I open my eyes slowly and rejoin the world, in all of its silence. Hold on, it’s Thursday, the alarm was supposed to wake me up! I roll over to check the time, and the screen is just a blank, black façade. That’s odd. The alarm clock isn’t working. The fan isn’t on either. The power must be out. What could have happened to shut off the power?
I decide to check my phone. The screen lights up, and it’s 10:06AM! I’m late for work! I need to get moving!
I run into the bathroom and turn the faucet on. Nothing happens! No water! Just what in the Sam Hill is going on? Has the whole building lost power and water? I try the shower nobs, and still nothing! Something is very wrong. Better call work and let them know something is going on. I unlock my phone to make a call, and drat! There is no cell service. The power outage is more widespread than my apartment building. Better just get in the car and try to get to work.
After walking down 13 exhausting flights of stairs with other late neighbors, I finally get to my car. I get in, turn the key and…oh dear… The car’s not starting. It just cranks and cranks, but it’s not getting power. Why?! My neighbor just got into his V8 pickup truck and drove off, why can’t the sports car start? The gas was low when I parked it last. Yes, this must be it. The car is out of gas. I groan. It is not a long walk to the gas station, but I am beat after those stairs.
Walking out of the apartment’s parking garage on the way to get gas, I notice it’s quiet outside. Strange. It’s a beautiful day. But something is missing. I don’t live far from the airport. Where are all the airplanes? A plane usually flies overhead every 2 minutes. There are no trucks or busses driving up and down the street either, just a bunch of car traffic. Some cars are stopped; others snake through the mess. “Forget it,” I tell myself. No time to think about it. I need to get to work, so I need gas for the car.
Down the street, I see the owner of the gas station, putting up signs which read, “No fuel!” in quickly drawn block letters.
“What gives?” I ask.
“No fuel deliveries!” the man exclaims. “The trucks don’t work. Even if they did, there is no power to load the big tankers with fuel, and my gas station doesn’t have power to pump gas. Nothing has power! Traffic is running amok because there’s no traffic signals. And no one knows why!” He added before I could ask.
It’s as though the world has just crawled to a stop. I can’t make a call. I can’t get to work. I can’t get water in my apartment. I can’t ride the bus, and apparently no one is flying today. A piece of paper floats in front of me, stopping my train of thought. I snatch it from the air and read in big bold letters: I bet you miss them now!
What could that possibly mean? Miss what? Electricity? Running water? Fuel and transportation? I miss all of it! I become so frustrated, all this trouble and inconvenience. I can’t get anything done! Something has been taken away, and yet I don’t even know what’s missing. “Why, why WHY?!” I yell at the top of my lungs at the paper and the world.
“It’s not obvious?” a cheerful voice asks from beside me.
I wheel around, bewildered by the unexpected response. “No, not really,” I answer slowly.
Standing behind me is a man beaming from ear to ear. I eye him up and down, he’s not dressed like any of my neighbors. He’s wearing a long white lab coat and thick glasses. Under the lab coat he’s got on a white button down with a pen sticking out of the shirt pocket, black dress slack and shiny black dress shoes. Upon noticing my puzzled expression his bursts into a fit of laughter, his eyes twinkling and the white beard on his face bouncing up and down with each chuckle. My eye begins to twitch as I realize this man thinks it’s all a joke.
“Sir, do you know what’s going on?” I ask, through gritted teeth. It had been a very long morning.
“Everyone took them for granted…and now they’ve gone,” the man said stifling a laugh. “They weren’t just machines! They were more than that, and the only ones who knew it, were folks like me.” He smirked under his beard.
“What are you talking about? What machines!?” I cried. My patience was quickly wearing down. He laughed once more.
“Turbomachines,” he said. Then continued at my blank stare. “The world relied on them for everything from moving water to turning massive generators to make electricity. From propelling airplanes to making vehicles like your sports car more efficient and powerful. No one thought to pay attention to how they were designed, developed or used. Some people may have known turbomachines existed, but most didn’t think to look any deeper, or to even appreciate how much they did for us, so I made them all stop working. They’ll never turn again.” The old man smiled mischievously.
“You’ve doomed us all!” I yelled. I couldn’t control my panic.
“No sir, I’ve only sent us back 140 years, there are other ways to drive and to travel, to get your heat and your water. Perhaps next time, people won’t be so careless with how they get their energy, transportation, heating and cooling in their home, and even vacations. That’ll teach the world.” The old man surveyed the horrible silence he created with satisfaction.
“But sir,” I beg him. “Please reconsider, this is too far!”
“I disagree,” he chuckled. “I think it’s just right. Good luck to you, and goodbye.” With that he straightened his coat, snapped his fingers, and was gone before I had time to say anything more.
He left me scratching my head about many things going forward. Most importantly, where to take a shower.
Many folks go about their everyday lives not knowing how much turbomachinery does for them, or even what a turbomachine is. Others, however, work hard to keep these machines running, design new ones, or bring the old ones back from the dead. Although many of us don’t work directly with these machines, each of us relies on them in at least one capacity, if not more for the conveniences and necessities of our modern lives. Keep that in mind, the next time you fly, drive a vehicle, ride the bus, or even just flip a light switch. For those of us who take turbomachinery for granted might find themselves waking up in the twilight zone.