Scene: It’s a warm summer evening on the southern tip of Puget Sound. It’s a rare clear night and, with the power out and street lamps dark, you can even see the stars. I am walking along the streets in my t-shirt and shorts. It’s a little muggy. I live in an upper-middle class neighborhood…lots of manicured lawns, two-car garages, clean sidewalks, two-story houses.

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Woman in a white skirt walking her little dog, to her neighbor on the front porch: (bitterly) Well, how do you like living in a third world country?

Neighbor: This is crazy. There’s no reason for the power to be out on a street like ours.

Woman: I know. It’s unacceptable. I called the power company and they said they have power out to 982 customers right now, and I told them I DON’T CARE THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE!

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Man talking on his cell phone as he walks past me: It’s weird. I’m on my way to this dinner party and all the power is out on the street. I feel so exposed in the dark.

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I walk past a house running their generator. The power has been out for about an hour. They have their loud generator running and through the window I can see that they are sitting in the living room with the lights on. Mom, Dad, and teenage son are all reading something. Because god forbid that they should have to leave the lights out and actually talk to each other or something. But I was less cynical about that family tableau when I walked another block and came to the second neighborhood generator. In that house, none of the lights were on, and all I could see through the window was the blue flicker of the large television set.

It’s hard to have a positive attitude about people in general.