Thursday, March 01, 2007

Winter stuck around and caused more trouble

My next post was going to be a book update, but right after the last post, our snow storm went from strong to fierce. I kept calling my kids in non-snowing locations and giving them updates. "We've got at least a foot." "It's getting higher every time I look out the window!" "It's snowing sideways." "There's at least two feet out there!" "I have no idea how much, but it's still snowing." It wasn't the week-long, six feet of accumulated snow of our last big storm, but it was certainly turning into a storm event that folks would remember and talk about for years to come.

I wanted to keep taking photos, but it's hard to tell the difference between a foot and two feet from inside a camera lens. It's easier to tell with your boots. Two feet is obviously more stepping into it with boots. Although I'm talking about a hypothetical pair of boots since I never did find mine, having put them away last spring and having had no need of them this winter. Until now. So I was mostly noticing the difference in a pair of tennis shoes. Which sucked. Anyway, as I was saying, I wanted to keep taking photos but also, it got dark outside. And then, suddenly, it got dark inside. The power went out.

William and I had been watching television and suddenly we were sitting on the couch in a dark room. We kept sitting there for a minute or two because it's pretty common for us to have the power cut out for just a few seconds, maybe a minute. Just long enough so that you have to reset all the clocks. But it didn't go back on so I got up, and started to feel for the matches we keep on top of the entertainment center (which, without electricity is really just a big wooden box).

"What are you doing?" William asked.

"What do you mean, what am I doing?"

"I mean what are you doing?"

"I'm lighting a candle."


"Because it is better to light a candle then to curse the darkness." (It's actually "It is better to light one small candle then to sit and curse the darkness." - Confucius)


Actually, it's better to light many candles. So I did. I also started a fire in the fireplace (because a gas heater without electricity to run the fan is really just a big metal box). I also tried to light the oil lamps but we were apparently low on oil and short on wicks so they weren't working so well. Oh, and a couple of flashlights with just enough battery power left to give us weak but portable light.

The whole community was dark. The power stayed out for twenty hours. William and I settled in around the one oil lamp that we'd managed to get working by pouring all the oil into the one with the most wick left - he did his homework, I read a book. When he finished his homework he went off to visit friends down the street and left me all alone in the dark. I kept reading and finished my book. William came back and announced that his friends and their homes were equally boring without electricity.

I played Gin Rummy with William. He didn't remember how to play but was surprisingly good at it. In the last hand though, I pulled out a win and William decided it was a stupid, boring game and he didn't want to play any more cards.

Jeff came home from work about then and started running about all waily waily about paths not being shoveled and firewood not brought in and all manner of things NOT DONE. I picked up the remote control for the television and tried to use it on him, turn his volume down a notch or two, but alas, it didn't work. Because the electricity was out of course. Explaining that all those undone things could be done together slowly and calmly after we'd eaten and suited up for the outside couldn't make it from one energy level (mine) to another (his). So I gave up and waited for him to finally run out of adrenalin.

We ate dinner to the quiet sound of "I'm bored" and "I wish we had a generator" and "There's nothing to do" and "We should have bought a generator" and "I'm bored" and "When do you think the power is going to go back on?" and "This is boring" and "Do you think the power will still be out in the morning?" and "Do you think we should buy a generator tomorrow?".

I pointed out that humans had only been using electricity for about 100 years.

"And your point is..?" William asked.

"My point is that before that time, people didn't have electricity but they still managed to live their lives."


"So we should be able to...."

"This is boring. I'm going to bed."

You don't realize how much sound appliances and clocks and houses make until they don't make them anymore. All night long the only sound I heard were the snow plows passing by every every few hours.

The next morning the power was still out. Daylight made things much less complicated. School was cancelled for a second day. Since we have a gas stove without an electric pilot (I'm so smart, I bought it that way), I made oatmeal and hot tea for all. We took anything we might need out of the refrigerator, like soy milk and eggs, and when we weren't using them, we stuck them in the snow outside the back door. Jeff and William played a game of Risk on the dining room table. I did some housework and then set up a card table in the living room and started a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle. The boys finished their game and the whining and complaining started up again.

William: "There's nothing to do."

Me: "We could play cards again."

Jeff: "I wonder if they have generators at Walmart?"

William: "I don't want to play cards."

Me: "You could read a book."

Jeff: "If we had a generator we could hook up the computer."

Me: "Yes, but the internet would still be down."

Jeff: "Oh, that's right. But we could hook up the television."

William: "I don't want to read a stupid book."

Jeff: "Al across the street has a generator and he hooks up his television and his pellet stove."

Me: "You could go clean your room."

William: "I don't want to go clean my room. You just want to make this into an excuse for me to clean my room!"

Me: "I just meant that since you can't do the things you'd like to do, you could get it out of the..."

William: (getting up and stomping off to his room) "I'M NOT GOING TO CLEAN MY ROOM!" (and then the sound of a door - SLAMMMM!")

Jeff: If we had a generator....

Me: "If I hear the word generator ONE MORE TIME, I will have to hit you in the head with this heavy piece of oak firewood!!!!!!!"

The power came on in midafternoon. Jeff and I decided to go to the store for some more lamp oil, wicks, and D batteries. William decided to celebrate by, uhm, taking a nap. We drove to Main Street and discovered the town coming back to life. A few restaurants were reopening. Along with a couple dozen other families, we stopped in for Mexican food. The place was packed. Gee, take away people's restaurants, even if the restaurant selection is as limited as ours, and folks start to have dining withdrawals. I've never seen such happy people, clutching menus and trading storm stories.

We went to every option in town - Walmart, Walgreens, Rite-Aid, Safeway (Ace Hardware was still closed). At every store the aisles that had held emergency supplies of any kind held only empty shelves. It looked like the stores, which had only been open again for an hour or so in most places, had been looted.
I did eventually find lamp oil and batteries. Everyone was out of wicks but I knew I had some at home, I just had to dig for them. (which I did - found them) Jeff wandered off at Walmart in search of generators. Just to price them. They didn't have any left in stock anyway.

Safeway had stayed open through it all on generators but had lost all their open freezer foods, mostly fish and meat. We arrived to see employees washing racks and hosing down inside the compartments. I felt sad to think all those animals had lost their lives for nothing. The aisles with freezer compartments with doors were all taped off so no one could open them. The only thing I'd wanted to buy was some refrigerator cookie dough, which I couldn't get to because of the tape. So I could live without it. Next door, Starbucks had just opened up and there was much rejoicing and singing and laughing and toasting of steaming venti sized paper cups filled to the brim with caffeine.

The sun had set by the time we got home but it was no longer the darkness of a past century. Street lights shone, windows glowed. Within an hour we were simultaneously running the heater, hot water for the shower, the dishwasher, washing machine, computer (internet still down), CD player, television, lights, and clocks. Tell me we are not a people addicted to energy.

And then the power went out again. Jeff and William were surprised. I wasn't. Why do you think I went right out to buy more lamp oil. Jeff said I was spooky that way.

This time it was only out for four hours or so. We'd been watching television, halfway through watching the boys sing on American Idol. I'd set up another jigsaw puzzle (because I figured the power wasn't going to stay on) so I just turned on the oil lamp and kept working on the border. Jeff made another fire in the fireplace. William went to bed worried about no alarm clock in case there was school the next day.

Added together, it was about 24 hours without power. Quite the eye opener. It's not that I wasn't happy watching television. It wasn't like I celebrated a return to "the olden days." But you'll notice it wasn't me causing a fuss.
I found plenty of things to do that didn't require electricity. I didn't moan. I didn't complain of boredom. I didn't go all waily waily. Like SOME people did! All I know is this - the next time someone in my family accuses me of being addicted to my computer or my "shows", I'm gonna grab a piece of firewood and start swinging.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh Laume - thanks ever so much for the chuckle! Some folks would have been threatened by TWO pieces of firewood if I'd been there with 'ya.
Now gotta walk around the house and switch off anything that is useing power and not being used.
Nina in BC

9:46 PM  
Blogger Jan said...

My power was out for 6 nights in December. It was nice, really, since we are well set up for no power. We don't have a generator though and lost our refrigerator stuff, it wasn't particularly cold outside. When the power came back on it seemed so noisy!

11:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not letting dH read your blog because we don't have a generator, and he's a ham, so I'm sure if he read it, it would be a perfect reason to get one. And I don't have any stove wood.

Leslie, in Hiawatha

4:33 PM  

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