Early on Saturday morning, May 9, when some Bourne residents were getting groceries and others were still sleeping in, the crew of an Eversource truck braved the winds and passing cars to repair electrical lines on County Road in Monument Beach. The driver of an SUV saluted and waved to the workers as he passed.
A scene like this has likely occurred many times in town recently, and there is a good reason for that. People are recognizing, more intensely than ever, how essential our basic utilities are and how much work is needed to maintain them.
On most every list of “things we couldn’t do without” during the COVID-19 pandemic are family and loved ones, as well as food and shelter.
To those essentials most people would add electricity and running water.
Also, let us not forget natural gas, heating oil, trash pickup, gas stations, septic pumping, a WiFi connection—collectively called “the grid” when not limited to electricity—the list could go on.
Just imagine how different and more chaotic our lives would have been since March if, in addition to the arrival and spread of the novel coronavirus, we also had to contend with the loss of indoor plumbing, central heating and household lighting. Yes, many people have generators and other “off-the-grid” devices such as solar panels, but most of us do not.
Despite scattered power outages in high winds and thunderstorms across the upper Cape in recent weeks, we have been fortunate to have ready, uninterrupted access to the grid’s essential elements.
Gratitude goes to the staffs of Eversource, National Grid, Comcast and all the other public and private operations that keep our infrastructure, large-scale and small, running in a crisis. Hunkering down at home and popping out for supplies would be incalculably more difficult, even dangerous, without their work and the risks they routinely take for us all.
While everyone should look for ways to reduce electricity and other resource use when possible, for environmental and financial reasons, this is a great time to take a closer look, possibly even a first look, at the grid itself to appreciate more fully how it supports and affects our lives.
For an easy-to-understand overview of the electrical grid, check out the US Department of Energy’s infographic at www.energy.gov/articles/infographic-understanding-grid.
For a more comprehensive view of infrastructure in general, check out a YouTube video from the American Society of Civil Engineers by searching for “What is infrastructure?”
For those who learn better through experience, take a walk around your house or neighborhood and count the number of wires, pipes and other necessary conduits of energy and matter you find. Think about each one’s purpose and mechanism. Think about how they are connected. Ask yourself: How much of my daily life depends on this or that one?
And the next time you pass an Eversource, National Grid or Comcast crew, you don’t have to salute, but maybe give a friendly nod or wave.