Friday, November 11, 2011

Powering On

When you live in a house without any electricity or heat or hot water for nine days, your reality changes. Luckily, we had a small generator, so we were able to keep lights on and the furnace running and the refrigerator working for about half of each day. We shut down at night, and it was really dark and cold. Some nights, the temperature dipped into the 20’s. Still, we were in better shape than our neighbors who didn’t have generators. Our house became the central haven for them, and their lives became intertwined in ours with both the benefits and annoyances of that kind of closeness. Towards the end of this ordeal, my husband had to go on a business trip, so my daughter and I were pushed out of our comfort zones even further.

The hardest moments in each day were the beginning and the end of generator operation. In total blackness, at 6 am, I would crawl out from under my down comforter and layer up all the clothes that I had carefully assembled next to the bed. Grabbing my trusty flashlight, I would stumble downstairs and open the garage door. Balancing the flashlight, I had to drag the generator out to the driveway and connect all the electric cords. Then came the part I liked the least. I’d have to open the choke, turn on the switch and yank the cord as hard as I could to start the motor. Without a cup of coffee in me, it was tough to pull up with all my might and get that baby going. If I didn’t manage to start it after three pulls, I had to stop and let the motor rest so I didn’t flood it. That was usually about the time that I loudly started praying to every god, saint and dead family member that I could think of to help me get this --- machine started already. And each time, it would work, thank you very much. I’d stagger back into the basement, flip the transfer switch and turn on all the circuits that were wired to it, knowing that the coffee pot would be working when I got back upstairs to the kitchen.

At the end of the night, I made my daughter go out with me to power down, since it was so dark and I didn’t have enough hands to turn everything off and hold the flashlight. There was such comfort in having her next to me as we plunged to silent blackness. On Sunday night, the utility company had promised that 99% of us would have power. We were in the 1% that were still in the dark. I actually was able to get the mayor of our town on the phone, and she told me that because there were only 10 houses on my street and the pole needed to be replaced and there were so many hours of work to fix everything, the utility company didn’t think it was worth the effort since it wouldn’t give them enough houses to reach their 99% goal. At least she was honest, and I could tell that she genuinely felt sorry for me. It didn’t help that I learned that the power company plans to raise our rates to pay for this disaster, and the COO of the company supposedly got a 31 million dollar bonus last year.

We did get the power back on in time for my birthday on Wednesday. That was enough of a present for me, but my husband surprised me with a new laptop computer. Sadly, once we transferred all the files off of my old computer, we discovered that the new one is defective and has to be sent back to be replaced. So, here I am, typing away on my trusty old dinosaur, which is fortunately still working. I’ve pretty much filled up the 30 gig available on it, and the new machine has 500 gig, which is so exciting that I can’t wait to actually be able to use it. Steve Jobs, I hope that you’re up there keeping everyone at Apple on their toes since it does feel a bit like there’s no one in charge over there anymore.

The horses weathered all of this drama without any problem, and I am grateful for that. Our sweet little doggo, Stella, had an operation and was spayed on Monday, so we are supposed to keep her from running and jumping for two weeks while her stitches heal. That’s not easy, to say the least. She’s totally back to her normal happy puppy behavior. All in all, we have been very fortunate that we were able to stay safe and healthy here. I’ve been thinking a lot about how much I rely on technology and how different everything is when there is no phone, cable TV or Internet. Reading in bed with a flashlight gets old really fast. On the positive side, we were all forced to talk to each other a lot more and we all took the time to notice how many bright, beautiful stars were in the sky each night.

Now, as I continue to navigate each day along the roads of our town, between the carcasses of huge fallen trees that continue to remind us of the intense power of Mother Nature, I’m trying to absorb the lessons I learned so we can handle this situation better next time. And yes, let’s not kid ourselves, there will be a next time.


the7msn said...

Every time I heard about the utility problem in Connecticut, I figured you were among the powerless but hoped you were not. Can't Even Imagine 9 days in your situation. Surely it will be one of those "remember back when" events that you and your neighbors will be talking about for many years to come.

And if that rumor about the power company exec's bonus is true? Hang him from the nearest light pole.

Lori Skoog said...

I'll bet you can't wait to get your hands on that new computer!

As for 9 days without must have great appreciation, being able to flick on a switch. The horses probably didn't even notice the difference.

That bonus should be used to pick up the slack for the power company. Pretty pathetic.

Grey Horse Matters said...

I heard that your town was still out in a lot of places. Luckily, we got ours back Thursday night so we were six days without. We have a generator too but it still stinks. I'd like to send the electric co. my gas bill for the generator (just got a bill from them yesterday by the way). If that's true about the bonus I think we should all get together and do something about it. Heard him on a radio show and he was pretty arrogant mentioning something to the effect of "Well what do you want us to do, it's a natural disaster". How about hiring enough crew to work jackass would have been my answer. Anyway, glad you're up and running again. Guess we all can get through but it's no picnic. Hope your new computer comes back and works like a charm.

Anonymous said...

Very scary and hard - glad you all survived OK. And so kind of you to help out your neighbors - although I can believe it was trying!

Oak in the Seed said...

Happy belated birthday to you! I am sorry it was celebrated in the dark but kudos to your husband for a slick gift! We had no power for several days either. I stuffed my "next day" clothes into bed with me so they were warm the next morning (a hint from one of my Mom's stories about growing up during the Depression).
Be warm, safe and well!

detroit dog said...

Belated Happy B'day, Victoria!

Your post, coupled with the fact that our furnace broke down tonight (we were fortunate to get it up and running after about 5 hours), makes me think we should invest in a fireplace -- a real one!

Glad you are all well over there.

Calm, Forward, Straight said...

Bless you heart Victoria. Sounds like you made the best of the situation, as uncomfortable, inconvenient and infuriating as it was.

Our power coop does a great job pre-placing crews in advance of hurricanes. I have to give them credit for that.

Happy birthday to you! I'm bummed to hear of your problems with Apple - I hope you get your computer situation straightened out asap so you can start taking advantage of all those gigs ;)

Karina H said...

I Must Say Surving 9 Days Sure is a Trooper! But your style of writing I love!! keep up the good work!! :)