Sunday, November 4, 2012

No electricity? No Problem!

As everyone not living under rock knows,  Hurricane Sandy made its way up the East Coast just about a week ago.  Not living in a flood zone and barring an ancient tree falling in an inopportune direction and hitting my house, hurricanes don't particularly worry me, after all, I'm not afraid of a little power outage...

So Monday afternoon, I was sitting here at my computer, uploading some photos and making a mental list of a few more things I wanted to do before the "real" storm hit.  The worst of it was supposed to hit my area between 5 and 11 p.m. I wanted to do another load or two of laundry, empty the dishwasher (which was running at that time) and fill up some empty containers with drinking water.  We have well water, so when the electric goes out, the water you have in the tank in your basement is it.  A few toilet bowl flushes will kill a full tank.  The wind was blowing the trees around, but it didn't seem like anything serious yet, and then that ominous HUMMMmmmmmmmm and suddenly...

Complete quiet.

It was 1:50 p.m.  Oh crap.  

So now we go into damage control mode.  No one opens the fridge without forethought and a concise plan as to exactly what is needed, where it is located, and a plan to get it out of there and get the door closed in less than 10 seconds.  No one runs the water at more than a trickle, and most importantly, NO ONE flushes the toilet.  Any flushing happens with a large pitcher of water filled from the rain barrel in the yard (thoughtfully filled by my husband BEFORE the power went out) and poured directly into the center of the toilet bowl... we don't care if you have to hold your nose while doing it.

While I am reviewing the procedures in my head, getting ready to impart them to my kids via the time-honored Lecture Method, my husband thoughtfully wanders through the house and into the bathroom, and in no time at all I hear him flushing the bowl...

"NO!"  I yell, "You flushed the bowl!"

"It was an ACCIDENT!" he yells back.  He stalks off to the refrigerator, and opens it, staring at what I can only assume is nothing, while he contemplates the cold air that rushes out and across his face and body.  I summon all my strength to keep my mouth clamped shut.  Ah... stress!  The silent killer.

This was quite different from the last "big deal" hurricane I remember - Hurricane Gloria.

In front of  my parents' house Sept 27, 1985 - Hurricane Gloria

Way, way back in 1985, I don't remember much of the lead-up to the hurricane.  I just remember that there were extra people in our house (they lived near the shore and had to evacuate), and I remember my dad running outside to shovel trenches in the front yard so the water wouldn't go to close to the house (Was he kidding?  No, he was not!).  The eye of the storm was a weird, greenish, odd quiet when you were waiting for the other shoe to drop.   Oh, and one more thing.  I remember the nine days without electricity.  Yes, that's right, nine days. But no problem.  We could handle such set-backs.  We had grown up learning to perfect the "minimal flush method", taking "showers" with just one teapot of hot water to mix with the cold (a handy skill) and eating food in order of what might go bad first.

Back in 1985, when our electric went out, we knew it wouldn't be turned on for a while.  When it did come back on, I had already scoped out alternative showering locations and everyone else in the world had long since put Hurricane Gloria behind them.  Nine days, I tell you.  We had well water and no generator.  Bottled water was for drinking and cooking ONLY.  By the end of nine days we had drained a noticeable amount of water from our above-ground pool.

Surviving was not the most difficult of skills, however.  Refraining from killing each other - now THAT can be difficult.  When I watched my all time favorite PBS mini series, Frontier House, I remember in the wrap-up, the evaluators stated which of the families might make it through the winter.  They did not discount the hazards of "cabin fever" - being cooped up in a small space with the same people for days on end with not much to do.

As for us, we got a lot of sleep this past week... about eleven or twelve hours a night.   I have to say, I haven't had this much sleep since before I became a parent 13 years ago.   When it's dark, there are not a whole lot of family entertainment options.  Scrabble is one.  Cards might be another one, if my son had not recently gone through a phase of learning to flick cards with deadly speed and accuracy (ala, Mythbusters) and in the process, lost 3/4 of the deck of cards to the dog, who hunts down misdirected cards with deadly efficiency, and chews them to a fine pulp before you can spit out the words, "ZOEY, NO!!!"  So for us, a game of cards was out.  Sleep was our other option.

It's an odd thing when you can go weeks at a time feeling like you have no time to blow your damn nose, and then suddenly you're confronted with a solid week with nothing to do.  Nothing at all except wait for time to pass.  We did have some fun moments, however.  We made shadow puppets. We talked in funny accents.  We visited with some friends and some family members.  We joked about how hooked we were on modern conveniences (how many times did YOU walk into that darkened room and automatically turn on the light switch, even though you had no electric?)

Yesterday, when the electric came on, my son and I opened a bedroom window upstairs and yelled, "YAY!!  THANK YOU!" to the LIPA man.   Our next door neighbor laughed.  So long, pioneer life.

Now, if only I can fill up my car with gas...

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