Saturday, January 29, 2011

and how was your outage?

Perhaps some of you have had the joy of experiencing the delightful weather that hit the D.C. region and points north the other day. “Thundersnow”, I believe, they’ve coined it?

It left my home with a nice, multi-day blackout.

Night 1. Grit my teeth, pull out some logs and some back issues of the Post, make a pyramid, remember the disregard for my own safety when making fire (like moving logs with bare hands when they fall) that I honed on that camping trip, and make a beauteous fire.


Strange/nice fact about my family: we have power outage traditions. When I was eight and my sister was five, my dad was in the D.C. area scouting out jobs while my mother, my sister and I stayed in WA (this was shortly before the divorce. Er, very shortly.)

An ice storm hit and my mom was left to cope with no electricity or heat and no end in sight with two little ones. So she gritted her teeth, made a fire, and opened up a can of smoked oysters.

We ate those (on Triscuits, with cream cheese) and slept in sleeping bags in front of the fire that night. It’s actually, despite the craziness, one of my fondest childhood memories (God bless your competence, Ma).

So, when there is a blackout, we instinctively reach for that can of smoked oysters.

My mother made a lovely tasting platter with that, some Swiss, and some sesame crackers.



The night also involved grapefruit and cold Russian macaroni (I’m so disgusted—we have power back now, obviously, but were without for 48 hours and I had to throw SO MUCH FOOD AWAY, including, most depressingly, some of that macaroni. Guys, it was so good. You don’t even know how sad it was.)

But anyway, we chatted, we played cards, we read books, and we had a nice dinner, all by candlelight.


The only slight kerfuffle of the night happened when a napkin got slightly too close to the above candle.

I had my wits about me, and our house didn’t burn down or anything, but the napkin was definitely a casualty of the storm.


The next morning we awoke to gape at what the storm had left.

Very very large branches.

In our yard…


ON TOP OF the neighbor’s car (this is after they’d moved it. Yikes!)


And trees that sort of just… gave up and broke in half.


God I wanted a caffeinated beverage. My electric kettle was out of comish, so I improvised with what I had on hand.

Cold leftover coffee my mama’d brewed the day before, shelf-stable chocolate milk which I usually treat more as a dessert but suddenly seemed perfect= morning mocha.


This gave me the strength to build fire #2.


Breakfast was in a series (when I’m home with nothing to do I just eat all day. It’s unfortunate. As such, I try to eat at least small quantities of reasonably healthful food).

Included was part of a whole wheat wrap (well, parts—again, a series) with sunflower seed butter. And the paper (I am impressed- throughout the insanity the paper arrived. And the mail, which was all the more incredible since it happened after the dramatic incident you will read about later in this post).


Then looking at the campfire I remembered Boxcar Children sweet potatoes on the camping trip and decided they needed to happen again- hot food! Score!

Into the fire they went.


Out I went to shovel the driveway (with the help of my neighbor’s adorable eight year old daughter with whom I discussed, among other things, women’s suffrage).

My mother’s sweet potato came out and was decidedly gorgeous. I took it up to her in bed, where she had stayed for most of this time (those of you who aren’t regular readers, my mom broke her pelvis in Antarctica- seriously- and is stuck on crutches, which is particularly sucky with no electricity).


My potato was a little more… well done?


It tasted delicious, but I left rather more of it than I would’ve liked to on the plate.

Next time, I’m thinking aluminum foil.


So in the living room, reading Vogue, playing with the cat, whatever, when a neighbor knocks on my door and goes “Uh, your tree is on fire.”

Which, yknow, it was.

This week has sort of made me hate power lines. Slash love them. God, I can’t believe how much we take reliable electricity for granted.

I called the fire department, and they sort of took their time getting over (I’m sure that it was a total triage day- “Well, at this place there’s a tree on fire but at this place there’s a house on fire and on this place there’s a human on fire”, etc. etc.).

When the handsome helpful firemen arrived, they were sort of watching the fire when there was a loud exploding sort of noise and a live wire flew down to sort of dangle over my driveway.


And the power, which had briefly returned, went away again.

As it got later and later in the day Thursday, there was absolutely no sign of Dominion Virginia Power (not hugely surprising given that 400,000 other houses were also in the dark).

Hilariously and ironically, it was a lovely sunny day and the roads were plowed and basically fine. I became CONVINCED that I would have work on Friday. To enable this, I needed to get to Arlington, where I work. I could not pull my car out of our driveway, due to the dangling live wire situation. I figured I could throw myself on the mercy of my friends and coworkers who live in an apartment building about five minutes from our office.

I decided to hike out to a major thoroughfare and Steve said he’d happily pick me up.

However, oh my God, my poor mother.

Poor whiney me had to hike a mile and a half or so to the dark, slightly ominous supermarket parking lot, hastily crossing the street when I noticed the black wire coiled in the road like a dangerous snake.

I left my mom with toast (from the fire), crutches, and a solo cup (which she finds easier to carry around than glass, given the rather higher risk of droppage with crutches.)


So I made it to warm, electrified Arlington, hanging with my friends and my boyfriend, enjoying potluck and Internet. My mom, however, stayed in our house, which got down to 43 degrees before power was restored late Friday afternoon.

UGH. Neighbors were so nice and helpful but I feel like a crappy daughter.


Rebecca said...

ugh what a cold mess! so sorry you had to go through that

Astra Libris said...

Oh my goodness, so many frightening events! The live wire and the fire sound terrifying - I'm so glad you and your Mom are OK! My parents (who live north of DC) are still without power, but this is normal for them - they live so deep in the woods the power company usually forgets they exist, and it takes several days of reminding phone calls for power to be restored - true story! We had LOTS of power outage rituals when I was growing up... :-) Never any electrical fires, though!

Jess@atasteofconfidence said...

glad you are OK! hope everything goes smoothly from here on out :)

MelindaRD said...

I am so sorry that your mom is recovering and she was stuck without power. My family is in Baltimore and I know it was a pain for them, but they had power. I did hear my mom call it thundersnow which I thought was funny. I guess it is only funny when you aren't stuck in it. I hope you have power back by now.

Jess said...

No power? That's only fun for like 15 minutes, but 48 HOURS?!

So sad you had to throw away food, too!!

Kara said...

I saw on the news that some people STILL don't have power (damn Pepco) and another storm is coming tonight/tomorrow. I'm just glad we didn't lose power!

D.C. doesn't need anymore snow/ice/sleet/hail/water from the sky!