Saturday, February 8, 2014


When I went off to bed on Tuesday night, I knew there was a possibility that I might not go to school the next day (for the second time in a row? third? I lost count--honestly, my Monday/Wednesday class hardly exists this semester).  I also knew that power outtages were a possibility based on how frantic the news people were about ice build up overnight. Honestly though, news people are so goddamn frantic about every last little thing these days that I ignored them and went to bed with a barely charged iPhone.

When Ron woke me up at 5am--in our freezing cold bedroom--and told me there was no power ... well, I knew it was going to be a rough day.  Sure enough, classes were cancelled as the whole freakin county (and beyond) was coated in ice and totally caught off guard.  (Apparently, I'm not the only person who thinks news people are frantic/insane and not worth listening to most days.)

Thus ensued 60 hours sans electricity.

Our one saving grace in this house is our gas range--I will never live in another house that doesn't have one.  Lucky for me, we had as much hot water as we wanted for drinking and random stuff like hand and face washing ... while I was eternally grateful, I didn't think there was anything amusing about imitating the life and times of Laura Ingalls Wilder in my own kitchen.

(Can someone explain to me, please, AGAIN, why PEOPLE CAMP FOR FUN????  Ron has explained it a million times and I understand it less and less each time he explains it.)

The first morning, I held out and kept the fridge closed hoping the power would kick on before it warmed up.  I was able to make coffee with the French press but had to settle for powdered milk to go with it.  It was pretty gross.  I don't know if that's because powdered milk is gross or if powdered milk three years past its "Best By" date is gross.  See that film on top of the coffee? That's the "milk."

A few hours later, I unloaded the fridge (which, as usual, was pretty much empty except for eggs and milk and some really good leftovers that I still wanted).  Everything went out on the deck.

You think I'm throwing away $4 salad dressing? you're nuts.

I just read books all day and crocheted and crocheted and crocheted ... and then the sun went down.  And I couldn't do anything anymore.  We only had so many batteries, etc., and it didn't feel safe wasting them on books and crochet.  Meanwhile, Ron called a local hotel and made arrangements for the next night and the night after ... we weren't feeling optimistic at all.  Around 7pm we headed out to see what there was to see and to get Ron dinner because he was starving.  I was so riddled with anxiety at this point that I couldn't eat.

Driving around in our community didn't make us feel very hopeful about the coming hours and days.  Half of the traffic lights we encountered were out (some of which were at the busiest crossings, i.e. three lanes in every direction).  People can't even drive through these intersections safely/with regard to human life WITH functioning lights, so it was harrowing sometimes without lights.  Every other neighborhood was dark--it was completely random who had power and who didn't.  The worst part? We discovered the front half of our neighborhood had power ... but the back half (us) did not.  So agonizing.

We came home and went to bed in the 52 degree house ... and woke up the next morning without power again.  It was so goddamn cold at this point that Ron stayed home out of fear that he would need to get to work on frozen pipes (thank God, that never came to pass).  Penny went on strike and refused to get out of bed even though she's typically running circles around me in the morning to get me downstairs.

On strike

We assumed we would be spending that night in the hotel ... and then in the middle of the afternoon both my in-laws' and my parents' power came back on (yup, they were all out too). Joy!!!  Since my in-laws' came on first, we ended up taking their invitation for dinner and the spare bedroom over there.  We felt really bad leaving the Fluffs behind, but cats are pretty resourceful at finding warmth when they want it.  Before we left for the night, Ron contrived a nest for them out of blankets and pillows and promised to come back and feed them on his way to work the next morning.  He texted me this photo at 5am the next day:

Flash photography at 5am in the freezing cold nest? Not appreciated.

I had a meeting in Villanova the next morning, and though I had heard so much about the tree damage on (other people's) TV, seeing it in broad daylight was something else.  Worse, most of the trees and giant branches that had broken were tangled--like a kid's knotted necklace--in power lines.  The amount of work that needs to get done to A) restore people's power and B) make it look not like a war zone is pretty crazy.  Really, it's tragic how many giant gorgeous trees were brought to their knees this week.  And now they're all just there, crumpled in half, waiting to get euthanized by a chain saw.  It's sad.

Finally, Ron texted me around 1230 on Friday to let me know, "I CALLED THE HOUSE AND THE ANSWERING MACHINE KICKED ON!!" which = power.  When I made it home a few hours later, I danced all around with the TV and radio blaring and every light going just because I could.  And then I went for a run because, hey, if I wanted to take a shower afterward I could do that too.  And then I did two loads of laundry all the while crossing myself and blowing kisses at the ceiling like a New Jersey Housewife.

Even though nobody set out to inconvenience me personally, I took this whole thing personally (which is not healthy and means I have a problem(s)).  Here's why: I don't need to go 60 hours without power to be grateful for it.  My dad's mom grew up on a poultry farm in South Jersey with an outhouse.  AN OUTHOUSE.  Keep in mind, this is a woman who (in my memory) didn't leave her bedroom in the morning without lipstick and jewelry on.  Period.  (She was a Virgo, so this makes perfect sense.)  My other grandmother used to live with her grandmother in a fourth floor walk up apartment that SHARED A BATHROOM WITH THE OTHER TENANTS ON THAT FLOOR.  THERE WAS ONE BATHROOM AND THEY SHARED IT WITH RANDOM PEOPLE IN THEIR BUILDING.  Take your pick: outhouse on a poultry farm? or indoor bathroom shared with strangers?  For me personally (ie, spoiled 21st century American), I'll entertain the third option: Death.

This is the thing: My crown has been bought and paid for and, please please please I'm begging you ... can I just sit here quietly and keep it on my head? Pretty please? Honest to God: Every time I flip a switch in my house and the room floods with light, I say thank you.  Every time I hit "start" on my dishwasher, I say thank you.  Every time I turn on my washer or shower or flush my toilet I think, that's a miracle.  I can turn on a faucet ... and hot water just comes out?  My grandparents would've killed for that luxury as kids.  They learned the lesson of gratitude for me, and I carry their torch today (which is plugged into a wall somewhere ...)

I didn't need 60 hours of freezing cold and inconvenience to learn this lesson and yet I had to go through it anyway because, as my mother always says, "Life is just unfair.  Get used to it."  Sitting on my couch in the dwindling sunlight with my crochet needle furiously moving through its stitches, I thought--for the millionth time--of all those Syrian refugees living in tent cities with nothing.  Most of them left behind really nice homes and neighborhoods, and now it's all gone.  Can you imagine?  Of course you can't.  I can't.  Who could?

60 hours without power sucked, but it wasn't that bad.  I probably really needed the reality check on some level.  So I'll leave it at that.

And now for a non-sequitur:

On a lighter note, my mom bought her cat a sweater because she felt bad for how cold it was in their house.  As a thank you, Willow furiously rolled around on the carpet until it popped off. My dad returned the sweater later that day. Oh well.

And that's what it's like to go 60 hours without electricity in February in Philadelphia.

And please let's give a shout out to the hundreds of thousands (not kidding) of people who still don't have theirs back yet.  Seriously. Not joking.

Ta-da. Voila'. The End.

Note: there are no power lines in this illustration (oil painting by Josip Cugovcan)

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