Yesterday afternoon, as I was psyching myself up to do a half-hour stint on a radio show, the power went out. The building alarm started blaring, so I knew it wasn’t just our apartment. I was wondering how to figure out if other buildings were affected, when I looked out the back window and noticed that dozens of people in other buildings were opening their windows and looking out. So it didn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out that this was a neighborhood problem.
We New Yorkers are a slightly skittish bunch these days. The power goes out, and we fear the worst. My mother-in-law gets a gold star for having given us a battery-operated radio and a set of batteries; I grabbed the radio, popped in the batteries, and turned on an all-news radio station.
They were talking about the humidity level, so I figured no major disaster had struck. Then I learned that parts of Manhattan and the Bronx were dark.
The power was out for about an hour, and boy was I HAPPY when it came back on. The phones! The gas stove! The subways! The air-conditioning! My computer! (though I still don’t have any internet; I’m posting this from the library). Not to mention the most important fact: the black-out was nothing more than an ordinary loss of service.
Because of the “hedonic treadmill,” we quickly adapt to our life circumstances, so it’s easy to take even major comforts–like electricity–for granted. One cure for the hedonic treadmill is deprivation; deprive yourself of your comforts for a time, and you’ll appreciate them anew when you experience them again. (This is one reason that camping is fun.)
It took just one hour without electricity to mean that I received a major boost of gratitude and happiness when the electricity came roaring back on.