Let me first preface this by saying that every summer since we graduated high school, on a night where my friend Brett Bodner and I are together, something very strange has happened, usually involving power outages, but is not limited to one strange occurrence per summer. Two years ago, in late August, the two of us took what was going to be a five-minute car ride, to a nearby Target to look at some furniture for his apartment, when suddenly, the power went out. No big deal, right? Except that the human race is so inept when out of their comfort zone, and something so simple as being without electricity for a few hours would drive them to madness. We have become a despicable group of people, who function like chickens who have just been decapitated at a Purdue factory and are stumbling around in their last fleeting seconds before becoming food, when we are without something we think we need.
Anyway, with traffic lights out and knowing that the power was out, we decided to continue on, not knowing how long the outage would last. It was when we took the jug-handle off of Route 35 in Middletown that we got stuck. There were cops at the intersection, and rather than actually earn their money and direct traffic, allowing cars to cross the highway and turn around the other way, they simple blocked off the area, and insisted we keep driving along. This would have been alright, however, that was the routine all the way down into Red Bank, which is twenty minutes farther, and in that traffic, it took about an hour. We trekked along, going farther and farther and ended up in an unfamiliar place, before finally realizing we were in Lincroft, the town where my college at the time was located, and were able to make our way back home…four hours later. It was a worthy adventure, as we once again got to observe human behavior and nature, including maniacs trying to actually drive through the police car barricades blocking off every intersection, and people randomly forgetting that their cars actually come with turn signals—they must have been caught up in the hysteria of the moment.
Alas, that afternoon was nothing like what would happen last summer, a few days after our area was hit pretty hard by Hurricane Irene in late August (and less than a week after an even stranger occurrence: an earthquake that hit the east coast). The power had faded in and out since the hurricane dissipated, but only for a few minutes at a time. But late one night, something strange would happen, which all started in a way that Rod Serling would have been proud of. Brett and I were bored, and decided to watch a special I had taped on my DVR a week prior, something titled Crop Circles: Mysteries in the Fields (which has actually aired several times this week on Destination America, formerly Planet Green). Far from scary, and actually quite ridiculous and dated, we are surprised even today at how seriously we were put in the mood for something creepy to happen. It was just around one o’clock in the morning when it ended, and no sooner than the credits began to roll that the power went out, again. No big deal. It was out for like fifteen minutes when we decided to do what
normal semi-crazy people do in this same situation: drive around and see how much of Hazlet was affected by it.
We walked outside to Brett’s car when I realized I had forgotten my cell phone. As I was stumbling around downstairs looking for it, I heard a very weird hum. It was something I had never heard before, and had the power not been out, I would not have even given it a second thought. But the power was out, and we had just watched a show about aliens. The hum lasted for a good five seconds, and initially, I thought it was the power coming back on, but it was not. I walked outside to see Brett at the side of his car staring up at the sky. I asked if he heard the hum too, and he said yes, still staring upward. That’s when I turned around, only to see the sky illuminated in green. It actually stayed that way for five minutes. An eerie, green mist with a yellowish tint hovered in the sky, seeming only as if it was a few miles away. We got in the car and headed to it, and every neighborhood we passed was dark.
This is when The Twilight Zone theme song began to play in my mind. As we turned onto Bethany Road, we saw it was closed off by police, with flares on the ground and their car lights flashing. People were standing out on the sidewalk staring ahead. It truly was “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street”, [only without the McCarthy Era witch-hunt and paranoid killings]. We wondered to ourselves if an alien spacecraft had crashed. Maybe we were joking, maybe not. It was only when we continued to scout around that we saw workers fixing a large transformer, that apparently had blown out and caused both the hum and the green light in the sky. Or was that really the cause? I’ll defeat my whole story here by saying yes, but it still ended up leading us to a pretty fun, and very comical night when we realized that it was only a transformer. We talked about how great it would have been if a flying saucer or something like that landed in little old Hazlet. We talked about how the government would cover it up and say it was just a balloon, then hunt me down and kill me for writing about it. We talked about the commercialization that would engulf this money-hungry town and all the alien-themed gift shops that would spring up.
And all this happened because we had a little prompting from an outrageously awful TV show and a blackout on the heels of that. “The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout,” said Rod Serling, adding that all we need is an overactive imagination to either make fools of ourselves, or completely overreact to a situation and find ways to kill one another. Thankfully, all that happened this evening was a little excitement…and self-embarrassment. Will anything strange happen this summer? Only time will tell. Thanks for reading!