Tallying Losses & Gains

As I noted earlier this week, we came out of last week’s major storm pretty well. The final toll seems to be: A couple of trees down along with a few large limbs and lots of small branches, some groceries lost from the refrigerator, and a clutch of fried electronic devices, most of which we will eventually replace. (Some friends of ours have already helped that task along by pulling out of their storage space and giving to us a television for my study and a CD player/radio that we’ll install in the bedroom; their generosity humbles us.)

Were there any benefits from the three days without power? Well, yes. We can start with the minor benefit of getting the refrigerator cleaned out, discarding a lot of sauces and dressings that we’d tried once and pushed to the back. (We had the refrigerator and the upright freezer in the basement running three or four hours a day on a generator our landlord provided, but the refrigerator compartment was compromised by the surge, and we figured it was better to be safe when dealing with egg-based foods and dairy products.) And we were reminded how tied we are to electricity, something we should realize day to day but tend to forget.

For the first two evenings, the Texas Gal and I sat in our accustomed spots in the living room, she in the easy chair and I on the couch, pretty much pointed at the entertainment center and its blank-faced and useless TV. An emergency candle glowed on top of the entertainment center, and a battery-powered radio on the coffee table provided music. We were able to read, the first night by wielding small flashlights we’d once bought in a miracle of forward thinking, the second night by the brighter light of LED camping lights we’d found that day during a walk through the local Fleet Farm store. And we retired early, something neither of us tends to do on weekend evenings.

(The third evening, Sunday, we had lights but no television, cable or regular telephone, as the cable company had not yet gotten to us.)

We chafed at not being able to get online. We’ve become so accustomed over the past decade to being connected to a wide-ranging group of friends through email, instant messaging and social media that to be sundered from the digital world was disorienting. Our only connection to the rest of the world was a go-phone the Texas Gal keeps in her purse, so we were at least able to tell our families we were all right. The thought crossed our minds that we should dig into our boxes of stuff in the basement and find one of our old phones that did not need to be plugged into an electrical outlet; it was, of course, too dark in the basement to do so. We may yet do that digging to have the old phone on hand for the next outage.

(I should note that during the heat of Saturday afternoon, we took refuge in a local coffee shop, having a snack and taking advantage of the shop’s Wi-Fi to tell our online friends we were okay.)

As I related the other day, services and comforts came back in stages: Electricity Sunday evening; air conditioning, cable/internet/phone and hot water on Monday; and the new refrigerator Tuesday. And with the household nearly returned to normalcy – some small restorative tasks remain for today – we can look at the balance sheet.

What did we lose? Two trees – a sixty-foot pine and an old oak on the northeast corner of the house – and some food and some home electronics. I’ll miss the living room CD/record player designed to look like an old radio (even though it was confusing to program), and the Texas Gal will miss the rather expensive iPod dock that we had in the bedroom. And we’ll have to cope without a microwave oven for a while, but all we’ve used it for lately is to reheat food and to make popcorn.

What did we gain? The knowledge that we can work together in a minor crisis without getting too cranky with each other. A reminder that things are things and not all that important as long as we and the cats are whole and healthy. And the awareness that after thirteen years of sharing tales and lives, we enjoy each other’s company more than ever.

I will miss the pine tree out front. After the tree trimming crew finished its work Sunday, leaving the stump for later, we did an estimate of the tree’s age. The rings at the outside of the stump were so close together that utter accuracy is impossible, but we’re pretty sure the tree was between eighty and a hundred years old.

Let’s split the difference and call it ninety years. If we do that, we get to 1923. And here’s the song that was No. 1 on June 23 of that year, when the pine tree that fell to last week’s storm was a seedling with ninety years ahead of it. Here’s Art Landry’s “Dreamy Melody.”


2 Responses to “Tallying Losses & Gains”

  1. Paco Malo Says:

    Essential reading for those of us “wired” to our electronic luxuries and online connections. Blessings be upon your renovated home.

  2. Yah Shure Says:

    This week’s number one hit on the Granite City’s SE side: “When Electricity Came To Arkansas.”

    The phone pole in the alley behind my garage was probably close in age to your departed pine, so the power company showed up just before Christmas, 2011 and put in a spanking-new one next to it. And there it sat for the rest of the winter, spring and summer. Once the hibernation ended, the hookups to the new pole took many more months between the power, landline phone and cable providers. A hole was dug around the old pole, as there was a hefty conduit attached to it that went underground. The hole sat with a metal sheet loosely covering it for more months. Wires were left dangling in air once the switchover began. Then the top two-thirds of the old pole disappeared one day.

    Another month or so later, a pair of workers showed up to dig out the rest, and my landline phone service went right along with it, since the connection to the house is buried. When I questioned the telephone repairman about the glacial progress, he said it all came down to communication (or lack thereof) from the power company – which is responsible for the pole – to each of the others. As of this writing, the cable folks haven’t gotten the final memo, as a pair of wires still hangs in the balance, vulnerable to any car cutting the corner too closely as it pulls into the back parking lot of the truffle shop. And if that were to happen, there goes my internet connec

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