When it’s about two-dark-thirty and the lights go out for an hour or so…

two dark thirty
Looking out the window during an outage, with the only light coming from the camera flash. Photo by the editor.

It’s a good mix of circumstances
to see when you can’t see

by Eric Jackson

I work in the wee hours a lot.

What the doctors call “cyclothymia” is a version of the bipolar condition, and to use the standard medication for that, lithium carbonate, messes with my kidneys big-time. Will some guttersnipe who supports Proud Boys when they threaten me taunt about being an “unmedicated crazy man?” If some self-appointed pharma shill going to tell me about wonderful new patented miracle cure?

Yeah, well. I do try to read up about advances in medicine, but I have arranged my life to deal with myself. Like not having a browbeating boss, an arsenal at the ready, or a corporate work schedule that says when I must work and when I can rest. Better not to use too many drugs to regulate sleep cycles whose irregularity is part of the bipolar condition. Take a nap in the middle of the day — isn’t that the whole idea of the siesta anyway? Work by night? LOTS of people do that. In some ways it’s kind of a subculture in and of itself.

THEN there is the adjustment to life in a corner of the boonies when at certain times of the day the cell phone towers are jammed up with too many users, so not very convenient for me doing aspects of The Panama News on my laptop through my Claro wireless modem? I may be changing to a new option soon, but in any case, easier to work when so many of those other users are asleep.

Will the broad masses of workers, peasants and revolutionary intellectuals be resolutely blocking the nation’s main drag today because the water is off, a government that owes them has not paid them or is threatening not to, the politically connected are stealing left and right, the local road are on a continuum from horrible to impassable, or, … or…? Or because the electricity keeps going out.

Working at night on my laptop that needs a new battery, with my camera on the desk and my window open to the night breeze may isolate me from certain things, but it also opens my eyes and mind to certain other things. The power goes out for a moment? That’s common enough, more so of late. Rolling blackouts, even more frequent brownouts? That’s an electrical grid groaning under the strain of reservoirs behind hydroelectric dams being depleted by drought. The drought affects the water supply more directly, but also shuts down the water plants during power outages.

So do I rant and rave and make angry phone calls demanding immediate relief?

Naaah — I’m too assimilated of a Panagringo dual to get bent out of shape about this “time is money” stuff and the annoyance that power outages cause to people who think in such fashion. Time isn’t money, it’s just time. So if you’re typing at two-dark-thirty and the power doesn’t reboot in an instant or two? Go back to bed. When the lights come back on, that will tell you what you need to know.

And the totality of the circumstances? Bad news for Panama Canal revenues, worse news for certain vulnerable operations that just can’t withstand a power cut. It’s a series of warnings to Panama about several things — climate change in general, the state of our infrastructure, the failures of public utility privatizations, the priorities of this and previous Panamanian administrations. It can and will get worse at moments. It can and will get better. I don’t think it’s a good idea to just let it slide and hope for the best, but what any private citizen can do is limited. My limited plan is to vote for people who understand that there is a problem at my next opportunity.


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