Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Powerless in Ohio

No picture today--my computer "is dead," Tom says, and I am at the library on #28, which does not have an ergonomic keyboard. One of oh so many ways we are suffering.

We have drinkable water, even hot water, and a gas stove you can light with a match, but not the oven. Oh well, just use the toaster oven. No. Okay, the microwave. No. And more good news, the weather is perfect, 75 today, cool at night. If it were the dead of winter we'd have to be bundled up a foot from the gas fireplace.

It's been like this since Sunday at about 4:00, when the hurricane(!) started. That's almost 3 days now. We have emptied the refrigerator, and rolled the trash to the curb. A fine chance to clean the thing out. We have four various-sized coolers going. Yesterday Cindy brought us two bags of ice, free from Whole Foods. Mark and Karina gave us dinner Sunday night, and the next day cleared all the fallen debris from our front yard. Mark opened our electric garage door so we could get out the van, in which is the wheelchair, which so far does not need to be charged. Tina called, she has power, so we took over cellphone and electric toothbrush to charge them: things we don't want to live without if this goes on all week, as originally predicted. We dropped off the Chicken Tenders we keep for our grandson, Otto, for Barb, whose oven works.

Electric power out for dozens of different reasons. You'd be amazed. Every single thing you do is different, and that makes for strain.

By 8:00 pm the street is dead dark, except for a couple of our solar yard lights, and the nearly-full moon. We wear little LED flashlights on ribbons around our necks, then. We are too old to take a fall well. We read a while with flashlights, our habit. Tom is sleeping semi-upright, unable to use his ventilator. So far, he's okay. But even the cat has been disturbed, and can be found sitting in unaccustomed places sphinx-like, all drawn in, wary.

Of course, we are the lucky ones, we all say. Our houses are not flooded (we are on a hill, so don't rely on sump pumps.) None of us had a big tree fall on the house or us, though a branch fell on one neighbor's new car. And it could have happened, you see. We have drinkable water, food, money to eat out. We have plenty of batteries and a weather radio. We are going crazy.

I started to write by hand a Twitter of this event Monday morning. Words are the shelter I weave around myself in an anxious life, waiting for a call from the OSU Transplant center, "We have a kidney for you," a call that is not likely to come for another two years, but could come right now on the cellphone in my shirt pocket. I was dying to write the minute this started, so much to write about, and to check the blogs I follow, and my e-mail, and research things on the internet . . . you know. No, you don't know. How did my whole life come to center on my computer? Ten years ago I didn't even have DSL.

Monday at 9:23 a.m., a neighbor, Kathy, pulled up with ice, and we realized we had to get with it. I stopped my strange Twittering on a yellow pad and haven't resumed. This morning I wrote a poem by hand. I have no way to type it up. My manual typewriter's ribbon is 50 years old, and I'm older, and can't type on a manual anyway.

People who have phones are all calling each other. The community here on the street came to life during the storm we didn't realize was going to qualify as a hurricane, with winds over 75 mph. Debris was flying straight sideways, like in the Wizard of Oz, but you couldn't stand to stay alone inside.

Tom and I, being variously disabled, mostly have our communities and communications online. All gone, thrown back to, well, people you see in the flesh. You wouldn't believe how disconcerting it is.

We are seeing how easy it is to lose much of what keeps our civilization going. Stoplights not working in most of Clintonville, and no police in sight, either. A huge tree uprooted, blocking Glenmont. On another street, a tree took power lines down and landed on a car. The whole scene is surrounded by yellow crime-scene tape. A live power line can kill you.

In this neighborhood, half the stores are closed. People's phones out. At night, the dark. How close we are to that total dark, no streetlights, one lone gas coachlight, and the house so quiet, no furnace fan running, that when a train goes by two blocks away, you feel the vibration through your shoes. Only the cat is used to it. I'll post his picture when it goes back up, which will either be tonight by 8:00 or Friday, or Sunday by midnight, depending on which rumor you believe.

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