Damage Assessment - Week 1
It's been a long week. After Sandy disappeared, having done its damage, there was resignation. There is no arguing with a storm or its aftermath. It just is. And so, the first reaction is to try to make the best of it, or at least not make it any worse.
As no one was harmed and no serious damage was done to any structure, SJ World Headquarters fared pretty well. Others certainly suffered far worse. A walk around revealed 11 trees down, only one of which landed on anything that mattered.
One tree fell on the utility wires in the woods from the street to the house, and since I had plenty of time and a hand saw, it seemed wise to disregard Dr. SJ's admonition to stay away from the wires and just cut the tree down. It took quite a while to cut a tree with a small handsaw, but it can be done. And it was.
Life without utilities is odd. There is a lot of dead time. After cutting down the tree, we cleaned the inside of the house within an inch of its life. Vacuuming wasn't possible, but anything that required hand-rubbing could be done. And it was.
And then there was nothing. Warm water in the tank lasted about a day, and then was gone. The weather outside was cold, and eventually the house was too. Except the KitchenAid refrigerator. We avoided going in for a couple of days, but inevitably had to get to food. To the extent it held the cold, that was the end of it. We tried to get in and out quickly, but cold rushing out is faster than we were.
After four days, listening to a handcrank radio purchased because of the frequent day-long loss of electricity, the pioneer spirit turned angry. Going to sleep at 8 p.m.was wearing thin, but there wasn't anything else to do. A library about 15 minutes away was open, and had electricity and wifi, but its bandwidth was so badly overwhelmed by people trying to get online as to give a user a few minutes at best. I went there from day three to five, but spend hours trying to get a page loaded.
Mostly, my time online was used to try to read emails, each of which would take a few minutes to load. It gave me a new appreciation of guest-post requests from spammers, LinkedIn requests from people I don't know, Nigerian scams, legal marketing solicitations, and friends who asked if I was alive. Then there were the questions from young lawyers about mundane choices they faced, knowing I had no power but still in need of free advice on trivial matters of utterly no consequence.
On Friday, we decided to get out of town. We planned to go to Massachusetts on Saturday anyway, but decided to jump in the car and find a hotel somewhere north. There was no gas to be had in the area. Food staples, like milk, were gone. The house was very cold and I had enough of the joys of cold showers.
No doubt there was relief being made available to those who lost their homes, In my area, there was nothing. We saw the occasional power company truck, but it didn't stop as it drove to some other place in need. The neighbors who had generators found out that they don't run forever without gas, and that residential grade generators weren't meant to run for days on end. They either ran out of fuel or just died.
So we drove north. Eventually, we found a motel with a room, as many along the way were booked up with out of state electric workers and national guard being sent to New York to help. It wasn't nice, but it had hot water and internet. It worked. This is the third day of having real internet access, but up until now, I haven't felt much like writing.
Yesterday, we went to our son's first NCAA fencing competition, the Big One at Smith College, where all the schools in the Northeast Fencing Conference competed n regular tournament format. Out of a field of 89 fencing epees, he came in tied for third. In his quarterfinal bout, he was down 10-14 (bouts go to 15), and he pulled it back, winning 15-14. The knot in my stomach didn't go away for an hour.
And so, it was a pretty good week. We're all safe, even if miserable. My son did well. Life goes on. We're heading back home today, even though there is still no power. There is no reliable information as to when power will return, and it's painful to listen to everyone praising themselves knowing we're returning to a dark, cold house.
There will be substantial costs associated with the storm, but as with 9/11 and Hurricane Irene, all the promises, along with the donations, disappear, never to be seen near my neighborhood. As always, we will be on our own, and will try to find a way not to make the next day, maybe week, without power any more miserable than it has to be.
The weather report is that it's going to get colder and there's a nor'easter comng to knock down whatever electric lines are still up. I don't expect to feel like writing for a while.