George Boardman: Nevada County residents didn’t react well in blackout that wasn’t a disaster
Observations from the center stripe: Big heat edition
PG&E GENERATED a lot of heat with its actions during the recent blackout, but then it is a power company … NOTHING TO be proud of: Nevada County is one of only four in California with a kindergarten vaccination rate below 80%, according to data compiled by The Wall Street Journal … MEANWHILE, WE rank right down there with San Francisco when it comes to how few felony cases the DA prosecutes on a per capita basis, the San Francisco Chronicle reports … I CAN’T decide if I want a Chevy El Dorado with 15 camera views or a Dodge Ram with 19 speakers … THE BOSSES at NBC Sports need to explain to me how Mike Tirico is an improvement over Bob Costas … IF TRUMP is so concerned with corruption, why did it take him almost three years to investigate Biden? He must have been too busy investigating Crooked Hillary …
The recent PG&E blackout was one of those events that try men’s souls, and I wasn’t particularly encouraged by the behavior of many of my fellow Nevada County residents during the event.
The Union’s editorial on the subject described the “Road Warrior” scene at the Safeway store in Glenbrook Basin, where the rules of common courtesy were abandoned and it was every man — and woman — for themselves.
A friend who is on the petite side was knocked to her knees when she entered the store. (I found it particularly interesting that long lines formed at the Starbuck’s kiosk in the store. Really? These people had no other source of caffeine?)
Then there were numerous reports of people stealing generators and siphoning gas from cars. The lines at the Chevron station at Highway 49 and Combie Road were the source of several near fistfights during the brief time I observed the action. I suspect the other gas stations that were open during the blackout were no different.
What I find particularly disturbing is that this was a relatively benign event. The weather was ideal for a blackout, not the heavy rain or snow and cold we’re more likely to get during a real power failure. In our case, the blackout lasted about 40 hours, hardly enough time to test our patience and endurance.
The blackout occurred little more than a week before the 30th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake, a truly traumatic event. We lived in the Bay Area at the time and while we escaped unscathed, it was only after several tense hours.
Our daughter and I were safe on the peninsula, but my wife was working in the North Beach area of San Francisco at the time, where there are numerous brick buildings and others with brick facades. I was hoping she wasn’t outside when the quake hit — the phones weren’t working, so there was no way to know.
(As it turned out, she was talking to a client in Cupertino when the quake rolled through there; that gave her several seconds to yell “earthquake” and get under her desk before it hit San Francisco. And as a native of the city, she knew how to get home without driving on the freeways.)
People truly showed their best during that tragedy, going out of their way to help save total strangers, and comfort those who were distressed. I like to believe people here would respond in a similar manner if we experience such a tragedy — lifestyle inconveniences tend to take a back seat in those scenarios.
What is clear is that people ignored the advice of public safety officials to get prepared for a blackout, or were genuinely surprised when it happened. (I find it interesting that while we are more “connected” than ever, a lot of people seem to know less than they did in the days when they had to read newspapers to find out what was going on.)
Maybe the next time we have a blackout (and there will be a next time), people will heed the warnings and get gas, food and their meds before it’s too late. That will make it easier to be civilized with each other until the lights come on again.
One of the reasons we have such a sharp political divide in this country is that Democrats and Republicans have less in common than they ever did. When that’s the case, they don’t see problems the same way, assuming each recognizes a problem exists.
Some statistics compiled recently by the Brookings Institute illustrate just how sharp the divide is. For example:
Democrats dominate the most productive parts of the economy. House districts represented by Democrats generate over 63% of the nation’s gross domestic product, with Republican districts making up the rest.
Household income shows a similar divide. A decade ago, median household income was about the same in each party. Since then, it has jumped nearly 17% in Democratic districts while declining 3% in Republican strongholds.
Political partisans aren’t likely to run into each other at work either. Democrats represent districts with the biggest clusters of professional jobs, including tech hubs around Silicon Valley and Boston. Nearly three-quarters of jobs in digital or professional industries are in Democratic districts.
By contrast, Republican districts hold a growing share of the nation’s agriculture, mining and low-skill manufacturing jobs, many of which do not require a college degree, have lower pay and are more exposed to overseas competition. (No wonder Trump is fighting a trade war.)
The two parties represent different kinds of places in the U.S., another reason they’re not likely to intermingle. Once, the parties were geographically intertwined, but the Tea Party revolution in 2010 wiped out Democrats in rural and working class districts in the Southeast and Midwest while the 2018 mid-terms ousted Republicans from many suburbs.
Finally, people with college degrees are more concentrated in Democratic districts than in Republican districts. Democrats represent all 17 Congressional districts with the highest concentration of college graduates.
Just call us the Divided States of America.
George Boardman lives at Lake of the Pines. His column is published Mondays by The Union. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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