One minute I was playing squash with my friend Alan, the next minute I was totally in the dark. I could see nothing.  Just blackness.  Nothing.  What happened?

The weird thing was that Alan saw the same thing.

We had been playing squash on the fifth floor of a club in New York City on a hot summer day in 1977.  It was a very active game and we were in the middle of a rally when everything went dark.

We had no idea what happen.  Sometimes people would flash the lights to let us know our time was up. They would then open the door and light would flood in.  Not this time. This was a black swan, a completely unpredictable event.

We were closed in a dark room with smooth walls all around, not even a doorknob on the door that lets us in and out. We had left our things at the bottom of the front wall. We had no idea what had happened; but we knew step one was to get our stuff and find our way out from the four dark walls.  Our squash court had become a cell.

When you are in total darkness, you need a plan to get out.  It is your illumination even in the dark. The key is information.

We knew the front wall had a tin skirt at the bottom to signal low shots. We felt around for the tin and found the wall and our stuff.

Knowing this was the front wall, we knew the opposite wall was where the door was. We turned and walked with arms out until we found the back wall, then felt around for the small recess where the door latch was hidden.

We were out.  But new problems met us.  It was dark there too.  We had to find the changing room in the dark.  We knew the direction and were able to get to it.  Other people were having the same predicament and reported to us that there was a blackout, a power outage that seemed to affect the entire city.

Other people who were affected could look out their windows to see what had happened and adjust to this new reality. Not us.

Our next hurdle was to find our lockers. Good spatial memory helped there but another obstacle came up. How do you see the numbers on a combination lock in total darkness?

Luck was with us. It was still the era of smokers and someone had some matches. Soon everyone in the changing room had burnt fingers and open lockers.

We made our way down the stairs to the street. It was filled with pedestrians. No traffic lights, no subways running.

New York City went completely dark, and continued without power for a couple days.

Since it was a hot summer night, restaurants and bars were literally giving away their food and drink because their refrigeration failed. In some areas, the blackout led to a party, in some areas it led to riots and looting. The area where we were was more inclined to party.

But wait, one more hurdle to overcome. I found my way to my apartment building.  I lived on the 15th floor. No elevator. I had to go up the totally unlit, dark stair well to get to my floor. Counting as I went. The tricky part was remembering that there was no 13th floor. Then down a totally dark hallway.  I found the elevator opening and from that to find my door. I fumbled the key in and entered in darkness until the sun came up the next day.

The blackout lasted a couple days.

No matter how you find yourself in the dark, there are hurdles to overcome. You need to address each one with perseverance, a plan, some luck and a positive attitude to arrive at a good solution.

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