Ellen is always offering me some of her northern Illinois snow. She knows full well that, after part of my childhood in rural New Hampshire, and my early adult life in Chicago, this is a brilliant wisecrack and an offer which I’ll never take.
Except… maybe I will. Our weather lately has been so strange; huge thunderstorms, tornado warning, tornadoes the next county over, floods, mudslides, and so on that I’ve found myself thinking, you know, a foot or two of snow might be preferable.
Yesterday, I couldn’t see the back fence (some 30 yards away) most of the day through the downpour. All the drainage areas around the yarn were running like little rivers full of muddy rainwater; the pond across the road, typically a foot or more below its banks, looked like it might overflow at any moment; our storm drain, near the mailbox, was totally overwhelmed and water was higher than the culverts on the ditches near all the driveways. In my office, at the northwest corner of the second story of the house, high winds would hit, slamming straight into that corner, the corner right in front of my face while I’m at my desk. The house would creak and moan, and my breath would catch involuntarily at the thought that I was a whole two feet from that bluster and pounding rain. The noise of it drowned out all my usual background noises. The manchild ran up from where the bus dropped him off at the end of the driveway — 100 or so yards — and came in the door quite sodden; Wednesday, early release day, I always forget that.
There I am, beating my inbox with a stick, eyeing the corner in front of me and checking out the window to see the rain mercifully slowing a bit, while my better half is in his office on a work conference call, and our oh-so-grownup son plays video games in the living room — and POP! Silence.
“Blackout,” the boy hollered. But this was starting to get old hat now; it’s the third one in the past 10 days or so. We’ve got it down to a science now; everyone’s got flashlights in arm’s reach everywhere, and besides, it’s about 4 in the afternoon this time, so it’s really not dark. Although this did mean it wasn’t easy to see how far off the ights were out, which as luck would have it, would now otherwise be possible since the rain had slowed enough to restore moderate visibility.
I pulled out my cell phone, found the slip of paper in my wallet on which I had — one of the last times — written the electric company emergency number and related info, and called it in to the automated line. I contemplated putting it on autodial or something, but with it being a phone tree, there’d be a lot of pausing. Besides, surely this was the last time I’ll be calling for a while. I kicked myself for thinking that thought. I know better.
Unlike the past times, there had been no reports of outages in the area of the service address. I’d have panicked for a second except for two things: I’ve pathologically checked the balances every time I’ve called about the past few outages, and chances are I’m the only weirdo to put all the relevant info on a slip of paper just in case after the last couple of times. Clearly, I was just the first one to call in.
I went to go tell Chad the score… whose conference call had moved to his cell phone. Good lord. I went to grab my knitting. What knitting? Well, the project I started in the first blackout, when I realized that colourwork by flashlight was really not fun.
My eyes are definitely too old for that. If you curious what that’s all supposed to be, I did use the flash.
Who knows when I’ll finish that hat now; as noted, I had to start a new project because of that; one that would be easier to work on in poor light. Which for some reason I figured was alpaca/silk lace on size 2 US needles. Hey, it isn’t colourwork, right? But sitting by the back door in what light was coming in, it dawned on me that my eyes may be getting old for that too.
Just my eyes, you understand.
One of the things I’ve always sort of enjoyed about power outages is the silence. This time, though, there wasn’t a lot of that; there was more throwing of paper airplanes, and bored ten-year-old. Which is where it first occurred to me that snow might be better. Snow comes with “Wouldn’t you like to build a snowman?” while a drenching downpour and 45-mile-an-hour winds comes with “Let’s get you out of those wet things, and good thing we have a propane stove in a power outage.”
“Just crazy weather,” I said.
“Yeah,” the boy said. “Or maaaaybe… you didn’t pay the power bill!”
“Hah,” I said. “Parents are deep conditioned to do that, first of all, and second, think that and check on it the first second there is a power outage. Which is why you know to say that.”
“Maybe it’s the zombie apocalypse,” he suggested. He’s recently become interested in surviving that.
“Not a chance,” his father replied, free at last from conference call, work day forcibly over. “We can tell because we’re listening to NPR and it’s the same as always.” If it were truly the apocalypse, we explained, the radios would go silent and the lights wouldn’t be coming back on. Edward pondered the implications. “No more video games, then,” he said glumly, imagining it.
“More importantly,” said his mother, “No washing machine.”
“Why is that so bad?” he asked. Hah. Clearly, I’ve ruined this boy. I bit back a rant about when I was a kid and we lived in rural Peru and you didn’t even have running water in the house, while Chad pointed out the flushing toilet would also stop working.
“Yeah,” I said, “But having lived without both, I’d miss the washing machine more.” We all talked about that sort of thing a while, while Chad cooked pasta for dinner in the failing light.
Lifestyle is a funny thing. I’ve lived, entirely content, without electricity and running water. But I don’t want to do it in my modern American home. I don’t want to do it in a family of only three people, far far from others. I don’t want to do it considering the lifestyle I’ve built for myself now, which is totally dependent on electricity. I don’t want to do it without really fabulous oil lamps to light up my handwork, dammit! Reading and sewing and so forth by candlelight is a massive drag. And I hate washing laundry by hand and outhouses are a total drag in bad weather and geeze would I hate to be nagging the kid about the chamber pot.
Remind me to call my mother up and tell her she’s a saint, I was an ungrateful wretch, and she’s right, someday I’ll thank her, and that day is today.
The cell phone came out again, and I checked back with the electric company. “Estimated time by which power will be restored is 8:40 PM,” I reported. Mmmm, yay.
It’s amazing how much technology there is in a house nowadays. When the power comes back on, the servers all have to be brought back online, for cryin’ out loud. The phones have to come back up, and the satellite stuff, and the desktop computers, and a half-dozen clocks reset, and make sure the garage door works, and… geeze. I love it, and I hate it, and it’s part and parcel of the modern lifestyle I lead.
If you’ve tried to reach me and haven’t heard back, drop me a line again. It seems to be drying out a bit today, so I’m hitting the post office, restocking on candles and batteries, and doing laundry in a panic so if, in fact, it is the apocalypse soon, at least I’ll have clean pants.