Bob Sullivan / msnbc.com
Tim Wong charges a collection of gadgers at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda, Md., on Monday. Wong is one of 400,000 D.C.-area residents still without power.
When the power goes out for long stretches in the summer, there are headaches aplenty to deal with: spoiled food, sweaty furniture, traffic light outages. But in the age of omnipresent electronic devices, “gadget coma” may have moved to the top of the list.
On Monday, nearly 400,000 Washington, D.C.,-area residents were still without power, almost 72 hours after a surprise storm ripped through the mid-Atlantic late Friday. Twelve deaths were blamed on the storm, which also caused massive property damage.
But even those who escaped more serious loss are still struggling with the storm’s aftermath, which was evident Monday at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda, Md.
Nearby residents packed the mall’s hallways, crammed into coffee shops, even sprawled across the floors, seeking respite from near 100-degree temperatures but also plugging in to any electrical outlet they could find. Extension cords wound around chairs and crossed hallways as “shoppers” recharged cell phones, iPods, and laptops left otherwise useless by the storm. The mall looked like an airport full of stranded business travelers after a bad storm had canceled an entire evening’s flight schedule.
“They said my power would be out until July 6,” said Tim Wong of Bethesda, who was charging a pile of his gadgets as well as several friends’ devices.
The mall actually made the humane decision to stay open late both Saturday and Sunday nights, helping area residents get some respite from the heat – and the Internet blackout.
“We saw that many people were still without power, and we were more than happy to accommodate the community, and to let people use our outlets as charging stations,” said mall spokeswoman Joanna Caputi. She said the mall was seeing “holiday-like traffic.”
In nearby Tenleytown, at an electronics store, power outage refugees yanked demo gadgets out of charges and shoved in their own devices, soaking up electrons.
Plenty of surveys show just how attached Americans are to their cell phones. In one, 33 percent said they give up sex before giving up their phone, and 66 percent said they’d give up chocolate first. In another survey, five times as many people said they cut back on eating out rather than cell phone costs to cope with the recession.
But the drive to stay connected is never more evident than when the power goes out.