Diary of a mad storm survivor
Gray, wet and windy. And that just describes me. It also describes Sandy, who is due at my house in a few hours. I put out a welcome mat. It blows away.
I am worried about two things: a skylight that would leak during a drought and a double-trunked oak that I am sure will fall on the house. At least it would give me hardwood floors.
My wife, Sue, calls me at work to say Sandy has arrived.
"Don't let her in," I say.
Miffed at our lack of hospitality, Sandy knocks out our power and leaves.
Speaking of leaves, Sue says they are strewn all over the yard. So is a huge branch that has just missed the shed. But the skylight is not leaking. And the oak is still standing.
I can't make it home, so I stay in a hotel where the company has kindly put me up with several colleagues. One of them brings cheese and crackers and two bottles of wine. We play Scrabble in the restaurant. Words are suggested to describe the situation. None can be repeated here.
I shower at the hotel, which gratifies my colleagues when we return to the office. At the end of my shift, I go home to survey the damage by flashlight. Trees have fallen in the yards of neighbors on all three sides of us. For once in my life, I have lucked out. But we still have no power. Dinner is cold chicken I have to cut with a steak knife. Brrr appetit!
Halloween. Tricks but no treats. It is too cold in the house to shower, so I brush my teeth and go to work.
A female colleague says, "Your hair is neatly coifed. What did you do to it?"
I reply, "I slept on it."
Sue, a teacher, is home because school is closed indefinitely. She drives more than half an hour to the house of our younger daughter, Lauren, and her husband, Guillaume, who have power. Sue showers and does our laundry.
Later, after we both get home, we have a romantic candlelight dinner: cold meatloaf. For dessert, there is melted ice cream.
I take the coldest, fastest shower of my life: 1 minute 47 seconds. Then I go to a convenience store to get coffee for Sue.
"Do you have gas?" a woman asks.
"I haven't even had breakfast," I respond.
I bring Sue her coffee and go to work. On the way back home, I stop at the Chinese restaurant next to the convenience store for a quart of wonton soup to go with the rest of the cold chicken. Yum.
Sue is sick.
"The Weather Channel should declare this house the cold spot in the nation," I tell her.
"Achoo!" she responds, adding: "I'm going to Lauren and Guillaume's. Meet me there later."
After work, I go home to pack a bag in the dark. Then I drive to a nearby gas station. I sit in line for more than an hour. When I finally get to the entrance, Joseph, who manages the station with his brother, John, says they are out of gas.
"Come back in 10 minutes," Joseph whispers through my rolled-down window.
When I go back, Joseph lets me in and waves the other drivers away. John fills my tank.
"You are a good customer," says Joseph.
"And you and John are good guys," I reply gratefully.
I drive to Lauren and Guillaume's and have my first hot meal in days: Lauren's homemade chili. It is not chilly. But it is delicious. Sue and I climb into a warm bed and sleep like babies.
For the first time in nearly a week, Sue and I wake up not feeling like frozen fish sticks. The highlight of the day is waiting in line with Guillaume so he can fill his car's gas tank. I keep calling our house phone to see if (a) we have power or (b) a burglar answers. No power. No burglar, either. Still, there is no chance we are going back home.
Guillaume and I spend the day watching football. Sue calls the power company's hotline, which apparently is the only line the company has that isn't cold, to see if our house has power. It doesn't. We stay another night. I am beginning to feel like the Man Who Came to Dinner.
Sue and I get up early, thank Lauren and Guillaume for their fabulous hospitality and drive back to our house, which feels like a meat locker. The carbon monoxide detector is beeping, so we call 911. The fire department shows up and determines it's only a dying battery. Later, Sue discovers that the battery in her car is dying. Our neighbor Ron kindly jump-starts it.
On the way home from work, I pick up a hot meal from the Chinese restaurant. Sue and I decide to spend the night in the house. I go out at 10:30 p.m. to get gas. Two and a half hours later, I drive back home with a full tank. It's 1 a.m. I dress like I am going on an Arctic expedition (boxer shorts, flannel pajama bottoms, a T-shirt, a long-sleeve cotton top, a sweatshirt, sweatpants and two pairs of socks) and climb into bed with Sue. We shiver ourselves to sleep.
Election Day. A nor'easter is coming. Bluster on all fronts.
At 5:55 p.m., toward the end of a busy day at work, the call comes from Sue: "We have power!"
I let out a whoop. My colleagues applaud. A chill (the good kind) runs down my spine.
I arrive home to a beautiful sight: lights. I enter to a beautiful feeling: warmth.
I think about all the people who have lost their homes or, worse, their lives. I know that Sue and I are lucky.
Good riddance, Sandy. From now on, the only thing around here that's gray, wet and windy will be me.