Sunday, February 14, 2021

Use Your Inside Hat

Panic in the sticks! The most terrible thing EVER happened to us on Friday night! Well. Next to a headless body being discovered in a septic tank a quarter-mile up the gravel road from us. Or being informed that people were living in a car parked on our other 10 acres. Or having the police find a stolen truck wrecked in our woods. 

I was happily innernetting at New Delly in my not-so-dark basement lair, having just consumed half a delicious pork steak from the Country Mart deli. I had returned from a potty break in the NASCAR bathroom, loaded my music list, and started working on my first scratcher when it happened. I could hear Hick stumping around in the master bathroom overhead, showering before warming his pork steak dinner with sides of green beans and mashed potatoes. The Pony had finished eating his fried shrimp dinner with mac & cheese and mashed potatoes, and was doing whatever he does in his room all day. I know the sounds of my house from my lair.

The time was 5:55 p.m. Darkness had come to outer Backroads. The temperature was 10 degrees and dropping. Inside we were a comfy 70. Sheryl Crow was on my SPOTIFY, singing "The First Cut is the Deepest," acoustic version, when she sputtered! The lights blinked. THEN WENT OFF. New Delly made that dying whine. My underdesk heater conked out.


My lament might have been heard from space. It was NOT heard by The Pony. Who trotted downstairs anyway.

"I just came to see if you're okay. Do you have a light? There's the emergency one under your counter. Want me to get it for you? I took this one from upstairs. You've got one in your bathroom, too, over the sink."

"No. Shine it this way. I have a little flashlight here, but I can't feel it. OH! There it is. I'll be fine with this. I'm going to scratch by flashlight. Nothing else to do right now."

"All right. I wanted to check on you."

"Did you hear me scream?"

"No. I knew you were down here in the dark, and wanted to make sure you were okay."

"Aw. Thanks. Somebody will need to call the electric company. I don't have their number."

"I'll tell Dad."
"Hand me my hat over there. You need to find a hat. Keep warm. This could take a while."
"I don't need a hat. I have plenty of blankets in my room."

[Obviously taken after power was restored.]
The Pony faded back into the darkness. Galloped up the steps. I could hear them upstairs with their cell phones. The landline goes dead when we lose power. We also lose heat, as our house is totally electric. No water, either, since the well pump runs on electricity. We're pretty much up frozen crap creek without a heated paddle.

Hick got the recording to report our outage, and the response that it was due to a vehicle hitting an electric pole, 53 customers were without service, and repairs were estimated to be completed in five hours.

Of course that news didn't set well with my post-pork-steak stomach. Nothing makes you need to use the facilities like the thought that you CAN'T use the facilities! We have ONE flush when the power goes off. Just the water left in the tank. Good thing we have three toilets. So we actually have three flushes. I lasted an hour before I had to give in. Sorry, NASCAR bathroom. 

My lair grew colder and colder. It has two outside walls made of concrete, although they DO have a layer of that pink insulation board covered with fiberboard and a coat of paint. I was all done with my scratchers. I'd dawdled as much as I could. I had three crosswords, and a couple bingo tickets. All the $3 scratchers. It went slower by flashlight. In the end, on the last ticket, I'd only won $3 back. 

I went upstairs at 7:30, by the faint light of the emergency plug-ins. The smell hit me before the illumination. Hick had FOUR candles going. A Cranberry on the fake fireplace mantel, a Garden Rain on the coffee table, a Purple Sand on the piano bench, and a Pumpkin Ginger Spice Cookie on the kitchen cutting block. I give him an "A" for effort. 

Hick had sleuthed out the perpetrator on our enclave's Facebook page. It was the Bad-Hay-Baling-Lawyer's son, who'd just turned 18 this very day. Bummer. I'm gonna venture NO PARTY FOR HIM.
[I think that might be parts of the engine. AND the yellow reflector strip that Hick put on the pole so people could see it, and not run into it!]
The good news is, he was not hurt. The bad news is, he destroyed a car, and 53 families' Friday night. He slammed into the electric pole near the little waterfall entrance on our gravel road.
[Maybe that reflector strip should have been on the other side, for people planning to crash into a pole on the wrong side of the road!]
Speed or shenanigans is suspected by Hick and me. 53 families have traversed that section of road for four days without incident. Even The Pony!

You know in Risky Business, when Tom Cruise as Joel Goodson is waiting for school to let out so he can cash in his savings bond (given to him by his grandpa) to pay off his hoo-er Rebecca De Mornay as Lana? And the clock on the classroom wall actually ticks BACKWARDS? That's how I felt about the passage of time while sitting there chatting with Hick by candlelight.

"Oh my gosh. I am FREEZING to death!"

"Heh, heh. You're not freezing to death, Val. I'm comfortable, and I'm wearing SHORTS!"

"But you're under the afghan!"

"You are NOT cold."

"I'm sitting here wearing a knit hat with earflaps and a yarn ball on top, my hands jammed down by pants between fat rolls to keep the feeling in them, wearing a fleece jacket stained with BBQ sauce, zipped up over my nose like Bazooka Joe! I AM FREEZING!"

"They'll get it fixed. They might just now have gotten the pole. They'd have to call in a crew, and drive the pole out here. Good thing is, it's private property. They didn't have to call the police to make a report first. The breaker is right down there by the mailbox. They could probably put a metal brace on the pole. It didn't look that bad from the picture. But they'll probably drill down and put in another pole."

"They SHOULD make that kid stand there and hold up the pole for a few days. Then he'll think twice before squirreling around next time! I hope the Bad-Hay-Baling-Lawyer has a good lawyer, heh, heh! Will they have to pay damages to the electric company?"
"Oh my gosh! I can't take this anymore! It's only 8:50."
"I'd drive down and see their progress, but it's really cold outside. And I'm in shorts."
"Surely somebody went down to check. See if they put it on Facebook."
"No. They're just asking if anybody's heard any more about the repair time. And one says she's glad she has a propane heater."
"I TOLD you, way back in November, to make sure our generator was working! Every day I walk past its flat tires in the garage."
"I actually tried to start it the other day, and it wouldn't. If I had more energy, I'd go and jump it with the truck battery. There's probably a little bit of gas in a can in the BARn. But it's too cold outside."
"And you're in shorts."
"I wonder if they'd hurry it up if I told them I'll die without my CPAP machine tonight."
"You'd probably get more sympathy if you said we're ALL ELECTRIC and HAVE NO HEAT! I'm going to lay down for a nap and maybe get warm. I'm gonna get a lot of static from wearing my hat on the pillow."
"I'm going to call and see if there's been an update."
"NO! I don't think I can take it if they say it will be longer! AND I have to go to the bathroom again. That will be TWO flushes gone. Plus I'm going to get even colder."
"Here it is. Listen. '...service is expected to be restored by 10:00 p.m. on SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 21st.'"
"WHAT? That's 10 MORE DAYS!"
"Oh, Val. They can't really mean that."
"Don't be so dramatic."
"I'm going to the bathroom and to bed! Wake me if it comes on before NEXT SUNDAY! Huh. I guess I'll take my phone with me so I'll have some light in the bathroom."
My phone had gone dark (I don't have that fancy flashlight app) on the edge of the big triangle tub as I settled my ample rumpus onto the throne--
I gave a quick flush while the flushing was good. I went out to see The Pony open his bedroom door. 
"How long have the lights been back on? Why didn't anyone tell me? I noticed there was light under the door."
"Didn't you hear me scream with joy? It just now came back!"
"Pony. Check the thermostat. See what the temperature is in here now."
"Okay. It's 68."
"Well, I AM STILL FREEZING! It feels like it dropped way more than two degrees!"
"I'm going to turn off these candles."
"Um. People from our generation say 'blow out' the candles."
"Whatever. We're done with them."
Yes. For now.


  1. The worst part of a power outage is not knowing when it will be restored. The best part is when it suddenly comes back. We had no power for 10+ days after SS Sandy, but our gas fireplace kept us warm, we had hot water from gas for showering. Never though about water pressure, but I guess since we do not have a well it is not an could have used water for the toilet from your pool if it was not frozen.

    My favorite line was the "magic rumpus!"

    How did you get Facebook and internet without power?

    1. Heh, heh! Maybe my magic rumpus also enabled the Facebook and internet! I have no idea how that worked. I know that when the router is down, we shouldn't be getting internet service. Is that wifi? I don't understand the innernets. Hick and The Pony got it on their cell phones upstairs. I can barely send a text from downstairs WITH electricity, but an email goes through instantaneously. Genius explained that to me once, but I am a technology simpleton.

      When we lived in town in my $17,000 house, we had water when the power was out, because we were on the city water line. Now the well requires a pump, operated by electricity.

      POOLIO is frozen over, under his black plastic cover, which also has frozen water on top. We've had temps in the teens for about a week now. That's the HIGH for the day.

      During the Great Icepocalypse of '06, we moved in with my mom in town. Hick spent the nights back home, to discourage looters, using a kerosene heater. I wonder where THAT is now! It kept the temps in the 50s, so nothing froze, including Hick. I think that ONLY lasted 6 days. You have my sympathy for the 10+ days, though you did have heat and water.

  2. My rented place is electric too and I've promised myself that if I ever have a home of my own it will have a gas stove so I can still cook in a power outage and it will have a gas heater or possibly a potbelly stove with a giant supply of wood. Maybe even a generator in the shed I will have in the backyard. You need to take a trip to Alaska and buy some Eskimo suits and mukluks.

    1. Hick has always been prepared. Until now. He'd wheel the generator out of the garage, onto the porch, and get us enough power to run FRIG II, some lights, my computer, TV, and the electric fake fireplaces. If we turned a couple things off, I could use the stove. His routine (assisted by Genius) would have us up and electrified in about 15 minutes.

      We've discussed a propane emergency generator that kicks on automatically. He's more for it than I am. Probably because I don't understand how it works.

    2. Anything that kicks on automatically is fine with me, I wouldn't care how it worked, although I'd probably learn.

    3. I don't trust gas very much. I'm afraid to get blown sky-high! Had a gas heater in a house I rented in the early years of teaching that kicked on with a mini-explosion every time.

  3. That is funny--turn off the candles. I wonder where he thinks the switch is. In the Blizzard of 1993, in Alabama, the whole town was without electricity and the county. I lived within a block of the hospital and all utility companies and the lights only flickered. None of my friends would talk to me because they were freezing and I was toasty warm. I am glad you now have water and electricity.

    1. To be fair, I gave him battery-operated candles for Christmas, during his 2nd year of college, because REAL candles were not allowed in campus apartments. Though I don't know how that would be enforced!

      I am glad you were toasty, even to the chagrin of your freezing friends!

  4. I can't imagine losing power with no back up. I would panic!

    1. Thank goodness I survived 3 hours without internet, and a temperature drop of 2 degrees!