The adrenaline is slowing. I want to sleep unfettered by worries about heat, water, gasoline for the generator and making sure everyone is fed. Cuts, bruises and eight broken fingernails after the loss of electricity three days ago are souvenirs.
We were warned about the coming ice storm. I hauled out the generator for a test run; it wouldn’t start: dead battery. I called around for a replacement: not available. When the power failed, a neighbor’s son came, with his strength to pull the back-up cord, and he got it started. Then the generator itself recharged the battery.
A few years ago, after years of two or three power outages per year, I leapt into generator relief. It was costly but now I feel that having a generator is better than not having a generator despite the amount of work involved in maintenance and running it and the incredible noise. It meant not having to rehouse myself or the seven animals who live here.
The effect of losing electricity threw me into survival mode, hauling wood in for the fireplace, getting out twice a day to refill the five gallon gas “can” (it’s plastic), and maintaining both of those sources of sustenance. My car was my chariot to normalcy.
The bottom dropped out of the usual everyday living: no telephone, no television, no internet, no doing laundry, vacuuming, etc. Adrenaline can be a wonderful thing.
The first night, being unsure if the generator would keep going overnight and the effect of it running out of gasoline, I shut it down at dark. I slept on the living room couch in front of the fire, rising every one or two hours to add more wood.
At six the next morning, I was at the gas station for the first refill of the gas can. The new fangled safety features defied my logic; I had to ask for help to unscrew the cap and screw it back on. People can be amazing when you ask them for help. Already, I was on the edge of tears, and we were less than twenty-four hours into this experience.
Five gallons of gasoline is heavy and I had to lift the can to above my waist level in order to pour into the generator. Twice a day at least. The 6+ gallon generator would run on minimal usage for up to eight hours but there is no gas gauge so it was a staggered top-up to keep it fed. The second night I spent on my bed, under a quilt, rising three times to top up the generator, our life line to heat, water, and recharging the cell ‘phone.
After two days, a routine started to shape itself; out early for more gasoline, feed animals, attend to minimal chores like feeding myself and practicing “basement yoga”: to access circuit breakers and the furnace room, you have to get on your knees to reach steps into a 4 foot high passageway to the basement where you can stand up. About ten times a day.
The silence without the television, demands from computer connections, or the telephone was both wonderful and mystifying. A crank-up radio kept me in touch with what was happening elsewhere: over 600,000 customers without electricity, that number gradually dwindling over three days, four days…
On the afternoon of the third day, two trucks pulled up outside. Big trucks. Hydro Québec was the signage. French accents confirmed their origin. Again, I was near tears. People from Canada were here to help us! I hugged the first fellow I talked with; I wished I could bake cookies for them.
The promised call from the electricity company to say power was restored, never came. At about 6 p.m., lights came on in neighboring houses. I shut down the generator, switched over to the Mains supply, and started to immerse myself in catch-up: laundry, a hot bath, shower and washing hair were at the top of the list. After the bath, there was no doing anything except collapsing into bed. Everyone was warm, fed, and safe. I had read 1.75 books.
Soon, everyday life as we know it in our society will erupt. People will be scurrying about chasing their own agendas, often not paying attention to what we take for granted. Like electricity, the juice that feeds our conveniences, that provides service and comfort. Amen.