Apocalyptic Inconvenience

Ostrander thinks he has a winter story, but I have a tale that will chill his Hoosier heart.

Friday  7 march 2014 0500

I awoke with a petulant groan when the fan cut off. Little did I know that this would be the first inconvenience of the most boring  48 hours of my life. I got up to see if there was any power in the neighborhood. All was dark as I stood at the back door smoking and listening to ice encased tree branches crack and fall. This looked to be tedious so I went back to bed.

Awaking around 0800, we took stock of the situation. No power so no stove, no microwave, no coffee maker. I went to the computer to look up the number for the power company when the magnitude of the situation hit me, no internet! What was I going to do all day? Talk to my family? Read a hard copy book? Stand at the backdoor chain smoking? I opted for the latter until I remembered I could play solitaire on my laptop.

Damn battery’s dead.

I settled for reading books to my daughter and chasing her around the house until my wife came home that evening.

Checking the basement we found about 6 inches of water meaning our gas water heater was out and no power to turn the sump pump on. Quick showers with the last of the hot water and to bed. Little sleep though, thoughts of the next day’s toil and rampaging gangs of looters kept me awake, but mostly it was being repeatedly kicked by a four year old.


We were dangerously low on tobacco, completely out of Dr Pepper and had no convenient way to make coffee. So I put on my insulated rubber boots and  trekked across the still frozen yard, the longest yard as it were, and fired up the Kia to venture into the lawless post apocalyptic city.

Like this, but with a Kia

There’s a cheap Korean car just out of frame.

Rapidly melting ice flooded the right hand lane as I looked for a place to score smokes and caffeine. Finding a gas station with power, I fought through traffic, cutting several people off, and whipped into one of the three empty spaces. Grabbing Dr Pepper and cigarettes, I fervently hoped their credit card reader was working since I didn’t have cash. It was.

Next stop McDonald’s. It was in the eternal drive-in window line that I saw the first signs of societal breakdown. A punk in a minivan made an end run around the line and slipped in front of a car that wasn’t riding the bumper of the one in front.

The driver had a green mohawk

The driver had a green mohawk

How can an honest man who only wants to feed his family survive in a Mad Max world of line jumpers?

Who runs Barter Town?

Who runs Mickey D’s?

To make matters worse, my cell phone rang; my mother-in-law’s power was out and she was at our house. Another mouth to feed, and this one wants sausage and gravy buscuits! Twenty minutes of listening 90.9’s Old Country Store bluegrass show and I got my biscuits making it home in time for my wife to go to work fed.

Almost eleven o’clock and still no power. Where was FEMA? And why was Biscuitville closing at their regular time instead of taking advantage of all the extra business? Pay the over time cheap skates!

As it happened, my wife’s office had power, so my mother-in-law took my daughter there to hang out leaving me alone to wander the chilly dark house. And chain smoke.

Ambling  around looking for something to do I found my solar phone charger with assorted tips, none fit my phone, of course.

I discovered a deck of cards and sat down to play solitaire, analog. Its a lot more work shuffling your own cards. Also, there’s no hint function.

Bored of losing solitaire, I decided to see if I could get the water out of the basement and restore some semblance of civilisation by lighting the water heater. I opened the crawl door to let some light into the dank dungeon and saw a tiny battery powered pump, two buckets and close to 8 inches of water.

I turned the little pump on and put the end of the hose in the bigger bucket and watched as it peed a small stream of water. This was going to take a while so I grabbed the smaller bucket and started scooping and throwing water out the crawl door.


I worked until the water was below the water heater and stopped to rest while I watched the trickle coming in through the crack in the ancient brick wall. Screw it, solitaire and chain smoking.

My mother called to ask if I wanted some left over pizza. I had been sizing up the dog and wondering if my Chinese cook book had any good recipes when I realised the oven didn’t work. So I said yes, I would love some pizza.

Stomach full, I rested for only a short hour or two before returning to the dungeon. I turned the little pump on and watched as it slowly trickled into the big bucket. While it filled I attempted to light the water heater. Empty bucket, attempt to light water heater. Over and over.

At some point I entered a sort of zen state and the next thing I remember, the water was gone, the water heater was lit and my back was stiff. The trickle was still running in through the brick wall, though, and I knew I’d be back.

Back up stairs, I discovered a tragedy. All but one fish in the aquarium were dead!

Sad and bored, I went out on the back porch and discovered spring had sprung. It was over 60 degrees and my industrious Yankee neighbors were busily sawing up the down limbs making me feel lazy. The power company did a drive-by. The warm temperature was melting the remaining ice fast enough to warrant a reference to this movie:

No. This movie is never warranted.

No. This movie is never warranted.


I spent an interminable thirty minutes picking up branches and limbs and stacking them before I got hot and went back in. Solitaire and frequent smoke breaks filled the rest of the daylight hours.

After dark, I went back down to check the basement. An inch or so had accumulated so back to bailing. Through the open crawl door a cheer went up. I peered into the darkness and saw lights across the street!

I rushed to plug in the big electric sump pump and watched as it made a mockery of my hours of back breaking work and slurped the floor dry in less than a minute.

Back up stairs I joyously ran through the house flicking light switches and turning on appliances. I even set the clock on the stove.

Then I sat down to type this.

Sitting here being amused by internet memes and political commentary wrapped in the warm glow of electric lights and the hum of appliances, I think back over the last two days and know that even if you can’t see them, the scars are still there.







8 thoughts on “Apocalyptic Inconvenience

  1. I love it!

    At least from your pain and suffering blossoms the heartless and unsympathetic amusement of others. (60 degrees! I’m jealous, my friend; very little sympathy here!)

    I do sympathize with your disgust for that awful Waterworld movie. But even in a better movie Kevin Costner grates my nerves to no end!

    Anyhow, glad you survived your local post-apocalypse, presumably with smokes and Dr. Pepper to spare.

  2. You were halfway to freedom!
    Old Fashioned coffee, I make every day, in a coffee boiler. You can use a pot, empty tin can, anything.
    You must learn to make primitive fire, it’s easy with a little practice and you always remember.
    Dog, is not tasty. Neither is Coyote.
    Green Mohawk, you want, in front of you, where you can see him, and not in back of you. They usually carry Bowies, and are perfect reason to be armed. The banks go on paper system around 48 hours. Here on Long Island, I was in the flood in 2012, two days before Halloween the Super Storm rolled in, and no electric or natural gas until the day after Thanksgiving. Actually, I enjoyed it. It was a reset.
    Cigarettes, well, you should have some loose tobacco, rolling papers and a small corn cob for such instances. I also stock about a quart of Naptha and my Zippos. I use a plastic drinking straw as a dip tube.
    Think as everything was, back when cars had fender skirts, chrome bumpers, fly windows. How did our parents and grand parents do things? That’s also why men carried small pocketknives honed sharp and did whittling. Always a pencil around and maybe a crossword puzzle book.
    You were halfway there, and did not realize it.

    • I actually know how to start a fire with a bow drill and a hand drill, but I haven’t done it in a few years.

      What I really need is some kind of big manual pump for the basement.

      • Hand pumps are found online, but something to look into, is how many feet above ground water the house is, and if it is one-family detached residential. Drainage can be placed around the house and dry wells filled with recycled crushed concrete aggregate. Been there – done that. Soil where my first house was located was clay and water pooled and into the basement. After a heavy rainfall and here on Long Island, it gets like monsoon rainfall, I had to collect salamanders and toads out of the basement. My kids were small and liked it. Also where your house may be, within proximity of the coast. My recent home on the water was 18 feet from the water and only 18 inches above the water table. You may also look into an apron around the house as pumping can possibly be reduced, especially if done by hand labor. To make a point, any time I wanted peace and quiet in the house, all I had to do was announce there was work to be done, and I needed some strong help. House always vacates and labor is all mine. Know what I mean?

        • Our house is old, it predates drywall. All the original walls are wooden slats covered with plaster, hard as a rock. the basement isn’t really a basement, its just a dug out area in the crawl space with a cement floor and half walls of brick covered in cracking cement.
          We moved in in 2010 and until 2013 there was drought every year. In 2013, there was no drought anywhere in the state and most areas, including ours, were above normal rainfall. It seems that water seeps in through the cracks in the half walls. The tops are dry as is the dirt in the crawl space, so maybe the water table is shallow. That just occurred to me as I typed. Hmmm. Somehow sealing the walls may be the best answer.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s