April 06, 2020

Should those with power feel a sense of guilt?> A step back in time leaves many grumpy

Here are some questions I have.

How do you get wax out of a tablecloth?

Why do the phone and toilet work, but not the TV?

Does Marky Mark really qualify for the Scattergories clue “A notorious person” beginning with “M”?

How long can you eat cheese sandwiches before you get sick?

And if a tree falls in your back yard, should you cry?

If you’re asking any of these questions, then you must be one of the fortunate folks, the ones whose lives have been horrifically inconvenienced but not threatened during this state of emergency. While others are looking for a place to survive, we lucky ones are calling home to see if the answering machine has juice. We’re longing for a cup of boiling hot tea. We want to do the laundry and get back into that novel we’re sick of reading by candlelight.

At our house, we’re in Day 5 of the Great Ice-Out. No electricity. No hot water. Just yesterday we got a generator to get the furnace cranking. So, of course, we keep it at about 85 on the thermostat in case we get downgraded again.

But heat or no heat, we’re close to coming undone.

We’ve played board games. We’ve had pizza and corn chips and soda — for breakfast. We’ve giggled and cried and fought. We’ve made highfalutin proclamations about silver linings (“Gosh, isn’t it swell to not have TV so we can sit around and talk like families used to in the olden days before electricity and boom boxes?”). And we’ve made disgraceful, embarrassing, childish comments to our children (sure, like I’m going to repeat them in this column).

At night, we’ve split into factions and found beds and floors and heat sources where we could. One night, we rented a hotel room where the kids took over one room and we sequestered ourselves into another room and turned on all the lights just because we could.

When we went to the movies (a sure sign that our household didn’t exactly qualify for disaster status), we hung out in the lobby and watched as people hugged each other, shared war stories and invited friends to use the guest room. We listened as one buddy told an amusing little story of how he set his arm on fire trying to adjust a propane gas tank. And how a girlfriend took her kitty to a hotel room with her.

Of course, we’ve hoped that all those people who have had power most of the time are consumed by survivor guilt. A friend whose power has been restored called me this morning to see how I was holding up. That is, he called after he had a toasty breakfast, a go on his exercise bike, and the option of overhead lighting. Me, I had done dishes in a pot of tepid water heated on a radiator.

“I feel guilty,” he said.

“Good,” I thought.

My family has slept in more houses, bathed in more bathrooms and been pleasant to more people in the last five days than in the last five months.

But here’s the upshot: Now we’d like this to be over. We would even like to go back to school. Not that we don’t appreciate the darn good work of all those local electrician types, but we’d like Scotty to get the Enterprise up and working at warp speed.

Forgive us, but we’re tired of being nice.

And we’d like that morning cup of hot tea more than anything in the world, please please please.

One of my co-workers who lives in an outlying town that may get electricity by August tromped by my desk today on his way to a dungeonlike shower in the basement of our workplace.

“It’s no fun anymore,” he said, a scowl on his unshaven face. “It wasn’t to start with. But it really isn’t now.”

Hey, no joke.

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