Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Blizzard of Oz

It is official: New Mexico is a third world country. Hard hit by about two inches of snow, we promptly shut down.

To be perfectly honest, it was not the snow. It was a lack of electrical power that did us in. Southern New Mexico buys its electrical power from El Paso, chiefly because such an enterprise is beyond our capability. The state once invested in the construction of a nuclear power plant, but managed to sell our share at a loss before it began production. Thankfully, we now own no share of what turned out to be a perfectly good power plant, so we can continue to give our business to our neighbor to the south, who overcharges us and subjects us to rolling blackouts.

It is those rolling blackouts that have forced most activity in the state to brake to a halt. The university has been closed for three days in order to conserve electricity. How exactly does that work? I visited my office during the shutdown and found the lights were still on all over the building, the heat was on, and the computers were still running in the empty labs. As I write this, the street lights and parking lot lights are on for the convenience of those not coming to school.

How much electricity is being conserved by this policy? Do the students in their dorms, houses, and apartments consume less electricity by staying home, microwaving pizza and watching TV rather than sleeping through class? If nothing else, wouldn’t all the snoring bodies help warm the classrooms?

Regardless of where those people are, they will continue to use electrical power. I am at a loss to see how asking everyone to stay home saves power. Our governor asked everyone to lower their thermostat by 10 degrees, but I doubt if anyone in the state followed this advice. I know the university didn’t. My office was warmer than my house.

Still, there was a little snow, so people promptly jumped into their cars and drove like idiots. I watched out my living room window (while I was watching TV and microwaving pizza) as cars went rapidly down the street. A few of them were sliding down the street backwards. I wonder what the hurry was since just about everything in town was closed.

All the schools, all the government offices, the university, and quite a few businesses shut down for the last three days. It has been as cold as bus station chili, but the snow was gone from the roads by noon the first day. Since then, the entire town has had a 5 day weekend while each of us waited for our turn at the rolling blackouts.

At least, we assume it is a 5 day weekend. What happens if they can’t get those generators online? What if this temporary power outage stretches out for weeks? Months? Does it matter? The university can stay closed and the professors can continue to get their paychecks. After all, the state doesn’t really care if we teach or not. It is equally obvious that the majority of the students don’t care if they learn.

Think about it. The state of New Mexico could just take a permanent vacation. The state produces very little since we have almost no factories. How many people can even name a single New Mexican product? As long as the federal checks keep rolling into the state, I’m not sure anyone would notice.

If you need us, don’t call. We are on early retirement. I wonder how big the spike in the birthrate will be nine months from now.

1 comment:

  1. We didn't have water for 2 days and still don't have heating (electrical problems related to the intermitency of gas), so it was "hard" to be able to procreate with my What-Was-His-Last-Name husband, because of all the necesary after-production cleaning usually involved in those transactions. So, He and I decided to wait for better, cleaner times. Truly yours, Juan

    Pd: I guess there are other factors preventing us from procreating, but not having water/heater has become the main one for now.