Where We Were, and Went

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Where was I when the lights went out? Oh right, editing a story about DirecTV and the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative.

I know that because the story popped up as a recovered document when we Multichannel News
staffers returned to work in our New York City newsroom last Monday to finish putting out the magazine that was technically dated Aug. 18. Our newsroom copies of the issue arrived around midday Wednesday the 20th — here's hoping yours didn't come too much later.

Within a few minutes, word from outside of the blackout's widespread nature outstripped the internal announcement that there was a power problem "in the street" that Con Ed was trying to fix over by New York Life. We all trudged down 18 floors to the street, where our stories diverged.

Fortunately, none of our watercooler anecdotes was too severe. Four of our editors were on vacation that week — something we plan to never allow again, just out of superstition. They were out of harm's way. Jim Forkan was driving back to Queens, N.Y., from Atlantic City, caught the news on the radio and diverted to a powered hotel in Middletown, N.J., where he watched the TV newscasts so many of us missed. Mike Farrell was at home in another part of New Jersey that seemed to randomly have power. Mike Reynolds was on Cape Cod and Mike Demenchuk was at the Jersey Shore.

The boss lady, who shares this space along with her dog, Lucy, bunked in with a coworker from the publishing staff who lives in Manhattan. Tom Umstead amazingly caught a bus to his home in the Bronx — which helped get him home in around three hours, only about three times more than usual.

Others had a tougher time of it. Carol Jordan made it home to New Jersey by around midnight, thanks to the magic of buses and a just-met buddy with a car in the Garden State town she ended up in. Brooklynite Simon Applebaum — who started last week's vacation late so he could come in here and finish up some work on Monday — slept in the lobby of a hotel not too far from the office.

I, and a stranded New Jersey colleague, walked the 65 blocks uptown to my apartment. From what we saw, people were calm and, if anything, moderately amused by the whole thing, having repeatedly heard from radios in parked cars that terrorism wasn't to blame.

Certain questions arose from our observations, though.

Who are these people who volunteer to direct traffic at gridlocked intersections? Are they control freaks, helpful extroverts or just self-interested drivers who were able to hand the wheel over to another carpooler?

Apparently the NYPD fanned out to potential looting hot spots, so they weren't available to immediately replace the traffic-guiding volunteers at such completely gridlocked intersections as 59th Street and Third Avenue, near the Queensboro Bridge — but is it coincidental that there was a traffic cop at 79th Street, near the mayor's residence?

And if a TV newscast can't be seen, is it heard? Actually the answer to that is at least a partial yes. WCBS-TV's newscast was beamed through the Viacom-owned FM station on in one of the cars drawing a crowd on Third.

Take note, Nielsen.

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