Monday, February 8, 2010

Powerless

This past year has taught me how to live like a hobo. It seems we are always without some basic luxury, like water or heat or power. This past fall our well pipes burst and we had to go without water for a few days. Then all throughout winter we've have power outages. This past week our heater broke. Then this past weekend we were without power for 12-hours, followed by spotty levels of electricity for another 3-hours beyond that.

They funny thing about this latest power outage is that I spent most of the days preceding this power outage just trying to take care of our basic needs. My son had been begging me to take him shopping for clothes all week, because all of his pants have holes in them. So, off we went to the city to buy new clothes for him. Here it is February in the Eastern Sierra. We've got snow, ice and mud on the ground, and there wasn't a single sweater, coat, pair of work boots, rain boots or snow boots to be found. The stores are only stocking for spring and summer weather now, which I think is odd, because I don't know anyone who buys in advance for upcoming seasons. I mean, if I'm cold and I go shopping, I want to find warm clothes. I don't care about bikinis and sandals.

Anyway, we were on our way back from our shopping trip, passing by a lot that sells firewood, and this was the first time in the last hundred times I've driven past it that the lot was actually open for business. After all the wood chopping we had to do when our heater was broken, I said to my son, "We should stop and buy some firewood," but for some reason I just kept driving despite my gut urging me to stop.

It was that night that the power went out, along with our heat. No one wanted to be outside chopping wood in the wee hours of the morning, so we just buried ourselves under blankets. I just kept saying, "I should have stopped for firewood."

When things were at their worst, my husband couldn't even connect to the Internet with his iPhone to read our local news, so he called his father in Southern California and asked him to access our local news on the Internet to find out more details about the power outage. The newspapers had nothing, most likely because their offices had no power either.

The funny thing about not having power for so long is that you still can't seem to get your priorities straight. I mean, we couldn't flush our toilets without borrowing water from the horses' water troughs. We couldn't watch TV. We couldn't cook anything in the microwave. We couldn't open the refrigerator without risking spoiling everything in it by letting the cold air out. We couldn't stay warm. We couldn't shower or brush our teeth. We couldn't access the Internet. We had company coming over to watch the Super Bowl, and I couldn't vacuum the mud off the floor. Yet what seemed most important was getting a morning cup of coffee. So, my husband and son drove off toward town to try to get some information on what was going on with the power, and how widespread the problem appeared to be. All I could attest to was that I could not see any lights looking off in any direction from our house during the night.

It turned out that power had been restored to the town in the morning, but our neighborhood and a handful of other neighborhoods just west, east and south of us were still without power. My husband said the line of cars at Starbucks was ridiculous, which tells you the coffee was a priority for most everyone else around here. Ha ha.

When it started looking like we weren't going to get our power back any time soon, my son rearranged his Super Bowl plans to go watch it at his girlfriend's house instead of having her over here. By Sunday afternoon the power was popping in and out for short periods of time. The first thing we did when we had juice is turn on the heater, the second thing was to flush the toilets, the third thing was to fill up the dogs' water bowl to the brim. I tried dumping some ice into my water, but the ice maker hadn't frozen anything for the previous 12-hours, so nothing came out. My husband quickly took a shower, and by the time he got out, the power was off again. With all the power outages I've suffered through this winter, I consider myself a good candidate for the next episode of Survivor. I am now a pro at ignoring my own stench.

I quickly learned not to bother running around the house setting clocks as soon as the power came on. As the day wore on I started to wonder what I was going to do about work in the morning. This upcoming week is very important for my company. I will most likely have to put in 18-hours of service each day to make this latest deadline. However, if we have no power, I can't work from home on my computer. At the same time, I certainly don't want to have to go into the office without having had a shower in two days. Plus we're expecting another snowstorm to blow through, and my office sits at 7,000 feet above sea level. It's already got about 12-feet of snow on the sides of the roads. I don't want to have to drive through a snowstorm to get there.

It's times like this when I wish my town had Internet cafes... and reliable power. I also wish I were a member of a gym nearby that has showers... and reliable power. Unfortunately, I don't think there is a gym within half an hour of here that has bathrooms, none-the-less showers. The nearest homeless shelter is about an hour away, and you don't want to be bathing in a creek this time of year. It kind of reminds me of a department store I visited on Saturday. I walked in with a full bladder and knew I wouldn't last another five minutes, so I ran around the perimeter of the store in search of a bathroom. Nothing. I grabbed a saleslady and said, "Quick! Donde esta el bano?" (Imagine the upside down question mark, accents and tilde.)

She told me to go through some double doors marked for employees only and someone would meet me there. Sure enough, another saleslady held the double doors open for me and led me down the hall to another room with a security keypad next to it. She punched in a dozen or so numbers, the door clicked, and I was in. Just in time. One more minute and I was going to pee on myself. It's sad that department stores have to make it so difficult to relieve oneself, most likely because too many shoplifters found a haven from cameras in bathrooms.

But I digress. My point being that bathrooms and showers are not easy to come by when you are a hobo.

Each time the power clicked on or off, our Corgi Midge ran around the house panting and quivering. A power outage is as good as an electrical storm to her. My son and I hugged her and tried to distract her from her fear. Even the mere threat of lightning is enough to break this dog into pieces. When we got a break from coddling the dog, we read with whatever battery power we had left on our Kindles, and cracked jokes to keep our spirits up.

Apparently, the people who work for the power company are football fans, because they got the power on for good just as the opening ceremonies began. There's nothing like a good, strong incentive like the Super Bowl to get people to do their jobs and do it well. I'm so relieved, because if the power hadn't come on in time, I would have missed some really great commercials! See? I know what is important in life. (Smirk.)

18 comments:

Shirley said...

Situations like this really show how vulnerable we are. In Canada, we have a lot of power failures in rural areas. Sales of gas powered generators are brisk when the power goes out for long periods. I guess a person could stock up on extra food and water before a storm hits, if you get enough warning.

Kate said...

We're lucky - we have internet cafes - although Starbucks makes you pay - and our public library also has free WIFI.

Coffee is life, and bathrooms and hot water are very good.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Shirley - In this case the power outage had nothing to do with a storm. Our power company has been having ongoing problems.

Mrs Mom said...

We had a wonderful generator and a wood stove when I lived in Tundra Country. Still have the generator here, but no wood stove (hardly need one in the Southland...)

Is that something you might think about? Least you can flush and shower that way! ;)

manker said...

in a word.. yikes.. .while we've experienced the above... didnt seem like it was all at once... while a work in progress for me.. i'm learning to trust that gut instinct... as in the stopping off for firewood :)

Your experience is definitely a "Nietsche moment".. what doesnt kill you makes you stronger.

be blessed
gp

Breathe said...

Infrastructure is still very week, especially in rural areas. The work on the Grid can't come soon enough.

You might want to invest in a generator. That way you can at least run critical things - water pump, lights and computers in one room...

I also recommend getting a box of used paperbacks from the library.

On the bathroom issue, I hate how inconvenient places make it for you to do what... needs doing!

fernvalley01 said...

We have fairly regular power outages at my place , would be nice to have a gas stove (for coffee) but I have discovered you can make coffee, spagetti& meat sauce , even do some baking if need be on the BBQ. My biggest concern with power outages is the automatic waterers if they freeze,I am in for a huge amount of work!

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Yeah, our long-term plan is to get off the grid all together and get ourselves a windmill to generate our own power, but not until we are in a house we know we can spend the rest of our lives in.

Katharine Swan said...

Kate, if you get a Starbucks card (the kind you just keep reloading) and register it, then use it a couple of times a month, Starbucks gives you 2 hours of free wifi a day. Here's a secret, though -- they don't kick you off after two hours. You might not be able to sign back in if you log off, but as long as you're on you can stay on for a long time!

Katharine Swan said...

Oh, and I meant to say sorry to hear about the troubles, NM. I hope the power stays on and you won't have to go in to the office! Sounds like it would be miserable driving up there!

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

I finally got a minute to read the news and found out that the power outage was caused by a fire on a power pole.

KD said...

I'm shaking my head and saying"WOW" to myself. You sure have a good attitude about the power outages and handle it well. I quess you've learned that it doesn't pay to fret. Hope your weather clears up soon.

Cheryl Ann said...

Nuzz, the transformer in our back yard went out 2 weekends ago and affected us and 3 other houses. We had NO power for over 24 hours. I lost everything in my fridge and freezer. Fortunately, our gas water heater worked, our toilets worked, and I lit our gas stove with a match and made coffee at home! BUT, I hated losing all that food. On the other hand, after cleaning out the fridge, I really did CLEAN it out! (shudder...)

Leah Fry said...

Our Chula is like your Midge. The dog has a meltdown during storms. Camera flashes send her over the top too.

I'll be looking for you on Survivor Nevada.

sue said...

Oh can I apprecaite your blog. We are in the same spot, good windy day and you can expect to be without power. But... being in the "tundra" (as Mrs. Mom puts it!!) we can be generator/woodstove run. which is a hugh help. Last Dec. we were without power for 9 days, and that little generator ran it's heart out. Somehow the "basics" help, coffee. hot shower. potty.... the rest we muddle thru on. I am "watching" Washington DC.. those folks really don't know how to handle it.. here in Maine, it would be a two day project.. but, it just depends on where you live.. I know they wouldn't be without their ac in the summer, and here we don't even consider that... hope you handle the next batch of storms better....

Callie said...

OMG! I would have been pissed and freezing! And you're right, you know the Power Company would have really gotten some flack for not getting it going for the Superbowl, LOL!

Fantastyk Voyager said...

I always ask myself, how did people live 150 years ago?? I would freeze to death and it's relatively warm where I live.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Sheesh! What a way to live! And you've got such a good attitude about it all and a great sense of humour, too.
When we've been without power we use our camping propane stove or the grill to cook with and make hot water. I try to keep those individual coffee bags on hand, too, just in case. They make pretty good coffee, too.

We're on Community water, so we don't have the well issues and our heat and hot water is from our propane tank. So, I guess we're pretty lucky. Sometimes I wish we had a woodstove, though, even though our gas fireplace does a good job at heating our house with the blower on.
I think that firewood was placed there for you to stop and buy. Next time I bet you will ;-) hehe!

~Lisa