I learned something about my husband and myself during last week’s massive power failure...we would make terrible pioneers. In fact, if it weren’t for a close family friend we call “Uncle” Lenny, I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have survived.
No, I’m not talking about the elements being the death of us, I’m talking about the two of us strangling each other.
It wasn’t as if I didn’t prepare for the impending disaster. A few months before, just prior to Hurricane Irene, I’d bought a 3300-watt generator and it worked like a charm during Irene’s aftermath, running everything we needed and purring like a kitten.
So a few days before this latest storm, Uncle Lenny came over and changed the oil in our generator and filled it with gas. Then he taught me, step by step, how to start it, shut it off, fill it with gas, etc., so I could handle it myself. During the last outage, he’d done everything for us because we’d never owned a generator before and he probably was afraid we’d end up blowing the house to smithereens.
Usually, the minute I hear news of a possible power outage, I rush to fill the bathtubs with water because the pump that pumps the water from our well into our house is electric. So no electricity, no water. But this time, I didn’t have my usual makeshift reservoirs prepared.
“Do you honestly think we’re going to have heavy snow in October?” I said when my husband mentioned filling the tubs. “Do you ever remember trudging through snow to go trick-or-treating? At the most, we’ll probably get only a light dusting.”
By 8 o’clock the next night, we had a “light dusting” of about 13 inches of heavy, wet snow, and it was still falling...hard. That was enough to convince me I’d better fill the bathtubs. I dashed into the bathroom and had one hand on the faucet when the house went dark. I had to feel my way down the hallway and over to the kitchen drawer where I keep the flashlights.
“Thank goodness Uncle Lenny showed me how to run the generator!” I shouted to my husband because I had no idea which room he was in. “I’m going out there right now to start it. We’ll have lights again in no time!”
“Did he also teach you how to hook it up to the water pump?” His voice came from about two feet away. “I just took a diuretic!”
I grabbed my coat and headed out to the garage. Uncle Lenny had made a wheeled cart for the generator, so all I had to do was wheel it outside, start it and then plug stuff into it. It was simple.
I wheeled the generator over to the garage door and then pressed the button for the automatic door-opener. Nothing happened. I tried again. Still nothing. That’s when it dawned on my cobweb-filled brain that without power, I could stand there and push the button until I froze into a solid block of ice, and short of some sort of divine intervention, nothing would happen. I yanked on the overhead cord that released the door and then opened it manually.
It was so dark outside, I couldn’t tell what was out there. I aimed my flashlight at the driveway and saw big mounds of snow, which were in the process of being covered by more big mounds of snow. I groaned. I would have to shovel out an area for the generator.
I grabbed a shovel and stepped outside. The snow was coming down so hard and it was so black outside, I couldn’t see anything. I tried to hold the flashlight between my teeth so I could see where I was shoveling, but my lips froze to it. I finally had to face facts...we were going to be spending a long, cold, dark night.
I went back into the house and started dragging out lanterns and candles.
“What happened to the generator?” my husband asked.
“Its scheduled performance has temporarily been called off due to severe weather conditions. We’ll have to take a raincheck.”
“We sure do have a lot power failures up here,” he said. “This is what, number 10 in less than two years? I’m scared to sneeze around here because it will probably knock out the power!”
Actually, power outages never really affected him that much because he always just went to bed, cocooned himself in the blankets and slept through most of them.
But something happened during this particular outage that nearly caused him to have a complete meltdown.
We have two bathrooms, so when the power went out, we knew there would be only one flush left in each toilet. We vowed to save those two flushes until using them became absolutely necessary, and not a second beforehand. In other words, anything liquid didn’t warrant a flush.
The first night of the power outage, I was in the living room, trying to do some intricate craftwork by candlelight without much success, and praying that when I displayed my crafts at the Christmas craft fair the next weekend, only people with really poor eyesight would attend. Suddenly I heard my husband’s agonized cry come from the bathroom. I rushed down the hall and shouted through the door, “Are you OK?”
“Nooooo!” came a wail from the other side. “I accidentally flushed! I am stupid, stupid, stupid! I wasted a perfectly good flush! I could kick myself!”
The way he was carrying on, you’d think he’d accidentally flushed a $100 bill.
I must point out that prior to this, every time I went into the bathroom, he would call out like a trained parrot, “Remember! Don’t waste a flush!” until I was ready to stuff him into the toilet and use my one good flush to make him disappear.
So my first instinct in response to his agony over the fateful flush was to burst out laughing. “Don’t worry about it,” I finally said, “I’ll fill up a bucket with snow and melt it and we’ll have some water for flushing in no time.”
I soon discovered that a five-gallon bucket of snow melted down to a whopping half-inch of water. A person could die of constipation before I melted enough snow for a decent flush.
The next morning, we were awakened by the sound of someone pounding on our front door and shouting, “Are you there? Are you OK?”
It was Uncle Lenny. Our 400-foot driveway was buried under nearly 19 inches of snow with a huge banking blocking the entrance, so he’d parked out on the road and hiked through the snow to our house to check on us. He said he’d tried to call several times, but our phones were down, too. Did I mention that the man lives over 20 miles from us and is 80 years old?
I was so excited to see him, I nearly knocked him over. Within minutes, he had the generator running and hooked up to the fridge, furnace, TV, computer and a lamp. We were in heaven.
We still didn’t, however, have any water, so I had to spend the next two days listening to my husband whine about the precious flush he’d wasted.
From now on, I think I’m going to keep both bathtubs filled with water even when no storms are predicted, just for the sake of my sanity.