Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Powerless on Plum

6:42 last night marked our one week anniversary of no power…in many, many ways, but most specifically the kind that comes through a mysterious labyrinthine set of wires fondly remembered as electricity that we never think about…for one minute, until we get the enormous bill each month. And yet we count ourselves as among the fortunate. Catastrophic, unprecedented total devastation…these are some of the terms used to describe what a lot of us on the East Coast are experiencing right now.  Hurricane Sandy chewed up and spit out most of the seaside from Maine to New York and a lot of real estate in between. And even if we can all agree that the destruction is no laughing matter, humor, and looking on the bright side is what will get us through the days ahead. Except of course for the corny jokes that started several days before the storm made landfall. Interestingly enough, my husband bore the brunt of them through silly emails. 
Your wife, heh, heh, when she lets it rip, look out...I always thought Sandy was so sweet, let’s see what she has in store…
“Did you remind them I spell my name with an i….” I snapped. If the jokes were funny I would have laughed along, I think.  Apparently people become hard of hearing when they are looking to lay blame at your doorstep, to which I say I’m grateful I have a doorstep. It’s a cold, dark, doorstep, but my home is still standing.
“I think we should book two rooms at a hotel, you know, just in case,” I told my husband last Sunday morning.
“You don’t think we should?”  
“If you want to…”
I frowned, “You weren’t here during the Halloween storm; you were in China. We were without power for four days. It was nuts.” When the lights went out Monday night I looked at him accusingly.
“Fine, I’ll make some calls.” Turns out most of the hotels in our area and beyond had no power and those that did were already booked. I was careful to keep the judgment from my voice. We pulled out candles, turned on flashlights, donned our winter coats and huddled. My son quickly bought a month of 3G service for his iPad and we sat glued around the dark kitchen table hanging on Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Christie’s words as the live feed kept us informed. The next morning I pulled out a trimline phone I had bought years ago at Radio Shack during a power outage and plugged it into the wall. We didn’t have phone service until Wednesday and when it rang shrilly we all jumped.
“What was that?” my eighteen year old asked.
“A telephone,” I said, pointing at the wall.
Wrinkling his nose as he looked at the alien object attached to the wall, “Really?” he said as he ran to pick up the novelty item. He must have been fascinated because the phone could sit three inches from his hand as he watches the Giants game and he still wouldn’t answer it. This phone (without a caller ID display) was the black version of the white one I got as a teenager for my own room…several years ago.
Wednesday morning I opened the fridge, pulled over the garbage and started dumping things in.
“What are you doing?” my husband asked.
“The…Power…Is…Not…Going…Back…On,” I said, gesturing at Bloomberg’s overly enthusiastic deaf translator who stayed stalwartly by his side even through his mangled Spanish, offering us the few moments of comic relief we desperately needed in what was clearly an escalating situation. I looked at my usually take charge husband, whose biggest fault right then was his optimism and saw it register.
“I’m going to get a generator.”
“Finally,” I muttered, not believing that any generators still existed within a six hour driving range, but held my tongue.
He called me two hours later. “I called that guy I know upstate who knows a guy that owes him a favor. It will be here this afternoon.”
I let out a shriek. The power was back on Plum.
Then we became slaves to the beast. It ate more than my sons, made more noise than them, and spewed more noxious fumes. But we were grateful. My take charge husband had a goal—making sure it never ran out of gas—quite a challenge since we had four cars to keep filling up as well and lines rivaling the gas shortage of the Carter administration. First World problems, my sons told me, still recovering from their forty-hour loss of internet.
By Friday the whole neighborhood was up and running except for Plum Road. We had gone to Queens to our daughter for the weekend and met many other displaced people. My brother called from the block on Sunday.
“There’s a truck here, I think the guys are from Ohio, or maybe the moon.”
“What do they say?” I asked eagerly.
“We have no electricity.”
Geniuses. Maybe they’ll be able to predict who will be the next president.


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