Through upheaval and social discord, the celestial orb traces its seasonal journey nonetheless.

Now, November wanes, slow-motion coups bed down for the winter, and temperatures have fallen like shares of ExxonMobil. The time has come to gather, as friends and family, and face the inevitable conversational challenges that arise in a time of great energy transition.

But lo, gather we must not, or maybe shouldn’t, or perhaps just a little, just as long as it’s outside. Virality is no longer just the gold standard of online journalism, but a thing with deleterious health consequences. Like the production of electricity, Thanksgiving must become decentralized and distributed. And this provides an opportunity that etiquettistes such as this author have craved for decades: social currency.

Let us give thanks for the dislocation and disruption, which makes this year’s distributed etiquette resource (DER) more vital than ever.

To invite or not to invite

The feasts of old would concentrate ample dining capacity in a single location. These centralized feasts could be large and unwieldy, occasionally spewing noxious gases, but that was just how it was done.

No more! Reliance on a centralized feasting architecture exposes the dining system to intolerable risk. Should the health of one attendee fail, the brittle system would crumble. We must build resilience through smaller, decentralized dining, whilst growing our own food and harvesting energy from the sun wherever possible.

To preserve connectivity, tap into your social network through televisual conferencing. Your elderly relatives needn’t miss you if they can glimpse your pallid, shadowed visage on a small screen. Or, acquire an LED ring light and wash your face in glorious illumination. The choice is yours!

Icebreakers and appetizers

'Tis an awkward time indeed, when one cannot simply approach a fellow human at a bar and tell a hearty joke. We must elicit our chortles from a distance, and through face-obscuring masks. It’s as if Disney bought the world and merged it with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the dialogue’s about as good as you’d expect.

But this adversity mustn’t mean we cease to joke altogether. Whether you welcome guests outside, or over the Zoom, or not at all, here are some frivolous lines to generate goodwill.

  • Are we here to talk about constitutional law, or do I need to put some pants on?
  • I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to demolish this meal like I’m FERC and the turkey is a state-level clean energy policy.
  • The only gravy I crave is a standalone tax credit for energy storage.

Set the table

The CDC politely cautions that traveling to eat Thanksgiving with your elderly relatives constitutes an egregious epidemiological unforced error, which means the choice is entirely up to you, American.

But if you choose to extend your youthful hand to serve your elders, the CDC does recommend adequate ventilation. You may wish to procure a purpose-built grid-scale battery enclosure. The industry recently started including ventilation capable of whisking away harmful particles, rather than keeping them trapped inside, a most novel idea.

If you are uncertain how to locate the most naturally ventilated site for outdoor dining, seek your nearest wind farm. These projects are sited based on sophisticated science to place them athwart mighty gusts. And if you miss the boat on reserving a turkey, you may be able to find some extra poultry lying around.

Maintaining connectivity

If your Zoom connection cuts out, blame not your interlocutors! Consider whether one of these eminently reasonable occurrences has transpired:

  • Your relative switched the house to backup power mode to show off a new battery system but forgot to connect the Wi-Fi router to the critical loads panel.
  • Your relative lives in California and the utility shut off life-giving power to avoid killing people on a holiday.
  • Your relative lives in California and the state temporarily ran out of electricity, because math is hard sometimes. That’s like a totally normal thing that could happen to anyone. Sometimes you’re planning to shut down gas plants for 10 years and it just kind of sneaks up on you. We’ve all been there. We'll figure out a good fix in a couple of months, probably.

After-dinner entertainment

You’ve dispatched the turkey like a distributed battery in a virtual power plant demonstration, and now it’s time to retire to the sitting room, sip a snifter of brandy, and, in the wisdom of our president-elect, “make sure you have the record player on at night.”

Hold your pod-mates close and reflect upon the meaning of friendship. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that life is uncertain, so you should never miss an opportunity to enrich the lives of your friends and make their problems go away. Emulate such friendship paragons as utility ComEd and the Illinois House Speaker, or utility FirstEnergy and the Ohio House Speaker. If only we all could nurture such lucrative relationships.

As the turkey takes hold in your bellies and your eyelids begin to droop, you’ll know it’s time to do for your dinner party what Californians do with massive amounts of carbon-free nuclear power: shut it down.


For previous GTM Thanksgiving etiquette coverage, see:

GTM’s Book of Customs, Traditions and Etiquette, Vol. I: Talking ‘Grid Edge’ at Thanksgiving Dinner

GTM’s Book of Customs, Traditions and Etiquette, Vol. II: A Grid Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand

GTM’s Book of Customs, Traditions and Etiquette, Vol. III: A No-Stress Distributed Energy Feast

GTM’s Book of Customs, Traditions and Etiquette, Vol. IV: Tales of the Future Grid