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