I hesitated writing a post about Sandy and the storm’s effects on my household because there are so many people that are still struggling. My own minor inconveniences were rather trivial in comparison.
However, that could be said about my life at any moment. As a person who lives in a wealthy nation with dependable (usually) access to clean water, electricity, and a ridiculous amount of food, just about anything I might express displeasure about would appear frivolous and self-involved on a global scale. Does me whining become proportionally more insensitive the closer the tragedy gets to me?
Then I realized I was overlooking a fundamental truth of human nature: People love to whine and complain, but nobody really wants to listen to other people whining and complaining. Ever. So I chucked the whiny post that I wrote while still waiting for the power to come back on and I’ve instead decided to discuss the five things I was grateful for after Sandy took my power away.
My generator. This little thing kept us out of the cold and dark. Sure I had to go out in the rain and feed it gasoline every three hours in a way reminiscent of Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors; which is to say, blood would have been a heck of a lot cheaper and I would not have hesitated feeding my dentist to that thing. (Sorry, Dr. Shelby, but I needed to charge my cell phone so I could stay on Facebook, and my laptop so my kids could watch movies when I’d had enough of the board games.)
I also got to play Apollo 13 to figure out which appliances could be turned on at the same time before the overload threw the breaker and knocked us back in the dark... again. In the end I could count on the generator giving me lights, heat, the griddle, the hot water kettle, and running water (though not all at the same time).
Would it be awesome to have one of those big fancy generators that seamlessly run the entire house without having to play guess how many kilowatts it takes to run a toaster oven? (answer: too many) Of course it would. But, we don’t. And since this one got us through with the necessities, do we really need a bigger beast? I’ll let you know the next time we lose power...
Running Water. I have lived in this house with my husband for the past nine years. We bought it from my mother-in-law who had lived at this address for 30 years before that. In all of that time, when the power went out, so did the water. We have a well. The well has a pump. The pump requires electricity.
I bring that up because the power goes out here A LOT. Those lovely trees that line our road and yard tend to drop their branches on our power lines with even the slightest provocation. Vengeful creatures, trees.
The photo below was taken after last year's Halloween storm...
Our most recent power outage before this one, though, was in July when an electric pole went down in our back yard and covered my gardens in wire. At that time the generator was not yet wired into our house, which meant no running water. It was stinky. As in, the toilets didn’t flush, stinky.
When you find yourself ankle deep in creek water, trying to maneuver the two inches deep flow into a bucket to get enough water for a toilet flush; which, by the way, is harder than it may sound, so that your house in JULY doesn’t smell like an outhouse, you start to really appreciate the entire concept of running water.
I am no longer surprised when I hear about ancient civilizations solving tough engineering feats in order to create running water. That's what I would have spent my life working on too.
After the July outage, my husband got the generator hard wired into the house. This solved the running water issue. So, when this storm hit, I could fill up my Brita pitcher so we didn’t have to buy drinking water. I could wash dishes. I could flush my toilets. I could take extremely cold showers. (I don’t know how grateful for that last one I am, actually.)
My short hair. I got my hair cut the Thursday before the storm because I was originally supposed to get family photos done by Silverpixels on Sunday. The pictures were cancelled, but the hair was still done.
Not only is it easier to be presentable without a shower (read: not greasy looking) when my hair is shorter, it also takes a lot less time to wash. Coldness does something to time, I’ve learned.
While my power was out, from Monday night to Thursday night, I had two cold bathing experiences. The first was a bath that I tried in vain to warm up with kettles full of boiling water. Because the house was cold, the water out of the faucet was so icy, and it took so long for each kettle of water to boil, I could not get the temperature in the tub above OH MY GOD, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
I couldn't even sit. I stood naked in a tub filled to my shins, covered with goose bumps, and wildly splashed water onto my head and pertinent areas, yelping and howling with each hit like someone was shooting me at pointblank range with paintball pellets. Which is to say, I found it somewhat unpleasant.
The shower was not an improvement. At least with the tub, you could have a concentrated rinse dip that, yes, was a painful submersion, but it ended quickly. With the shower, it takes time for all of those individual droplets to merge enough to do any kind of decent rinsing. An excruciatingly long time.
Holding my head and my pertinent areas in a direct stream of freezing cold water long enough to rinse whilst already naked, wet and shivering ranks pretty high on my list of experiences I’m hoping never to repeat. Along with spinal taps. And childbirth.
Clue. My older children have finally reached the age where they can play board games with me that aren’t designed to make my left eyelid twitch. Whoever invented Candy Land or Chutes and Ladders, two games whose very structure make it not only possible but probable that you will have to start all over WITH A FOUR YEAR OLD, well, let’s just say I’m not fond of your work.
Fortunately for me, however, my four year old was not interested in playing board games. For reasons I don’t think I will ever fully understand, he spent the better part of the power outage entertaining himself by making crafts. If I didn’t believe in miracles before, I do now.
So while the little guy was encircling himself with glue and paper bits, me and the older two solved murders. I taught them the art of misdirection, of protecting your secrets, and how to box people into a corner so they have to give you the information you want. Basically, a bunch of tricks I will later regret them knowing.
When I ran out of steam, I casually mentioned that the game had been made into a movie -- which totally blew their minds. I was a little worried about the adult content because I remember thinking it was pretty racy when I was younger, but by today’s standards, oh please.
They loved it. It was the best tie in ever. It totally redeemed their power outage experience. Old love for Clue has been renewed into deeper love for Clue.
My iPhone (AKA My Precious). I admit it, by the hundredth time I watched the little hurricane/fan symbol spin right across my section of Pennsylvania on the news weather map, I started getting a little (a lot) wigged out. I had no trouble imagining one of the million tree branches that are in the vicinity of my house smacking into one of my children’s bedrooms. Especially since this was my front yard last year at this time:
The two windows on the front of the house belong to my daughter and son. That tree fell the right way. There are plenty of others that may not have the decency to die in the appropriate direction.
My family went to bed early so up until the power went out, I distracted myself by watching the (oh so soothing) news and then a disaster movie, The Day After Tomorrow. In retrospect, maybe wasn’t the best choice. And then, fade to black... There I was, alone in the dark, listening to the howling wind, the pecking rain, and nothing else. I was scared.
Only, I wasn’t alone. I was able to keep up with what other people were experiencing via text, e-mail, Twitter, and Facebook. I can’t imagine how different the experience would have been if, after all that media build up bracing us for impending doom, I wouldn’t have been able to keep in touch with my people. Because, when it comes down to it, they are the only things that can’t be rebuilt or replaced. Everything else is just stuff.
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I like to throw things.