When the late October rain and windstorm left us in the dark for three days, I was left powerless.
Suddenly the electronic tools I depend on to work from home were dark and silent. With no landline phone, no working computer, and no way to charge my cellphone, I had to work out of my car.
At my house in Boxford, no power means no water, no heat, and no cooking, unless I wanted to try my hand at using an 18th-century fireplace. Without coffee, I am useless in the morning. Without coffee and my computer, I am just plain petulant.
On the Monday after the storm, the sun came out. I was hopeful that the power would return shortly, but as the day wore on, the power companies were telling government official it might be a “multiday event.” On the National Grid outage page, our restoration was posted as 11 p.m. on Thursday.
Thursday? Blinking in disbelief, I had to reread the post on my phone. How could that be? Did they just put out a worst-case schedule so when power returned sooner, they could say, “Look, we beat our estimates?”
A drive to a meeting in Beverly on Monday that usually takes about 30 minutes took 55. I was detoured as downed trees and wires blocked the main roads in Boxford. The person I was meeting also was powerless, so we agreed to meet at Panera Bread.
After circling for a parking space, I had to wait in line to get in the door. The storm left over 200,000 Massachusetts homes without power and closed schools. All 200,000 families apparently decided to go to Panera in Beverly for breakfast.
Monday afternoon, I sat in my running car charging my cellphone. I sent out an e-mail blast asking contacts and editors to be patient if I was slow in responding because I was rationing my cellphone battery.
Being detoured everywhere north of Boston and running my four-door office in the driveway used up a whole tank of gas. Foolishly, I thought I could just go fill up. My usual gas station was without power, and so was my second choice. When I did find a gas station that was open, I waited in a long line. Then I had to empty my pockets, handbag, and emergency cash supply to come up with $14 because it was cash only.
My yoga class was canceled, which did not help my blood pressure or my ability to cope.
Day two was even more frustrating. Deadlines were approaching and my cellphone battery was depleting as fast as my spirits. Another day without a shower and having to trek out for morning coffee irritated me and probably anyone that was unfortunate enough to be near me.
Everything in the refrigerator and freezer was spoiled. I held my nose and cleaned out the refrigerator. I expressed my frustration by throwing produce, eggs, and biodegradables into the woods. The rest of the spoiled food filled up two barrels.
Tuesday afternoon I headed to the Haverhill Public Library, where it was warm and I could get up to two hours of computer access. At least I could answer e-mail, draft some short documents, and check on when we’d get power back.
I was overjoyed when National Grid moved our restoration time up to Wednesday by 4 p.m.
On Wednesday morning, the cars were covered with frost. The house was cold and dim. I warmed up in my mobile office in the driveway, answering e-mail on my phone. Schools reopened and life was getting back to normal for most people as National Grid announced only about 33,000 were now powerless.
Eagerly, I anticipated the power coming back on at 4 p.m. That target would be updated multiple times. It moved to 9 p.m., then 10:45, before I gave up and went to bed wearing two sweatshirts and wool socks.
Thankfully, the power returned at 2:30 a.m. on Thursday. My computer powered up, and so did my outlook, at least until I spent over $100 at the grocery store to restock basics and refill the tank of my mobile office again.
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