A cloudless nightJuly 25, 2012: 5:00 AM ET
In this day and age, a blackout means losing a lot more than your lights.
FORTUNE -- I saw the end of the world last night. Maybe you'll think I'm exaggerating, but I am going to take certain steps. I am going to heed the warning we received at 11 p.m. sharp in our small corner of Los Angeles, and I would advise you to do the same.
Could be tomorrow. Could be the day after. But we're all scheduled to make periodic visits back to the Stone Age, when there was no music, literature, or business activity as we know it. It's dark, and very quiet. You won't like it.
It was Wednesday night, 10:59:59, and I was doing what I always do at that hour on a weeknight, which is nothing on six different implements. Then the lights went out. I'm on a high floor, so I had a good view. My entire neighborhood was a black cat sleeping in the night. That's actually comforting. You don't want it to be just you. There was also light about a quarter of a mile away, and that was nice too. You don't want it to be everybody, either.
I went to the kitchen to find a candle. It was very dark. I thought, Okay, this will be fine. No big deal. Except ... it was hot out, and suddenly there was no air conditioning. A chill passed over me, and it wasn't because I was cool.
I decided to have that cup of decaf I'd been brewing. Except there was none. There was just a pot of cold sludge that had dripped through. It tasted lousy. I threw it out.
I figured, Hey, suck it up -- you're safe. It's just dark, that's all, dark and creepy, and wouldn't it be nice to have a little ice cream? I went to the freezer. It was off. I drank some ice cream. It was weird.
I thought, Hey, use your mind! Find out what this is about. The TV was a doorstop. I don't have a transistor radio. My laptop had about a 50% charge. If I was careful that could last me ... a couple of hours ... I felt a rivulet of sweat on my brow. Of course there was no Internet. My Verizon (VZ) box was down and with it my wireless network.
How about a bit of music to calm my nerves? But all my music is in the cloud! I did that about three months ago. It seemed like a good idea at the time, consolidating all my music in one handy place. But now there was no such place. No cloud? I thought about that for a few minutes. All my photographs are there. Most of my documents too, now that I store things in Dropbox. In fact, most of my life is in the cloud. And now there is no cloud. A cloudless night! What if it lasted forever?
I was sobbing softly as I went to my iPhone and tried to tweet out an SOS. My phone was dead! I had forgotten to charge it, and now it was too late! Too late! We assume that a good charge is only a wall plug away! But now it wasn't!
I stood in my living room, surrounded by the inert detritus of our digital cosmos. No Facebook! No Twitter! No Pinterest! No iTunes! No movies! No downloads! And, good God, no capacity to send or receive e-mail?! I sank to my knees. No entertainment, no access to work, no social media. Just ... me. I have never felt so alone. And then the lights went on.
My iPad subsequently told me that Southern California Edison is implementing a policy of rolling blackouts this summer and that it's going to get worse. There's no reason to believe that this kind of thing won't escalate. We are simply sucking all the electricity out of every wall on the planet, 24/7, and somebody has to do something.
You can whistle a happy tune about all this, but I've seen the darkness. I'm going to go out and buy about 10,000 reusable batteries and a bunch of remote hard drives. Maybe even some old-style CDs and DVDs. I figure if I do this right, I can build up a storehouse that will last me for a couple of years. And then? I guess I'll just howl at the moon. They can't take that away.
This story is from the July 23, 2012 issue of Fortune.
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