Where was I? Oh yeah. Storm, lights out, flashlight. (part one of this too-long tale can be found HERE)
That first night was FUN. And for once I'm not being all bitter and sarcastic. It was! Henry was not into it, at all, so he found a friend with power and arranged to sleep over there. The friend's mom was nice enough to come get Henry AND she also brought a bunch of candles. Because Molly and I were going to have a fantastical girl's blackout night!
We lit a bunch of candles and then sat in the living room. I read an article in Rolling Stone by flashlight, which hurt my old lady eyes. We chatted and caught up with people via mobile Facebook (this was before it occurred to me that we had no way to charge our phones). It was, as the kids like to say, cray-cray. I even made a martini, took a big risk and opened up the freezer for ice. After all, the power was going to be on soon!
It was starting to get a little warm. We opened up all of the windows but then got kind of freaked out over how absolutely DARK it was outside. Molly asked, "Do you think there are looters out yet?" and despite my concerned and loving mom response of, "Oh no. No! Not here. That's silly", I started to freak out a tiny bit. What better time for any potential looters..or murderers, to strike, than during a massive power outage?
We discovered that there really isn't much to do at 10:00 on a Friday night with no electricity. So we called it a night. Molly announced, "I'm sleepin' with you, Mom. No way I'm sleeping alone tonight." We carried candles into my room, debated back and forth about opening windows (middle aged peri-menopausal woman won...windows were opened) and then tried to sleep. It was hard to doze off, though, what with the plot-lines from every single horror movie I've ever seen playing in my head.
My inner Hysterical Lady fretted: "This is a serial killer's wet dream! Power's out! Single mom in bed with her 17 year old daughter! It's like a Buy One/Get One deal for psychopaths! Will the dog warn us?" I consoled myself with the thought that surely this was going to be a one-night gig, this blackout. Xcel Energy would have everybody up and running soon. Eventually I fell into a fitful sleep, our lone flashlight clutched in my sweaty hand.
The next day was like one of those scenes in a disaster movie, where all of the survivors emerge from their homes after their town has been ravaged by Mother Nature. Neighbors out pulling branches down to the curb, standing around, arms folded, work gloves on. "Yah! Quite the doozy, huh? I guess the whole block is without power" said a guy down the street. There was mirth and merriment and lots of "Oh well, whatcha gonna do. It happens!". We found out, through the grapevine, that over 500,000 people had lost power the night before.
My broke ass started to worry about the stuff in the fridge and freezer. At this time, it was also dawning on me just how dependent we are on the almighty electricity. My phone was dying. We had no wifi, so every time one of my kids went online I could hear a sucking sound that was AT&T standing next to my checking account with a vacuum. I became philosophical: if data is being used up in a blackout, can anyone hear a mom crying about overage charges?
Now, I consider myself a strong person. A patient woman. A chill, laid back, ride-the-waves sort of gal. And I was, for about 30 hours.
That's when the stuff in the freezer started thawing out. And our cell phones began bleating that sad warning cry...battery dying! Of course I had to obsessively check Facebook, to see if anyone in the surrounding area was getting their power restored.
Sure enough, one by one, my friends and acquaintances began posting things like "Ahhh...power!" and this one: ""And God said 'let there be light'", and a couple of them posted the video of "I've Got the Power" by Snap. I love my friends, but with each successive post about restored power, the urge to hurt someone grew stronger.
My first breakdown occurred around 1:30 a.m. that Sunday. I was huddled in my tiny car, charging my phone. The car charger for my phone is janky...you literally have to hold it at a very precise angle in order for it to charge. So there I sat, holding my phone in the correct, yet very unnatural position, swatting at bird-sized mosquitoes, sweating my fat ass off. My BFF was at the Wisconsin Dells with her family that weekend, and as she was enjoying her drinkies poolside she'd text me: "OMG this is so fun here!" "I'm getting buzzed!" and then she texted this: "Big Red (my former BFF) went to our house and took everything out of the freezer for us! Isn't that nice?".
I said, out loud to the giant mosquitoes: "Yes, that is so nice! In fact I'm going to start calling her Mother Effing Teresa! Don't you guys think that's nice???". That's when the tears started falling and the first of several pity parties began.
The next day, a kind soul sent me a message: Do you want to use our generator? My heart leaped inside my chest. This lovely friend had already loaned it out to a family who lives a couple blocks away. Their power had come back on, so they were going to bring it to us. The husband showed up at my door, and spent about 45 minutes showing me just how to operate this new toy. He even bought the first round of gas! There was a new-found spring in my step as I ran an extension cord from the garage into the kitchen and the kids and I paused for a moment as we listened to the sweet hum of the fridge coming back to life.
"HUZZAH!" I shouted, and began moving the dripping, semi-floppy boxes and containers from the cooler on the kitchen floor into the freezer. We had to throw away some of it, because even a poor chica like me knows that no matter how much you spent on those chicken sausages, it's not worth salmonella. But..we did save a lot of stuff. It was the most hopeful I'd felt in three days.
We lived simply during these dark ages. I used the grill lighter on the stove, so we were able to cook things that way. The salmon I had purchased that Friday was pan-seared and served up with boiled fingerling potatoes. It was delish. I made daily runs for my beloved iced coffee, and said a million silent "thank yous" to the preschool parents who love to give teachers coffee-shop gift cards.
The Golden Girls Porch of Love became Command Central. We sat out there for meals, to read, and to just complain back and forth about how hot we were. Oh, and bored. My kids were bored. At one point I became so desperate for a t.v. fix that I lugged the small but amazingly heavy television in my bedroom out to the porch. I dropped it about halfway there. Luckily, despite a large crack in the top (and a gorgeous bruise on my arm) it worked! Molly and I had movie night on the porch:
Ironically enough, the movie we watched? Warm Bodies. Yes, that's a giant martini you see. With about 10 olives. Don't judge, please. As my murderous rage increased, I decided to check the Menstrual App (yes, seriously) on my phone...and of course I was experiencing not only power loss, but full-blown PMS. That t.v. is lucky I didn't hurl it onto the driveway.
Where were the boys? They frequently abandoned us for friends with air conditioning and video games. Now I knew how the mothers who lived in Ben Franklin's neighborhood felt. "Uh..sorry to leave again, but the Franklins have LIGHTS, mom. Not candles, actual LIGHTS. See ya."
I missed the everyday grind. Laundry piled up, and I don't even want to know how much pee there was on the floors and walls of the bathrooms. My kids can't hit the toilet when the lights are on, y'all. The dishwasher, which had been running when the power went off, was starting to smell. Our house also became quite fragrant: the scent was a mixture of sweat, desperation and cat urine. We don't have cats.
My next, and biggest breakdown happened on Monday afternoon. At that point we were going on 80 hours sans power, and as Henry and I were leaving to go get gas for the generator, we saw Xcel Energy trucks on our street! I gasped, Henry and I high fived each other. I took a very creepy, stalkery picture of the guys:
We decided to go ahead and get the gas, you know...just in case. But my glee was at full throttle as we filled the gas can and then headed back home. When we arrived there, my neighbor's son, who had just been setting up a generator at her house stopped us. He held both thumbs in the air and said "IT'S BACK ON!!!". Henry and I rushed into the house, and began flipping switches. Nothing. We checked the main breakers down in the basement.
Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I could hear neighbors yelling back and forth: "WOO HOO!" and "YEAH, BABY!". One by one the other generators stopped. Except ours. It was still chugging along, like a lawnmower running nonstop.
That night, I sat on the porch and called Xcel Energy. I finally got through to a live person, a sweet and unsuspecting woman named, of all things, Jenny. Here's how our conversation went:
Sane Jenny: "Hi! This is Jenny with Xcel. How can I help you?"
Crazy Jenny: "Umm..hi..I was just wondering, all the houses on my block have power except us. (voice cracking) We're the only ones without it! (tears starting) And I need to know when it's going to be back on because, pardon my language, Jenny, I'm going APESHIT."
Sane Jenny: "Oh my gosh..I'm so sorry! You know what, it sounds like you might be one of those houses that are on your very own transformer. Here..I'm pulling up your account...."
Crazy Jenny: "Brjgglllshituerpwa" (which is what I sound like when I'm stifling sobs)
Sane Jenny: "Oh...oh no. I don't even want to tell you."
Crazy Jenny: (croaking now) "Wha?? What? Tell me!"
Sane Jenny: "It's just as I thought. You guys have your own transformer. And it says here you're slated to be restored....on Wednesday. At noon."
Crazy Jenny: silence, except for whatever it sounds like when hope dies.
Sane Jenny: "Are you still there? I'm so sorry. But if you can hold on just another day and one more night, it should be back."
Crazy Jenny: "Ahh..yes I'm here. Okay. Okay, I can do this. I'm sorry I swore. Thank you for your help."
Sane Jenny: "That's okay. Call us back if you have any more questions." and then I think I heard the sound of her blocking my number.
That was as bad as it got. Well...there was the time I found myself washing out the crotch of my yoga capris, in the bathroom sink, with peppermint body wash. Because who doesn't want a minty fresh cootchie during a blackout? Not this girl. I think that may have been my rock bottom.
Did I mention yet that this was the time the brakes on my car decided to go out? Yeah. That happened. I was bringing William to hockey on Tuesday when I noticed that it sounded like my brakes were going to snap in half. My BFF followed me to the repair shop, and took me back to her house so I could do some laundry. A couple hours later, the shop called. My car was fixed, and it would only cost me $475 to get it! Thankfully, at this point I had reached the acceptance stage of things. A mellow, calm acceptance. The phrase, "It could be worse", which just two days prior had made me want to punch someone, was now ringing so very true. It could be worse. Just ask someone in Oklahoma, ya know?
And then. AND THEN...Wednesday morning, I happened to glance outside and saw THEM. I saw the trucks. I saw MEN IN VESTS standing by the poles in our yard. THEY WERE HERE! Sweet baby Jesus, the MEN WERE HERE. I felt something like lust and joy and sheer ecstasy. Running out the front door, I yelled out to them, "Thank God you're here!!! Thankyouthankyouthankyou!!!!". Of course, this was after five days of getting ready in a dark bathroom. So keep in mind, this is what I looked like:
But the power guys, they were awesome. They smiled and when I yelled out, "I LOVE YOU GUYS!" they shouted back "AND WE LOVE YOU!". It occurred to me then that these poor guys were the ones who had been working 16 hour days in heat and humidity, and despite my Baby Jane appearance, my loving welcome was probably quite different from other greetings they'd received. People get bitchy, ya know.
I should mention, to any prospective lovers reading this? If you show up at my door wearing a fluorescent yellow safety vest, I will be putty in your hands. Willing putty. Just saying.
Long story just a wee bit longer: We got our power back. The first thing my brilliant kids did was turn on the oven to 400 and make pizza.
That's when we discovered that our air conditioning didn't work. Today I'm waiting for the a/c service guy to show up.
You know what? This, we can handle.
Thus ends the tale of Blackout '13. I want to take a second to thank each and every one of you, near and far, who helped us. You offered up your homes, your air conditioning, your generators, your love. Those of you who live farther away gave me the opportunity to vent my frustrations and made me feel better just by listening. My friends who drove me around when I was without wheels for 24 hours, thank you. John, who helped me pick up a sofa (because when someone is offering you an Ikea sectional couch, you take it..even during a power outage), you rock. Danielle, for listening to me BITCH and feel sorry for myself without telling me to suck it up, I love you. Stacy, thanks for the delivered iced coffee. Kate? The generator. Thank you. Brook, who offered not only Cheetos and vodka, but also the use of your hubby's car? I'm verklempt. All of you who not only offered, but BEGGED us to stay at your houses (Gail, Susan, Sylvia, Lisa, Terri, Julie..I'm sure I'm forgetting someone)..THANK YOU. Please know the only reason I declined is because of the dog, and I didn't want to leave the generator running unattended. Robin..thank you for offering to pay for a hotel. That was crazy generous. Shennon, who showed up AFTER all was said and done, with a bag of meat? Thank you. For each of my facebook friends who didn't unfriend me, despite the increasingly high-pitched whining with every one of my status updates, thank you.
And last but not least, thank you to the uber sexy linemen who gave us our electricity. Especially you, the one with that big walrus mustache. Yeah, you. You know where I live, dude. Bring the vest.