Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Oh Sandy!

After nine days off the grid, our power came back today. We have lived on Staten Island for 41 years and lost power maybe three times, and then for not more than a day. Luckily we had a gas fired hot water heater, a gas stove that we used for cooking and heat, and a number of battery powered lanterns and flashlights. We also, by God's providence, had just filled both cars with gas. For entertainment, I had a battery powered radio/CD player, and we sat in the dark listening to music and a bunch of old radio programs like Sherlock Holmes and Boston Blackie that I have on CDs. It was like living in 1938. We also played, Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit, and endless games of gin rummy and Solitaire. We supported each other and got to talk to some of our neighbors more than we ever have before.

Having worked for Con Edison for 30 years, I knew this was a bad storm, but never in my wildest dreams believed we'd be out for nine days! We were optimistic at first, but grew more concerned as houses all around us began to get power back, but not us. Turns out that a substation in our area had been flooded and the feeder that supplied us was out of service. Con Ed was distributing dry ice on our corner and that helped a lot. Communication from Con Ed, however, was horrible. Every time I called I got a different story. People answering my calls were located in Con Ed's Westchester office in Rye, and had no clue what was happening in my neighborhood or even where it was located! There were no Con Ed trucks visible in the street. One day, maybe five days after the storm, a Con Ed guy wearing a green safety vest and carrying a clip board showed up but had no information.

Each morning we used up a few precious ounces of gas to drive to the Staten Island Mall. We did our walking exercise and had a good, hot breakfast...then it was back home to light the candles and four stove top burners for light and heat. We did crossword puzzles and wore a path to the windows looking for the blue and white trucks. The nights were hard because it got dark so early and you got the feeling you should be in bed, but it was only 7:30 PM. We piled on the covers and slept warmly enough, but overnight the house temperature dipped into the fifties, and morning wake-ups were chilly. Hot showers worked wonders to keep us going, and a delivery of Chinese food was cause for celebration. The night before our power was restored, we went to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants and that was a huge treat.

The experience was a stressful one; I had a constant headache for nine days. Luckily my wife is very patient and calm, although I know I tested her patience more than once. We had no cell phone service for the first few days and I could only communicate by texting. I am not good at texting, and my rants and curses after pushing the wrong button surely were annoying to her while elevating up my blood pressure. We managed to vote (to no avail since Obama got another four years). I never cease to be amazed at the people they get to staff these polling places. They are as inept and clueless as anyone you will find on this earth. And these ridiculous paper ballots...they seem even more unreliable than the old clunker voting machines.

Despite the inconvenience and stress, we were among the lucky ones. Staten Island and other tri-state areas never saw a storm like Sandy and many are still suffering her wrath. I saw hundred-year old oak trees lying on electric wires, power boats blown around like toys, an oil tanker pushed up onto Tottenville Beach, and peoples' houses washed into the water. The people of Staten Island, and indeed all around the area, have been so caring and supportive that it makes an old cynic like me melt. There are relief collection stations everywhere and people just helping each other in small ways. The government response has been positive but could be better coordinated. The gas situation is downright criminal. 

Besides the renewal of my faith in human nature, I hope we come away from this storm wiser and better prepared to deal with (God forbid) the next one.


LOOKING FOR A WORTHY CHARITY? TRY THESE FOLKS: Children's Craniofacial Association

1 comment:

Joseph Del Broccolo said...

let's hope there is no next one.