November 2019 – In the wake of a very long few days of struggling to meet the challenges of the most recent power outage, we want to share a few thoughts on our experiences and give special thanks to people in our community.
Last Saturday evening we sat in our cramped back office at Driver’s Market in Sausalito, California and watched on a small phone screen as our beloved Michigan Wolverines beat Notre Dame. We were waiting for PG&E to enact a Public Safety Power Shutoff, or #PSPS for short. This hashtag for something completely new to us had so quickly become part of our vernacular that we had even jokingly named our most recent organic smoothie special after it- the Pumpkin Spice Power Smoothie. This was the second such power shutoff in as many weeks. We had already powered down our most sensitive equipment and electronics to protect them from surges, and we sat sharing a beer and waiting for the dark stillness of a power shutoff that would create instant chaos for us and threaten everything we had worked for. When the power did finally go off that evening, we had to react quickly. And as the power shutoff stretched on for days we needed a lot of help to get through it.
First and foremost our gratitude goes to Kevin, a genius of a local electrician whom we had never really met before Saturday night. Kevin had spent the day helping a client up north get generator power safely harnessed to protect a child with a heart condition. When he showed up at 8 p.m. on Saturday, he was clearly tired but he saw two guys with a big generator and no idea what the hell to do with it. He knew we were fully prepared to do or try anything to protect and save the business. We had lost a lot in the first power outage last week and we now stood to lose a lot more. Time was not on our side, as our fridges and freezers would only stay cold for a few short hours.
Kevin worked late into the night with us to get that generator hot-wired to our building—by all accounts this was not a simple process. He then came back hours later at dawn when the coolers wouldn’t hold temp, and he implored the help of a refrigeration specialist to come out on a Sunday. During this time, Kevin helped bag ice for customers, helped shuffle food from one cooler to another, simply helped with everything that needed doing, and kept insisting he wanted to see things through with us— that we were “all in it together now.”
Kevin—you were our guardian angel and it’s safe to say you have made clients and friends for life.
The next day we were able to get the doors open, and we were overwhelmed with customers. People from our community were cold, tired, and hungry. They needed coffee- LOTS of coffee. Special thanks to Tula, Olivia, Henry and other Driver’s Market part-timers, ex-pats, and family members who showed up and saw how overmatched we were and just jumped in without asking. They poured coffee, served pastries, and served our customers however they could. Thanks to all of our regular employees who came to work day after day despite being without power at home—unable to do simple things like eat hot meals, have hot showers, or fill up their cars with gas. Thanks also to our neighbor Jen who went and bought us more power strips to make charging stations for people. Thanks to Abbott and the other folks at the Sausalito Public Library who were helping many of the same people stay warm these last few days and get on the internet to connect with their families and check the news.
In times like this we’re reminded of the phrase, “it takes a village…” and we see simultaneously the strength and vulnerability of our own community. We are awed by our position in that community, if only to be a hub for people to connect with each other while getting a few necessities. We’re grateful for all the kind words of encouragement from tired people. And we are truly humbled by the smiles of those brave friends who lost every worldly possession two years ago in the Santa Rosa fires, and have now been evacuated again. Their experiences put our own in perspective, and remind us how lucky we are. Massive fires rage on and first responders and firefighters continue to risk their lives, and yet we have to go on selling groceries and doing what we can to keep our own business and community thriving.
Still, this moment does seem to warrant some reflection. We’re thankful that the power is back on for us in Sausalito, and our thoughts are with other communities that have now gone dark or have stayed dark this whole week. We’re not sure when we’ll go through this type of shutoff again—some say it will be the new normal. Climate change is clearly threatening our communities, homes, and businesses and we will ALL be forced to adapt and respond in ways we are not prepared for, most likely in ways we can’t even imagine yet. For our own part, we will be a little smarter and a little more ready to respond, and we’re not going anywhere.