A Light in the Darkness

Hurricane Irene made its way up the coast on Saturday, August 29, 2011.  Set to hit my town around 5pm, I woke up that morning to darkness and rain, and by noon I had lost power at home.  The next ten days were a reminder of how to make things so much simpler, as I still had no power. The last time I lost power this bad was when Hurricane Isabel (what is it with the girl I’s?) hit.  It landed in Richmond on a Thursday, and then I took off on Sunday for South Korea.  Had to go halfway around the world for a hot shower, but hey, it was better than the fourteen days at home I had no power.

This time I did, however, have generous friends who would let me come over and shower at their place.  My days became an interesting mix of “where’s an outlet??” and “Well, it’s dark, so time for bed!”.  Here’s a typical day: Wake up with the sun and cell phone alarm ACTUALLY WORKED.  Usually around 630 or 7.  Make sure all electronics that need charging are packed and ready to go: cell phone, laptop, kindle.  Get ready for work, then leave a few minutes early so I could stop at the bagel shop and get breakfast before going into the office.

Work as normal for the day.

Around 5 start to head home.  Try and figure out what cold foods I have for dinner, what drive through doesn’t make me nauseous to contemplate eating, and then grab dinner.  Go home, let dog out.  Eat dinner.  Try and do a bit of housework (dusting or sweeping) before figuring eh, why bother.  Go outside, play with dog, read book in hammock.   Try and figure out which friend is allowing me to shower and/or do laundry at their home this evening.  Come back home.  Pretend to do house work again, but shucks darn it’s too dark.  Find a DVD to watch and plug it into the laptop.  Then take Kindle and go to bed. Did manage to sterilize the fridge/freezer, though, as I had to throw away or take stuff to friend’s houses to keep from spoiling.  No kidding–I drove 45 minutes to my boss’s house to keep the expensive contents of the deep freezer from going bad.  Bless their hearts!

Repeat.

The hard part was that around Tuesday midday the majority of the neighborhood got power restored.  Here’s the thing.  The first six houses on the street (I am house #6) and the houses on the street behind me are all on the same breaker.  THE REST OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD is on a different breaker, and it is one that services the stoplight at a major intersection.  So it gets fixed pretty quickly.  The Trauma Center hospital behind me also gets power restored quickly.  However the street behind me and our six houses?  Not so much.  So I am sitting in the black hole of the neighborhood while everyone around me is lit up.

FOR ANOTHER SIX DAYS!

That’s right, the power was out for us for a total of eight days.  Not so bad, once you got used to it.  Crazy how much you get done with no television on to distract you, no internet available because your modem is down, etc.  Read a lot of books, watched a few movies.

To top it off, on Monday I was convinced my cat had been hit by a car.  He wanted to go out in the morning while I was at work, so I let him.  When I got home he was on the back deck lying funny, so I went to pick him up.  He stood up and then collapsed, and couldn’t get his back legs under him.  Freaked out.  Called my best friend, loaded the cat in the car to go to her house to get the cat carrier, shoved him in, off to the vet for emergency hours.  Cat was (of course) fine once I got there.  No problem.  I still can’t figure out why he wasn’t walking though.  Odd.  Then on Wednesday same thing happens.  Cat goes immobile.  Take him back to the vet, this time because he is still acting strange when I get there they run tests.  No broken bones, but kidney failure.  Oh, and the cat is three years older than I thought, so he’s 17.  Poor old man.  And he’s back down to under six pounds.  Yeah, he’s in bad shape.  So he stayed overnight for fluids and to be watched.  He is doing great at the vet’s, though, so he is coming home in a few days with special food, instructions for IV dosage every few days, etc.

Even had a small blessing in the middle of all of it.  Was in the kitchen watching some guy in a truck drive up the street, then I realized he was stopping at MY house.  It’s the husband of a girl I worked with years ago.  His mother had her power turned back on Thursday, and so he had a generator no one was using.  Wanted to know if I wanted it.  Set it up, got it started, and hallelujah I could plug in a fan and the fridge and have cold milk.  Went straight to the store to get milk and fill the gas can so that I’d be good to go.  Came home and it was off, as expected, so I refilled the gas and cranked it.  And cranked it again.  And cranked it again.  Could NOT get the stupid thing started.  Waited a while in case it had been flooded, nope, doesn’t start.  And that’s when I lost it.  It’s after midnight, and i”m driving back out to Beth’s to put the newly purchased milk in her fridge because I can’t have milk anymore now that I can’t keep the generator running.  Send a message to friends that it probably is best if he takes it, as I can’t make it work.

Friday morning I wake up and he’s there working on it.  He’s off work on Fridays, so while I was gone he came back every three hours to get it started again. Bless his heart.  There was actually something wrong with it, so once it’s fixed I can start it with no problem  I HAVE MILK!!!  You have no idea what that meant to me.  Plus I had the added advantage of him bringing his wife with him that evening, not believing that I truly started it myself, and then I got to visit with her for awhile.

And then on Sunday I heard a weird noise.  Was outside starting the generator and couldn’t figure out that extra humming.  IT WAS THE WINDOW UNIT.  I HAVE AIR CONDITIONING.  Which meant THE POWER WAS BACK ON!  And the sad thing is, it probably had been for an hour and I hadn’t noticed because so much was unplugged and not fired up the minute the air kicked back in.

Yes, the power outage was stressful.  I was fortunate–the house across the street got the tree, not me, when it fell from the neighbor’s yard.  There were five other houses on my street that also got hit.  One was two doors down even.  I just had a lot of lawn debris to clean up.  My car was safely in the garage so I didn’t have anything fall on that and damage it either.  I dislike hot weather, and I REALLY dislike hot muggy weather where you are unable to move without sticking to something.  It’s so hard to sleep when it gets that way.  Trying to find someone to let me bathe at their house without sounding weird was interesting, and then I remembered oh yeah! I belong to a gym! They got power back on Tuesday! But in the grand scheme of things, it was an adventure too!

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