March 6, 2018 - I overslept, so off to work I went unfed, unbathed, unshaven and wearing yesterday’s clothes. On the way, I stopped by my home to wheel the two garbage bins out to the road—trash collection must go on through rain, hail, sleet or snow. First, I filled up a huge trash bag with virtually everything in the refrigerator. For some reason, the odor of olives permeated the interior of the fridge, so the jar of Spanish olives was the first thing to be chucked, quickly followed by almost everything else in the refrigerator. I had bought thirty-five dollars’ worth of cheese and cold cuts just hours before the storm began the past Thursday; that all got thrown out, along with a case of state-of-the-art Brown Cow yogurt. This storm was now draining me financially, as it already had mentally and physically.
Through the snow and out to the road I wheeled the trash bin, loaded with suddenly worthless groceries that, less than a week earlier, had cost close to $300. Next, I brought out the recyclable container, aligned the two bins for pickup and headed back up the driveway toward my car.
The porch light came on! Was I seeing things? Yes, I was—the porch light! Too late to utilize this new found power surge to clean up for work. I drove to the correctional facility comforting myself in the knowledge that the siege was over. Was my comfort short-lived? There had been vague rumblings of second nor’easter due Wednesday. This was Tuesday. Let's live for today!
At the correctional facility, my optimism was dampened somewhat more when told that county employees were not to come to work the following day due to the impending storm.
5 p.m. - After work, I drove to Gina and Ricks’ place, thanked them for their hospitality, collected Buddy and headed home.
While at my job that day, there had been complaints from some co-workers that they had regained electric power only to lose it again. With that in mind, I turned onto Sportsmen Drive (my street) with some trepidation, fearing I'd see that the darkness had returned. I couldn't gauge the power situation looking into the homes I passed and there are no streetlights on Sportsmen Drive that would have tipped me off, so I pulled into my driveway not knowing what to expect. From the outside, I couldn't be sure if I still had electricity. All appeared dark. The porch light was off. Had I left it on? I couldn’t remember. Had I left any lights on inside the house? I couldn’t remember that, either. The suspense was killing me. I walked up the stairs of the side stoop, opened the door and saw, to my great relief, the kitchen light was on. Life was good! In went Buddy, excited to be back in his home but, no doubt, less appreciative than I that the kitchen light was on and what that fact signified. He hopped onto the sofa and made himself comfortable. I cooked up a most likely re-frozen dinner and made a cup of coffee (decaf). I took my food and drink and plopped into my recliner. On went the TV. Ah, the comforts of home were back!
March 7 - 5:30 a.m. There’s nothing like waking up in a warm, well-lit house. Some lights had been left on overnight just so, upon waking up, I could immediately revel in my home’s newfound electricity. When the reveling was over, I let Buddy out to do his business. When he came back in he got fresh kibble and water, the old-fashioned kind from the faucet.
For the first time in six days I was starting the day off with my customary, boring routine - a boring routine I especially appreciated this day. A cup of coffee (still decaf), toasted bagel (however, without the butter that was deep-sixed the day before), a half a grapefruit and a second cup of coffee (yes, decaf). I did some work on the computer for the first time in days. I also called Clara on my freshly-charged phone. She was enjoying her sisters’ company and the great weather in Florida. I was happy for her - sort of.
As the morning progressed, Canadensis suffered very little snow fall. I wished the county hadn't told us to stay home.
1:00 PM – My tune changed. The snow was now falling in bunches. The wind had picked up, although nowhere near as violently as it had in the previous storm, at least not yet. My home's electricity supply now seemed like such a fragile commodity, one that I could do nothing to hold on to. I tried to get as much done as I could while the electric service lasted.
3:00 PM - It was starting to get dark a bit prematurely, perhaps because the sky was overcast and snow was still falling. The wind also had picked up a bit. Just like that, the lights flickered and the TV cable connection went out. Here we go again! Then, just like that, the lights came back on and the TV began rebooting itself. How long would my luck hold out? Though forewarned about this second storm, I hadn’t attempted to purchase batteries, kerosene or bottled water. Clara would have made the effort; that’s who she is. I had neglected to; that's who I am.
The lights flickered again and, this time, they went out. I sat in my recliner, second-guessing my sense of recklessness and envying Clara’s sense of preparedness. At this point, I didn't feel like lugging in firewood anymore—I was beaten down, ready to except the frigid punishment my lackadaisical attitude merited. Upon further reflection, out I went to the woodshed, and back in I came carrying logs. I made five trips, loading up for the long haul. By my calculations, I had enough wood to keep the fire going until I went to bed, which would be soon enough. Tomorrow, I’d utilize the rest of the wood I had brought in. The second act of this weather drama was beginning to feel a lot like the first act.
I sat in my recliner, determined not to start up the fire until the temperature got below 50°F. Why waste firewood? I sat, and I sat, and I sat. Eventually, I dozed off.
4:15 p.m. - I woke up to bad news and good news. The bad news? There was definitely a chill in the air - inside the house. The good news? The lights were back on and cable was again rebooting. How long would this game of electrical cat-and-mouse go on?
I let Buddy go outside and checked the weather conditions. Heavy, wet snow had now fallen to the tune of seven to eight inches. At least for now, though, the snowfall appeared to be tapering off and there were no blasting wind gusts. Was the worst over or was this just a lull designed to get my hopes up?
I spent the rest of the evening in my home with electricity as a welcome guest. Buddy went to bed around seven p.m. I hit the hay around nine p.m. in a warm house. Would I wake up in one?
March 8 - Six a.m. Yes was the answer! The storm was gone but the electric power had thankfully lingered on.
The roads were bit dicey, but I made it to work, albeit twenty minutes late. The first thing I did on the job was to bring up the local weather forecast on my computer. There were no storms in sight for the next seven days. My weeklong weather induced nightmare was over.
March 10 - A bright sunny Saturday and, more importantly, the third straight day of decent weather and electrical power. All local businesses and workplaces had been up and running for several days now. The roads had been cleared of disabled vehicles and debris. The scattered pockets of snow that remained gave little hint as to what havoc the weather had caused for a full week.
In the early afternoon, Clara arrived back home from her vacation. She described in enthusiastic detail what a great time she'd had with her sisters - chatting, shopping, winning $650 at the casino, etc. Then she asked me, “How was your week? Tough? “
“You have no idea.”
Epilogue - Following are some of the lessons I learned from this double-barreled nor’easter attack:
One—During the winter, always have a supply of batteries, kerosene, and bottled water in the house.
Two—Invest in a wood stove, fireplace insert or generator.
Three—Have a decent amount of non-spoilable food in supply at home.
On a lighter note:
Four—You can have cabin fever and be freezing cold at the same time.
Five—When you come in from the storm, make sure there isn’t another one following close behind.
Six—In lieu of all of the above, time your vacation in a warm weather spot as cleverly as Clara did.
Seven—Try to make lemonade out of lemons. The lack of electricity gave me the opportunity to wean myself (admittedly in very uncomfortable fashion) off caffeine (alas, two years later I’m anything but caffeine-free. What is a writer to do?). Also, the limited availability of edible food and my temporarily diminished appetite enabled me to cut down enormously on the junk food I tend to eat daily. Since the storm I had no ice cream, cookies or candy for many weeks (once again, that was then and this is now).
The following lesson stands apart from all the above: Throughout our ordeal, my dog was stoically accepting of everything. If he had any complaints, he kept them to himself. His upbeat mood never slackened and his faith in me never wavered.
Buddy proved once and for all that a dog is a real friend, and not just a fair weather friend.
Hope you enjoyed Cabin Fever. I’d greatly appreciate your feedback.
Walter Stoffel author of Lance: A Spirit Unbroken
P.S. If you missed Part 1 of Cabin Fever, let me know and I’ll get it to you.
P.P.S. It’s Monday, April 2 and, in Canadensis, it’s snowing!
P.P. P.S. Almost forgot! Check out http://www.lanceaspiritunbroken.com/
Walter Stoffel is a substance abuse counselor and GED teacher in correctional facilities. When not behind bars, he likes to read, travel, work out and watch bad movies. Major accomplishment : He entered a 26.2-mile marathon following hip replacement surgery and finished—dead last. The author currently lives with his wife Clara, their dog Buddy (another rescue), and cat Winky (yet another rescue).