check on the kids while stuck for hours because you’re behind all the idiots who crashed their 4-wheels thinking they could do 65 in snow and ice? Call home.

But one of the saddest commentaries on society is our ridiculous addiction to technology. Go to any coffee house, restaurant or family dinner table, and you will hear very few words spoken, and see even fewer eyes, both kids’ and adults’, looking at someone else. Instead, they gaze at their phones.

I know we’re all extremely important people, but for once, couldn’t we delay text messages and Facebook updates — you know, the ones with fantastically stupid inspirational quotes and postings fishing for "Likes" and "you look awesome" comments? (Reality check: you don’t look awesome. We’re lying. Get a nose job, and please, go see a dentist.)

God forbid that in a power outage, families actually talk, play board games, or read books — real books, with real pages.

People have become so fixated with their phones that they can no longer communicate like humans, and it shows. Person-to-person conversations are becoming archaic, writing is appalling (in schools and the business world) and public speaking is abysmal.

Before this technology, surveys showed that people feared making a speech worse than dying. Since we have devolved from that point, where are we now? Do we fear it more than watching Denver in another Super Bowl?

Call me a dinosaur, but living in the ’80s, before things became so impersonal, wasn’t such a bad thing. And living for a few days like they did in the 1880s isn’t so horrible either. It builds character. Even better, when families put down the phones and actually do things together, some kids might find out they have siblings. And that there are things called sleds and snowballs and, the biggest shocker, shovels to clear neighbors’ sidewalks for money. Which is also known as "work."

And can we stop bashing power companies, at least for now? Many East Coasters who lost power were up in arms within the first 24 hours, clearly part of the "entitlement class" who think they have the "right" to never lose power. Heavy snow, followed by ice? So what? How dare I be in the dark without heat!

To those, a simple message: shut up and buy a generator. I know. Everybody’s going to get one now because they’re fed up. Except that they won’t. They’ll talk it about ad nauseam, but once the winter ends, they’ll forget about it. Until it snows again next winter (and the cycle of complaining continues).

It is routine procedure for power companies to be audited after every large outage to gauge how well they well prepared for, and responded to, large storms. Since millions of Americans don’t yet know how their respective providers performed, let’s give those companies the benefit of the doubt and applaud the guys working 16-hour shifts in frigid weather, braving many dangers, including generators that can backfeed the lines and kill the workers.

And let’s not forget how quickly huge work forces were mobilized, as linemen typically come from far and wide. In fact, after this latest storm, crews came from two other countries: Canada and Arkansas.

Meanwhile, the debate du jour is whether we should be placing power lines underground. Great idea, but there’s nowhere near enough money to do it, as it’s ungodly expensive (estimates are a million dollars per mile).

Could we get that cost down? Probably. And, most certainly, communities should explore a 10- or 15-year underground program for the most sensitive or loss-prone areas. Power providers’ revenue comes from its customers, so there would be a rate increase, but some of the cost could also be borne by local and state governments allocating our taxpayer money (it’s ours, not theirs) to such an important initiative.

If a local utility could place between 500 to 1000 miles of wires underground per year, outages would decrease, maintenance costs would go down, and businesses would stay open — producing more tax revenue and keeping people’s paychecks rolling. It would be a win for everyone.

Government wastes billions a year (and trillions when you throw in the federal stimulus program that produced zero return on investment). So for a change, maybe we could allocate those funds more intelligently, such as securing our highly vulnerable electrical infrastructure.

But of course, that would be a common sense solution, so expect to see it when hell freezes over.

Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, Freindly Fire Zone Media. Read more reports from Chris Freind — Click Here Now.