I swear, if I didn’t know better, I’d think it was going to snow today. It just LOOKS like snow outside, all flat and gray and cold. Maybe, though, I’m just a little nervous, as it was about this time of year three years ago when we got hit by this huge ice storm that knocked our power out for over a week. NOT fun.
I mean, at first it was, because bad weather is always a little fun here, as it shuts everything down. I know you folks up in New England and the midwest can go on about your business like normal during a blizzard, but get a few flurries going around here and everyone panics. People either 1) batten down the hatches and stay home, terrified to be out on the roads or 2) immediately leave to go stock up on bread and milk in case they get snowed in later. We have no real plows, or chains, in any kind of numbers, so when the roads get all snowy you’re pretty much stuck. Which is just fine with me. A snow day is a great thing. You can’t go run errands, or do anything productive, so you might as well curl up with a book or some DVDs and wait it out.
The ice storm, though, was different. It started with a little sleeting, nothing big. I specifically remember, when I went to bed, not even considering that the power might go out. But then, early in the morning, I was awakened by my dog Scout (passed now, what a good dog) nudging me with her nose, which she always did when she was freaked out by thunderstorms. There were all these bright flashes in the distance, and at first I did think it was lightning. Nope. It was transformers blowing all over the place as the power lines, now covered in ice, came crashing down.
That was day one. It went on for several more, no heat, no water (well pump is electric) very cold. It’s manic and fun for about, oh, six hours. Then you get into pioneer thinking: your entire day becomes preparing for when it’s dark, and even colder. And the bad news kept coming. We were supposed to go to London for a vacation, but could not leave our house as it was, so we had to cancel the trip. I’d sent off a book to my editor, which I hoped she would like: she left me a message, which I returned while at my best friend Bianca’s house taking a shower and trying to warm up (she lived across the street from the power company, so she had power). I distinctly remember sitting in her guestroom, with my sad little duffle bag I was dragging around whenever I could mooch some hot water off anyone, calling my editor and her having to break the news that she just didn’t think the book was up to snuff. What a lousy day.
Of course, things did get better. Eventually, the power came back on, we were able to cash in our London tickets for a trip to Florida, and I sold the next book I wrote, which was The Truth About Forever. It was just a bad couple of weeks in what was a fine year, all and all. But still: I remember. This is why I always make sure we have ample firewood now in the winter, and gallons of drinking water, and flashlights and batteries and candles. It’s also the reason I make a point, on days like today when I wake up and it’s cold, to be grateful for the heat and the fact that the thermometer doesn’t look like this:
Eighteen degrees outside, forty-one in. Yikes. I’m going to give my thermostat a nice grateful pat.