Many of us, from time to time, during this peculiar period of forced isolation and rare discomfort we collectively find ourselves, will indulge the desire to protest our current situation, even as we sit there, idle in our climate controlled abode, full of all manner of food and drink, replete with all the comforts of modern life including toilets that flush, the miracle of electric power, cable television, and of course the entire body of knowledge discovered over the course of all human existence, available in an instant in the palm of your hand, we need only to attempt to survive a mere 36 hours or so without power to disabuse yourself of the notion that you are somehow living under the tightfisted rule of a tyrannical king and deserving of a life far removed from the one you presently find yourself in. Simply flush the toilet and hear the angels sing of the glory of man and all that he has done in triumph and miraculous wonder.
What can I say, it was a long 36 hours that felt like an eternity.
When the power first goes out, you hope that it will simply flicker momentarily and then re-engage, but as you stare at the dead lightbulb, the reality begins to sink in and you know for sure—you have just lost power.
Sometimes this occurs out of the blue, with no warning of the coming catastrophe, while other times you have an inkling that this could be a possibility. In the country, where we live, any time there are winds or drunk tourists, there is a good possibility that we could lose power, either from downed trees or loose limbs, or from overzealous weekend warriors with too many beers under their belts, a lack of familiarity with country roads and an apparent disregard for speed limits and no passing zones. It’s an unfortunately common tale in these parts.
A few days ago, there was some scuttlebutt on the interweb that we might be in for some high winds—high enough that one might be enticed to take notice, and maybe prepare a bit. If you’re prone to losing power, and you have yet to spend the money on a full-house generator, as I have not, you might have a short check-list of things you may or may not do to prepare. For me, they begin with making sure my various electronic devices are charged, namely my Kindle (at least I’ll have something to read in the dark, it doesn’t need wifi and the battery lasts forever), gather a few flashlights, find the oil lamp and grab a few candles. Nothing too drastic for your run of the mill power outage. I might even half-ass this, charging the kindle, but neglecting to charge the iPhone charger, and remembering where the flashlights are, but not actually getting them out.
If I have been led to believe that this is a serious threat, like I might in light of an approaching hurricane, I will secure outdoor furniture, put the grill in the outdoor shower, strap down or remove anything that could end up as a projectile and coming through a window, collect some fresh water, maybe even going so far as to fill the bathtub.
In the past I would put quite a lot of outdoor things in the Screenhouse, somehow believing the thin mesh screen covering a majority of the alls, would somehow keep a 10’ surfboard, or a wicker settee from sailing away, but we tore the Screenhouse down last week. As well as the shed. Everything that would normally be stored in the screen house, or the shed, was at this time sitting on my deck, loosely covered by a plastic tarp.
At this point you’re probably correctly assuming that I did not take the high-wind rumor all that seriously, merely tucking in the tarp and plugging in my Kindle. That was the extent of my preparation.
In the morning, I woke, made coffee and was taking a rather lackadaisical approach to the morning when the wind started to kick up with some vigor. Enough to make me look up and look out the window. Soon after the lights begin to flicker, and I thought, “Well, here we go.”
The wind was really howling outside, making the house creak, and beginning to worry me with its intensity, so I got up to survey the situation in the backyard, when I heard a loud bang. By the time I reached the back door, the trees were bending wildly and I noticed that several pieces of my picket fence were either down or dangling like socks in the wind. Most of the furniture had been swept from the deck, along with a glass-topped table, and my rather expensive (and heavy) Weber grill.
I want to take a moment and say something about Weber grills. They’re the best. Seriously. I spent several decades buying grills from big box home goods stores that weren’t the best, but weren’t that cheap either. They didn’t last and they generally sucked. Finally I spent the extra money and bought a Weber and I’ve never looked back.
This particular Weber is our second one, the first grill dying an untimely death predicated on my wife failing to take a plastic grill brush out of the inside, where it had been put no doubt to keep it from flying around in a storm, before lighting the grill on high. The resulting fiasco was a melted, toxic plastic fire that consumed the grill until put out by a fire extinguisher. Between the burnt plastic and the chemicals from the fire extinguisher I was pretty sure we weren’t going to be cooking any steaming weenies on it any longer with any faith that we wouldn’t be giving ourselves some form of cancer. But clearly that wasn’t the fault of Weber. In fact, other than the toxic chemical spill, the grill itself hardly looked worse for the wear.
When I was a kid, we had a Cairn Terrier named Tammy. When Tammy was, one day, kidnapped by a pair of young women in a VW Beetle at a stoplight in front of the car wash where we were washing our car, my parents simply got another Cairn Terrier, named it Tammy II and we went about our lives as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred.
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree as they say, so after I dragged the burnt out, cancer-laden grill to the trash, I got in the car, drove to the big box store, and bought the exact same grill, drove it home and placed it where the old one had stood just hours before. We call it Weber II.
It’s a great grill. Truly. Cooks everything wonderfully. I don’t know how to explain it. It just works and works incredibly well. But that’s not why I’m telling you about it.
This wind, a gust really, that came through my yard a few days ago, was clocked nearby to be around 85mph, and clean picked up this 150 lb piece of metal and flung it into the yard on its back. Maybe that’s not really that hard to imagine, it being on wheels and all, but it’s still really heavy and wheels were locked. The wind blew this heavy-ass grill clean off the deck.
Later when the wind had died down, I picked the grill up, collecting the various grates and whatnot, put it back together and from as far as I can tell, is no worse for the wear.
You might still be thinking, that this is really not so surprising, as the Weber is made of heavy metal, and maybe I was simply lucky. But here’s the thing, this is the second time this has happened—to this very grill. That’s right, Weber II has flown off the deck TWICE now in unexpected wind storms.
Sure, fool me once and you can chalk it up to accidental inexperience. Fool me twice, and I’m an idiot who should know better, meaning that in the future, I will probably take greater steps to secure the grill, especially in the case of rumored wind storms approaching.
So after all was said and done, the fence pieces that came loose were rotten with decay and this has only sped up the inevitable demise of a current fence that needed to be replaced anyway. The furniture, while scattered across the yard, appeared no worse for the wear, and even the glass top that went sailing, with the metal table landing on top of it, miraculously didn’t break or even crack. So, while distressing, there was no real damage done. Only now it was dark, raining, windy and we had no power.
We’ve all suffered through the loss of power, either from winter storms, hurricanes or drunk drivers. It’s a part of life in the modern world where so much of what we do to pass the time is connected to the electrical grid. In our case, being largely off the grid as we are, the loss of power means no heat (furnace needs power), no water (well pump needs power), and no oven (electric). We have fireplace so we aren’t likely to freeze and we can use the stovetop which is propane, but we’re pretty limited. Anyway, this wasn’t just any old loss of power.
We had begun this inauspicious Monday morning in Week Five of an already unprecedented national quarantine of epic proportions with the possibility of death hanging over our heads—only an errant cough away, a maniacal character from Willy Wonka running around the White House ranting about his television ratings, and no clear end in sight. So it is safe to say that we were already a bit on edge. In the infamous words of one local news eyewitness, “Ain’t nobody got time for that shit.”
In hindsight, I feel remarkably better about simply being quarantined in my wonderful home, surrounded by four walls and a roof, the heat simmering in the baseboard pipes, the computer monitor large and bright keeping track of my clicks and clacks, my iPad charging, a new selection books downloaded to the Kindle, the music playing on Pandora through my Sonos speakers, the television just waiting to be turned on, and a chicken roasting in the oven.
I really need to think about getting a full-sized generator that will power my entire house. They have them. The minute your power goes out, they automatically kick on and you are able to pretend like you don’t live in a world that includes anything as fickle as relying on the power grid for your sense of entitlement and pleasure.
Now if only I can remember to put the grill away before the wind shows up, I’ll be all set.