Saturday, December 20, 2014


I have the feeling that most people’s Thanksgiving Day meal this year wasn’t the perfectly cooked feast they had imagined – not when their only source of heat was a candle.

Thanks to the storm, I lost power from Wednesday night through Saturday, but it wasn’t a problem for me because two years ago I had an automatic generator system installed.

I remember when I first decided to buy the system and everyone told me I was wasting my money because I’d probably never use it. They, however, didn’t realize that where I live, if a chickadee lands on one of the power lines or someone walks by and sneezes, I lose power. In fact, in the 21 months since I’ve had the generator system, I’ve already used it six times.

But even though losing power wasn’t a big issue for me during the Thanksgiving storm, I ended up having to deal with a lot of other problems.

First of all, the day before the storm, I was rinsing off the dinner dishes when my feet suddenly felt wet. I looked down and saw a huge puddle on the floor. The water was coming from the cabinet underneath the kitchen sink. I searched for the source and although I’m not a plumber, I was pretty sure when I spotted a drainpipe that no longer was connected to anything and was wobbling back and forth, that it wasn’t a good thing. The pipe looked as if it had decided to pack up and move to another location.

The next day, Wednesday, the storm hit and I lost power, which, as I said, wasn’t a problem, but I also lost my home phone, which was. That’s because the cell-phone reception at my house is about as good as using two cans and a string to make calls.

 The moment the power went out, the smoke detector in the basement started to chirp. It also, to my surprise, talked. A nasally female voice kept repeating in a monotone, “Low battery.”

My eight smoke detectors are wired together and also have a backup battery in each one. They are like those old-fashioned strings of Christmas lights where if one light goes out, they all are affected. So if one detector’s battery is weak, there’s no way to tell which one is the culprit without checking every detector. For some reason, whenever there is a power failure, I inevitably end up being tortured by the “curse of the chirp.”

Anyway, each time the voice in the basement said, “Low battery,” my dogs rushed to the floor vents and growled down into them. They apparently thought a female prowler was lurking downstairs.  So, after listening to three hours of growling, I went downstairs and pulled the detector’s battery in an attempt to make the voice (and my dogs) shut up. Removing the battery, however, caused all of the other smoke detectors to begin chirping in sympathy for their deceased buddy.

I spent the next hour balancing on a chair and changing every battery in every detector…that is, except for the one out in the garage, which I, a sufferer of severe ladder phobia, couldn’t reach (I’m pretty sure even Kareem Abdul-Jabbar couldn’t reach that one). So the chirping continued. Frustrated, I decided to put the battery back into the basement detector. I figured hearing, “low battery” and chirping only in the basement was better than being serenaded by a chorus of chirping upstairs, especially right above my head while I was trying to sleep.

Two more days of chirping passed. By then I was ready to take a big drink of tap water. Perhaps I should explain here that back when my house was being built, the water in my well tested ten times the allowable limits for arsenic. I had to have a fancy reverse-osmosis water filtration system installed before the house could pass inspection. The filtration system, however, isn’t hooked up to my generator, so the arsenic doesn’t get filtered out during power failures.

 Also, by Friday, my driveway, which is over 400 feet long, still hadn’t been plowed. I didn’t know if my plow guy was lying face down in a snow bank somewhere or if he’d just forgotten about me. So I grabbed my cell phone and went outside, hoping I might be able to get a signal so I could call him.

After doing everything but hanging by my heels from a tree limb, I finally was able to get a weak signal. I quickly dialed my plow guy.

“Sorry, but you’ll have to find someone else,” he said. “Both of my trucks broke down.”

“But I have very limited phone use,” I said, feeling panicky. “I can’t start calling a bunch of potential plowers. Can’t you recommend someone?”

“Nobody I know will travel all the way up to your place.”

I hung up, certain I’d have to wait until the spring thaw to ever get out of my driveway again. Meanwhile, the basement smoke detector kept talking and chirping, and the dogs kept growling.

Seeing that the voice in the detector was female, I decided to give her a nickname. I called her “Pita,” which stood for “pain in the…” (well, you get the idea).  I kept telling myself to just hang in there and be patient because Pita would be quiet when the power came back on.

Once again, I’d figured wrong. When the power finally did return, the chirping and talking not only didn’t stop, they sounded even louder and stronger.

But being the cheapskate I am, and having just received a property-tax bill that nearly caused me to need a defibrillator, I decided not to call an electrician until Monday so I wouldn’t have to pay extra for weekend rates. By Monday, my lack of sleep had caused bags so big to form underneath my eyes, I looked as if I had two donut-halves glued onto my cheekbones.

The electrician arrived on Monday morning and informed me that my pal Pita was defective and had to be replaced. A mere $165 later, the house finally was blissfully silent.

I also found a landscaper/excavator from Deerfield to plow my driveway for $75.

So in the course of only five days, I needed a plumber, electrician, phone repairman, landscaper...and a second mortgage. The only thing missing was a roofer.

And now that I’ve said that, I’ll probably wake up shivering some morning soon and look up to see snow falling through a big hole in my bedroom ceiling.
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