Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Very Imperfect Storm

I have been holed up at my home where there has been no power since last Tuesday night, and where, for a couple of days, we had no water. Our cell service was also out for a couple of days. At one point, we literally had no contact with the outside world, lacking size "C" batteries to run our radio.

When size C and D batteries, kerosene heaters, and drinkable water become prized commodities, you know you're in trouble. I felt like Winston Smith in 1984 looking for a used razor.

We have found ourselves simply trying to keep the house warm enough so the pipes don't freeze, a process which requires wood for the wood stove insert in our fireplace. You know those romantic images people sometimes have of fathers going out with their sons to cut wood in the forest? Don't believe them! It seems like I have spent every waking hour for the last four days chopping wood and trying to get it dry enough to burn.

I'm ready to do something else now.

Not that there have not been times we will remember: like realizing we could put some ashes from a hot fire in a metal pail, take a deep stove pan and put cooking oil in it, drop it into the bucket, and make popcorn. Or, with some available English muffins, ham lunchmeat, eggs, and a little ingenuity, invent what we have dubbed the "Egg McMartin."

One of the first people I have seen since clearing our road and driveway was my barber, a man who lives on my street, and was therefore also without power. His shop, as I noticed driving by this morning, was open, so I stopped in.

As he was cutting my hair, we got into a discussion about whether homeowner's insurance would cover damaged trees. He said that it was his understanding that "acts of God" were not covered. I said that, that being the case, it would not be good if your insurance company was run by Calvinists, since they believe everything was a direct act of God, and would therefore not have to pay on any claim. I suggested that, from the consumer's standpoint, the best insurance company would be one run by Arminians. He responded by insisting that, actually, it would be better to be insured by an insurance company run by atheists, since they didn't believe in acts of God at all.

The discussion, of course, was singular evidence that there are psychological effects from being isolated for more than a few days. But at least we discovered a useful purpose for Richard Dawkins.

I'm sure there are character lessons in this for us: that, for example, we shouldn't take things like electricity for granted; that we should value the simple things in life; that it is family and friends, not everyday conveniences that are the most important things.

Okay. I've gotten the message. Now can I have my electricity back?

I am now holding forth at the only place in town where I can get an Internet connection: an Arby's about seven miles from our home. At weak moments, I have thought that this must be what the end of the civilization is like. But sitting here I am reminded how silly such a thought is--largely because, whatever the end of civilization must look like, certainly it will not involve free wireless at Arby's.

In any case, I back up and running. Sort of. As I said, I still don't have electricity, but I have discovered a place where I can get online--and get a decent roast beef sandwich.


Anonymous said...

Of course if it were not for modern science almost every Winter would be like this for you. And likely you would be sharing a room with your farm animals.

Anonymous said...

Actually, anonymous, people had different methods for dealing with cold weather before the advent of the electrical infrastructure which were later abandoned as we became more dependent upon modern technology. If anything, the ice storm shows that modern science can still be easily confounded by something as simple as freezing rain.

Martin Cothran said...

Yes, weren't whole civilizations decimated by cold weather fronts prior to the advent of science?

Anonymous said...

Cold made people smarter. Something about freezing to death focuses the mind very well.

mcyoder said...

Um, Anon, I think you mean "nearly" freezing to death. I'm pretty sure your mind does not focus well when you're dead. ;)

Anonymous said...

mcyoder, stacking frozen corpses focused the minds of cold survivors.

mcyoder said...

Oh, of course that's what you meant. How could I have been so dense? Perhaps having central heating has made my mind unable to focus:) (Thankfully, I'm not stacking any frozen corpses, either.)