My last blog post romanticized waiting for the storm to hit. We had wine, chocolate, and enough junk food to last a few days, so what was the problem exactly? The problem was that the power went out and didn’t come back on for nine days.
And we were the lucky ones.
I learned a few things during that time and they are listed below:
1. The radio comes in handy. I, like most Americans, listen to the radio while driving. Otherwise, I have my iPod in, controlling the music I want to listen to, or I’m watching television. To be completely dependent on the radio for a link to the outside world was something that I hadn’t experienced ever. My son certainly hadn’t. He and I stuck it out until Election Night when we decided that we couldn’t take the sub-freezing temperatures in the house anymore, sleeping my big bed with our animals, listening to either news radio or sports radio until we fell asleep. In the dark, our breath coming out in freezing puffs, we lay there and listened to the stories of people far worse off than we were as well as updates on the subways, commuter trains, and businesses in and around New York City.
2. Living in a house that relies completely on electricity is a bad thing. I thought of this while I stood in front of the barbecue grill, making the dog’s special food (she’s on a diet for her skin allergies that requires me to cook for her) in a frying pan. I lamented the fact that every appliance in our house runs on electricity, even the stove. Many of my friends have gas running into their house so never lost hot water or their stoves; many, like me rely completely on electrical power. Others, in the worst-off category, have well water and hence, couldn’t flush their toilets for up to twelve days, depending on where they lived and how quickly the local power company restored their power. The situation at my house, however, prompted me to go to Home Depot and snag the last generator that apparently existed: one that had been returned by a neighbor of mine (I didn’t know at the time that I bought it that it had been hers), the timing of which coincided with my desperate visit. Now we have a gas-powered generator that will help out during storms but living in an old house without a garage means nowhere to store it.
3. Don’t underestimate the luxury of showering in your own house. We were lucky enough to have family members and friends who did have hot water; unfortunately, going to one of their homes meant driving, in one’s pajamas, and bringing clean clothes and toiletries along for the rid. After the thought of doing so on day five seemed too daunting, I decided I would be brave and take a cold shower, something hubby and child #2 listened to with glee; heck, the sounds I made were better than anything they were listening to on the radio. Once you have taken a cold shower and you stop shivering, you do feel refreshed. However, your feet are numb for most of the day and your hair really isn’t very clean. But at least you aren’t driving in your slippers, looking for a place to land. There’s that.
4. You start to go a little crazy. I was fine from day one until day seven. On day eight, I snapped. I’m not sure what it was about that point in time, but it was on that day that I was officially broken. I had sworn I wasn’t going to leave the house before power was restored but with the temperatures dipping into the twenties for the second night in a row, I realized I couldn’t take it anymore. It was election night and I didn’t even see the returns for some of the early-voting states before my head hit the pillow at my in-laws and I fell asleep, in a warm house, for the first time in over a week. (We got power back the next day at 11 a.m.)
5. People are wonderful. It’s sappy and clichéd but people really do come together in a crisis. Granted, no one here in my little village lost their home and the damage was relegated to trees and felled power lines and telephone polls, but people really stepped up the generosity and opened their doors to their cold, unshowered neighbors. And two organizations in our village organized pot-luck suppers for people who still didn’t have power and wanted hot, home-cooked food, events that remind you that we’re all in this together. It was an especially good reminder during an election week when the vitriol dial was turned to “11.” Although we were uncomfortable and didn’t have our creature comforts for far longer than was acceptable, for a few days, we had each other and that reminded me of why I live here.
My heart goes out to the people who lost homes, and even worse, family members. Not having television made it hard to picture the devastation but once power was returned and I started seeing what had actually happened, I was overwhelmed. I spent a lot of my formative years at the Jersey Shore and realize that it will never be the same. But I hope we can build back these beautiful areas of the East Coast and hopefully weather more storms that are sure to come our way.