Better Than Nothing

When a person has electricity in the middle of a state of emergency, where most of her friends and family do not have electricity, that person should never mention that she has electricity. Even if that person doesn’t mean to be bragging about dodging a bullet. It’s a law of nature. By simply saying she’s been lucky, the universe will sneak around behind her and slap her.

Yes. After being fortunate enough to have NOT lost power during the monster snow storm last Friday, we did indeed lose it on Tuesday morning. Another storm was in the forecast, but at 11AM, it wasn’t doing a blessed thing. I had a ton of online work to do and was attempting to get it completed JUST IN CASE we weren’t so lucky during this second storm, when BAM. Without a flicker or a hiccup, the lights just went out.

Oh, I have my computer plugged into a battery-powered surge protector, so I was able to save my work and shut everything down without losing anything. But there would be no more computer work on THAT day.

A phone call to the power company revealed that we were “part of a known outage” and power was expected to be restored by 11:59PM Thursday.

Thursday! This was TUESDAY.

We instantly launched into survival mode. Hubby dragged out the generator and made a run to the BP for gas. I ordered my mom to pack a bag and be ready to come over to my house for the night. She hates leaving her house, but she hates the idea of freezing to death even more, so she didn’t put up much of an argument.

Once upon a time, when we had the old oil furnace, our generator could run it and keep the house toasty. Then we made the move to electric furnace and heat pump. Apparently, we would need a generator the size of our house to provide the juice to run the new heating system. In other words, we were screwed.

Well, not entirely. Once the generator was running, hubby brought an electric heater up from his workshop and set it up in the basement to keep the pipes from freezing. Then, we brought Mom and her new little heater, which she bought to supplement the wall heater in her bathroom, over to our house. I wasn’t sure how much heat that little bugger would throw, but it was better than nothing.

And so, we set up camp in our living room. Thanks to the generator, we were able to run our pump and have water (we have a well). Cold water, yes. But it was better than nothing. We were also able to run the refrigerator and the microwave. But not all at once.

But it was better than nothing. (Note the recurring theme here?)

For supper, I cooked spaghetti on our Coleman propane camp stove. Combined with a salad, dinner was pretty darned good.

I have to mention Skye. She doesn’t like change. Of any kind. Suddenly we have extension cords running here and there. And a new person in the house. Skye eyeballed my Mom for a while. Then she fell in love with her. Mom found Skye’s itchy spot and scratched it. Skye decided that Mom could stay.

Somehow, camping in your own house loses some of the appeal of camping elsewhere. Especially when you don’t know how long you’ll be roughing it. It gets worse when it gets dark. We plugged in one light. Mom and I were ready to go to bed at 6PM, but my darling husband insisted we stay up until nine, claiming we’d be wide awake at 3AM otherwise. Who was he kidding? Like we were going to get much sleep anyhow. But we agreed to sit around like bumps on a log, having run out of witty conversation several hours ago.

Could we have plugged in the TV? Probably. But I was afraid of generator-produced power surges blowing up our fairly new television. I’m sure I’d have broken down by the second night. I was already planning to rig up my computer to the generator in the morning. Heck, I want a new PC anyway, so I wasn’t too concerned about blowing IT up.

Instead, we read. Except Mom, who was too jittery to read. She gets extremely anxious when the electric goes out. No generator or camp stove was going to appease her nerves. Neither was my joking about the whole thing being a sleep-over. After the months she spent in a nursing facility following her hip surgeries, Mom isn’t too keen on sleep-overs.

A little after 8PM the generator sputtered to a stop and all went black. Very black. Hubby headed out with a flashlight to refill it with gasoline. Soon, the beast rumbled back to life and the light and heat came back on.

And only an hour to go before he’d permit us to go to bed. I always hope the power will come back on in the middle of the night, eternal optimist that I am.

Finally, we took turns brushing our teeth by Maglight. I got Mom settled in on the couch. (She steadfastly refused to take our bed. Have I mentioned that my mother is stubborn?) Before I had a chance to get myself settled into bed, the generator sputtered again. And died. Hubby swore. This wasn’t good.

Mom and I sat in the dark while he went outside. We waited. I spotted his flashlight bobbing through the dark toward our truck. Then nothing. Then it bobbed back toward the house and around to the backyard and the generator. Then nothing.

Finally, the generator roared back to life and the light and heat came back on. Hubby returned in triumph to report that the oil cap had vibrated off and all the oil vibrated out. The good news was it shut itself down before burning up. He loaded it with more oil, tightened the cap and we were good to go.

Except we couldn’t fall asleep with a gasoline motor roaring outside our window.

It was going to be a looonnnggg night.

Then at 10:30, as abruptly as it had gone off, the power came back on! Hallelujah! Happy dancing all around.

I made Mom stay the rest of the night, even though she announced she was ready to go home right then and there.

In fact, she stayed well into Wednesday morning because we had to shovel another three inches of snow to get her out of our driveway and into hers. She spent the time watching our flat screen TV. The one I didn’t want to risk blowing up. Now she wants a new television because hers is only 25 years old and the picture isn’t as good as ours. Duh.

We got her back in her house by lunchtime. Next time we go shopping, I bet she buys a new TV. I KNOW I’m buying a new electric heater. A BIG one. Although, I must say, I am mightily impressed with Mom’s little bathroom heater. It didn’t keep the house as warm as usual.

But it was better than nothing!


Stay warm! I can't imagine all that you've had to put up with there. It's been a wacky winter...

Mystery Writing is Murder
Joyce said…
Annette, you need a wood burning stove! Right now!
Jemi Fraser said…
Yikes! That's awful - not much is worse than being without electricity in the winter. Glad you were okay!
Annette said…
Elizabeth, indeed it has been wacky.

Jemi, the only thing worse than being without power for 11 hours is being without power for 11 days. Or seven. We went without power for a week one time and almost a week another. So I'm grateful this was short term, especially when there are those around me who are still without electricity.

And, Joyce, that subject has come up more than once.
Joyce said…
Annette, the stove we have wasn't cheap, but it was THE BEST investment we ever made. I keep it going constantly and our gas bill is now only $27/month. Although, if we had to buy the wood, that cost would offset the low gas bill. Fortunately J. likes playing lumberjack.
Laurie Kassim said…
I could just picture the whole scene while reading your post. What a time you had. Based on your comment at the beginning, I will not make any comment either way as to my power status throughout this entire crazy weather episode. I was hoping that the snow was over for awhile. But it's still snowing here.
Annette said…
Still snowing here, too, Laurie. Grrr...

Joyce, Ray grew up with a wood burner, but I'm a pyrophobiac. And since he doesn't especially like chopping wood, he's always been content to live without one. But the subject has come up several times recently, even before the recent storms and I think there may be a wood stove in our future.
Becky said…
If you need some input for one of your stories about life in a week without heat and a husband that refuses to abandon ship let me know.
Sara said…
Well, you know my vote on power outages. boo!
Looking back, I now realize I was to afraid to ask you if you'd lost power bc I would've somehow felt responsible! ha!
That was my little attempt to not jinx you. Almost worked, too!
Annette said…
Sara, I knew this one wasn't your fault. THIS time. LOL! It's when the power goes out for no apparent reason that we ask ourselves, "Okay, what did Mark do now?"

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