Monday, March 20, 2017

Second Day in the 99 Homes Off the Grid

When I awoke the early morning of March 15,  I could barely move with all I'd worn to bed. Besides the three pair of pants, shirt, two sweat shirts and three jackets I had pulled over me a sheet, two regular blankets and a sherpa quilt. All this had kept me fairly cozy all night, Now I had to shuck the blankets and get out of bed.

It was dark.

And it was brittle-bitter cold. I used to like the cold and up until a winter ago I did not fear hiking the state parks in sub-freezing weather. I would layer up and be cozy enough even when my exposed beard would be ice-crusted.

Back when my boy was at Scout age, somewhere close to two-and-a-half decades ago now, they took his troop on a campout down in Camp Rodney during November. We cooked out over a fire and did the usual ghost stories and sing-song while the flames flickered. We slept outside among the trees in four man pup tents. Camp Rodney does have cabins, but I guess the leadership considered this a fall outing so tents would do. However, temperatures dropped to a record low and I honestly thought I would freeze to death that night. It did not help me that out of concern for my son I tossed my extra blanket over him leaving me with onlt my sleeping bag.

As a teen, in Scouts, I had traced the Mason-Dixon line in the very dephts of one winter, so cold even the creek rapids and waterfalls had frozen. It was a trip that remains in my memory with great fondness.  I took my son on that November outing to enjoy the camping experience as I did as a boy, but perhaps because of the deep freeze, camping never took with him and he soon dropped out of scouting.

I had never again been as cold as that November until this past week. Feeling the cold goes along with growing old, I suppose and having the ALS doesn't help either. Stepping out of that bed last Wednesday morn was a true shock to the system, despite being well dressed. My wife had never even came back to the bedroom. She spent the night huddled on an easy chair swathed in blankets and covered by cats. She had not slept well, but she has had that problem of not being able to sleep anyway. It was only around 4:30.

I did my usual morning cleaning, fed the cats, took out birdseed and the trash. I made another useless attempt of starting the generator. It is frustrating to reach a point in a man's life that he can't put enough oomph into a pull rope to turn a small engine over.  It was now a quarter after 5 o'clock. I started keeping an eye next door to see if anyone was outside at Jamie's place. He has a crane repair business and often in the early  morning he and/or his men are coming and going to begin their work. There was no one yet this morning.

Since we had ran the generator during the last evening and I had emptied most of my cas can into before it was started, I thought I better go get a refill supply. I wondered how early the nearby Wawa opened. I thought it might already be. I knew the McDonalds across the intersection from it was open 24/7. This early only the pickup window would be serving, but that was all right. I would also pick us up some hot coffee.

When I got to Wawa I saw it was open. Usually in the mornings the pumps and lot are swarming with
cars, but I guess being before six it hadn't reached a crowded state yet. There were sparse cars at the pumps. As I filled my gas can, and then my car tank, it crossed my mind going over to McDonalds was silly. Wawa sold coffee. I went inside and bought two 24 ounce cups full.  I also got a couple hot breakfast sandwiches.

We sat and drank our heat. I kept looking out the front window, but still no action next door. Once daylight had come without any movement outside, I walked over and knocked on his door. He answer still in pajamas and robe. He said when he got dressed he would come over. Not long after I heard someone out back. He had sent his son, who is of college age, and this fellow started my machine for me. Where would I be without concerned neighbors?

I called DP&L, but the story hadn't changed. It was still 11:59 that night as the estimated return of power. They hadn't even sent out anyone to the area yet. The house had dropped into the mid forties. The outside wind chill was in the teens. Once the sun was high and shining in our bay window the inside temperatures went up a few degrees, perhaps as high as 47.

We spent most of the day under covers, shivering anyway, and reading, or in my wife's case trying to sleep. Whatelse was there to do?  At one point I suggested we go to the movies, at least it would be warm a couple hours. "La La Land" was playing some matenees starting early, but my wife didn't want to do that, nor did she want to go down to the Senior Center. Around the middle of the day she said lets take a ride. We can get heat in the car.

I drove out all the way to West Chester when I realized I left my wallet at home. I was uncomfortible driving with no identification or license, so we drove home. I had considered stopping for lunch somewhere, but we couldn't now because we had no money or credit cards with us. Coming back we noticed some DP&L trucks down at the bottom of Honeywell, a street a couple blocks from us. When we got home I called DP&L again, but no change, just some hope.

It would be a long day. I again considered a hotel, but if the electric was going to be back by midnight or maybe, just maybe, a little sooner than out, why spend the money we really didn't have. We could tough it out until then.

The lady across the street knocked on our door. She had come to make sure we were okay or if we needed anything. This family, who are Black, had just moved in over the past year. I thanked her for thinking of us.  My friend, Ron, from two-doors down stopped by as well. He restarted my generator, which we had turned off when we took our ride. He gave me his cell number, suggested if it got tow cold that evening we should come to his place for awhile. he had gotten his own generator working earlier. It was one tied into the house system, but something had been broke on it and it wasn't working. Now it was fixed and he had heat. He checked the gas level in my generator and ended up pouring my extra gas in. I would have to go get a new backup supply.

There is a young White girl who rents the mother-in-law suite in the back of their home. She has been there a couple year even prior to them buying the place from the former and long time owners. She was now across the street, with one of Jamie's workmen, trying to dig her car out of the frozen snow. She has to park on the street, so the plows had kind of buried her wheels. He was trying to use a snow shovel and she was hacking away with one of those brush-scrappers you use on windshields.

I have a heavy duty scrapper, a heavy metal thing. I took that across saying it might work better. I then noticed a DP&L truck down at the end of our street. I handed her the scrapper and walked down, which was not easy because of the frozen snow on parts of the sidewalk. I turned the corner and there were a line of power company vehicles along the curb between my street and the next. I could not see any of the workmen; they were all up in this fence row between yards where the power lones are strung.

I came back up and tried to help the young
woman break the ice imprisoning her despite my condition. Neighbors had been helping me, I could lease try to help a neighbor myself. But then Jamie backed his pickup out, hitched her car to his tow know and he was able to tow her out. He told me then that he and a crew were driving on I-95 to the Navy Yard in Philladelphia earlier. There was a larger truck ahead of him and a frozen sheet of show flew off its roof and smashed out his own truck's windowsheild. Great.

With her car out, I drove again to Wawa and filled up my gas can.

We went out to dinner again, which meant I turned off the generator again. I left it off for the rest of the night.  Coming back from dinner I looked down Honeywell and the electric crews were gone and they were gone from the area below our house as well. We came home to a house remaining without power. I was a bit disappointed the trucks were all gone. I had believed they would work through the night to get the power flowing again. I was wrong. Now we waited with anticipation for the evening to pass. It was growing closer and closer to 11:59. At 10:15 I called DP&L once more to see if that time was till in place. It was

I dozed off on the sofa a bit after that. When I awoke it was 12:25 and the house was just as cold and dark as before. Come on, where is the promised power?  I called. Now they gave me a new estimated time for restoration. 12:00 noon of March 16, twelve hours away. My wife was crying and saying she couldn't take it, but she had to. I went back to bed and said a prayer, hardly my first.

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