Friday, November 9, 2012

"Diary of a Mad Storm Survivor"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate
Gray, wet and windy. And that just describes me. It also describes Sandy, who is due at my house in a few hours. I put out a welcome mat. It blows away.
I am worried about two things: a skylight that would leak during a drought and a double-trunked oak that I am sure will fall on the house. At least it would give me hardwood floors.
My wife, Sue, calls me at work to say Sandy has arrived.
“Don’t let her in,” I say.
Miffed at our lack of hospitality, Sandy knocks out our power and leaves.
Speaking of leaves, Sue says they are strewn all over the yard. So is a huge branch that has just missed the shed. But the skylight is not leaking. And the oak is still standing.
I can’t make it home, so I stay in a hotel where the company has kindly put me up with several colleagues. One of them brings cheese and crackers and two bottles of wine. We play Scrabble in the restaurant. Words are suggested to describe the situation. None can be repeated here.
I shower at the hotel, which gratifies my colleagues when we return to the office. At the end of my shift, I go home to survey the damage by flashlight. Trees have fallen in the yards of neighbors on all three sides of us. For once in my life, I have lucked out. But we still have no power. Dinner is cold chicken I have to cut with a steak knife. Brrr appetit!
Halloween. Tricks but no treats. It is too cold in the house to shower, so I brush my teeth and go to work.
A female colleague says, “Your hair is neatly coiffed. What did you do to it?”
I reply, “I slept on it.”
Sue, a teacher, is home because school is closed indefinitely. She drives more than half an hour to the house of our younger daughter, Lauren, and her husband, Guillaume, who have power. Sue showers and does our laundry.
Later, after we both get home, we have a romantic candlelight dinner: cold meatloaf. For dessert, there is melted ice cream.
I take the coldest, fastest shower of my life: 1 minute 47 seconds. Then I go to a convenience store to get coffee for Sue.

“Do you have gas?” a woman asks.
“I haven’t even had breakfast,” I respond.
I bring Sue her coffee and go to work. On the way back home, I stop at the Chinese restaurant next to the convenience store for a quart of wonton soup to go with the rest of the cold chicken. Yum.
Sue is sick.
“The Weather Channel should declare this house the cold spot in the nation,” I tell her.
“Achoo!” she responds, adding: “I’m going to Lauren and Guillaume’s. Meet me there later.”
After work, I go home to pack a bag in the dark. Then I drive to a nearby gas station. I sit in line for more than an hour. When I finally get to the entrance, Joseph, who manages the station with his brother, John, says they are out of gas.
“Come back in 10 minutes,” Joseph whispers through my rolled-down window.
When I go back, Joseph lets me in and waves the other drivers away. John fills my tank.
“You are a good customer,” says Joseph.
“And you and John are good guys,” I reply gratefully.
I drive to Lauren and Guillaume’s and have my first hot meal in days: Lauren’s homemade chili. It is not chilly. But it is delicious. Sue and I climb into a warm bed and sleep like babies.
For the first time in nearly a week, Sue and I wake up not feeling like frozen fish sticks. The highlight of the day is waiting in line with Guillaume so he can fill his car’s gas tank. I keep calling our house phone to see if (a) we have power or (b) a burglar answers. No power. No burglar, either. Still, there is no chance we are going back home.
Guillaume and I spend the day watching football. Sue calls the power company’s hotline, which apparently is the only line the company has that isn’t cold, to see if our house has power. It doesn’t. We stay another night. I am beginning to feel like the Man Who Came to Dinner.
Sue and I get up early, thank Lauren and Guillaume for their fabulous hospitality and drive back to our house, which feels like a meat locker. The carbon monoxide detector is beeping, so we call 911. The fire department shows up and determines it’s only a dying battery. Later, Sue discovers that the battery in her car is dying. Our neighbor Ron kindly jump-starts it.
On the way home from work, I pick up a hot meal from the Chinese restaurant. Sue and I decide to spend the night in the house. I go out at 10:30 p.m. to get gas. Two and a half hours later, I drive back home with a full tank. It’s 1 a.m. I dress like I am going on an Arctic expedition (boxer shorts, flannel pajama bottoms, a T-shirt, a long-sleeve cotton top, a sweatshirt, sweatpants and two pairs of socks) and climb into bed with Sue. We shiver ourselves to sleep.
Election Day. A nor’easter is coming. Bluster on all fronts.
At 5:55 p.m., toward the end of a busy day at work, the call comes from Sue: “We have power!”
I let out a whoop. My colleagues applaud. A chill (the good kind) runs down my spine.
I arrive home to a beautiful sight: lights. I enter to a beautiful feeling: warmth.
I think about all the people who have lost their homes or, worse, their lives. I know that Sue and I are lucky.
Good riddance, Sandy. From now on, the only thing around here that’s gray, wet and windy will be me.
Copyright 2012 by Jerry Zezima


Heidi-"Heidi in Real Life" said...

As usual, you've found a hilarious way of coping. Glad you made it.

Dave Astor said...

Great chronicle of being power-less, Jerry. But I never want to read a sequel! :-)

PJK said...


I live in Virginia and read of the storm's devastation up North until I could do so no longer. Endless reading about vast personal loss does not make the tragedy easier to take, even for those of us living elsewhere.

However, your article today is a welcome upside about how you and yours got through. You have wisely and wittily, as always, shown us that even dire situations can have another side—a funny side—that we desperately need for balance.


Suzette Standring said...

Oh, gosh, NINE days and I was caterwauling about losing power at our house for three. You're a hero (with gas and breakfast now!) Hope the nor'easter doesn't take your power out again. I'm in San Francisco until Sunday for a 40th reunion and skies are sunny and temps are mild. I escaped the Wed. storm in Boston by hours.

Cathy Turney said...

That hurricane didn't suck the humor out of you, Jerry! You made it bearable for everyone concerned. Anyone who can laugh in the face of a storm like that is a hero!
XO, Cathy

new jersey chiropractors said...

Great post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts.

foxyroxy said...

Sad but true and COLD .

JustRex said...

Glad to hear that you weathered the storm, Jerry. And especially with almost no damage. You guys were lucky.

Jerry Zezima said...

Thanks, Heidi. I'm glad we made it, too, sense of humor intact.

Jerry Zezima said...

Thank you, Dave. Believe me, I don't want to write a sequel.

Jerry Zezima said...

Thank you, Pete. You know I'm unbalanced, which is how I found the funny side of what was, for a lot of people, a pretty serious situation. Plus, I'm full of hot air. Take that, Sandy!

Jerry Zezima said...

Thanks, Suzette. The only way I resemble a hero is that I am full of baloney. And I'm usually in a pickle. And I like to loaf. (Sorry, I'm blaming it on the storm.) Anyway, I'm glad you escaped Sandy's wrath. By the way, was it the 40th reunion of your kindergarten class?

Jerry Zezima said...

Thank you, Cathy. I did, indeed, laugh in the face of Sandy, who got one look at my face and left.

Jerry Zezima said...

Thanks, New Jersey chiropractors. I'm glad you enjoy my blog posts. Check out my Aug. 17 column, "Taken Aback." It's about going to -- you guessed it -- a chiropractor. I hope you like it.

Jerry Zezima said...

Thanks, Foxy. COLD, indeed. But we are warmly welcoming the return of our power.

Jerry Zezima said...

Thank you, Darev2005. No damage -- to the house or to me. I hope all is well with you.

Mike Farley said...

Jerry, you are consistently clever, a real pro. In your latest, you entertain and inject humor while acknowledging the hardship Sandy left in her wake. And you don't stop with the column -- I especially enjoyed your reply to Suzette, who incidentally lives 15 minutes from me and whom I met at the NSNC conference last year. If I may, I offer one of my columns, "A Letter to the Federal Emergency Management Association," as one that you and your followers may enjoy. I wrote it last year, following Hurricane Irene. Thanks for the humor, Jerry.

Jerry Zezima said...

Thanks, Mike. I loved your letter to FEMA. Here, fellow bloggers, is the link:

Liz said...

Howlingly funny but certainly not fun! As always small indignities are best handled with humor (and sarcasm) while acknowledging the people who suffered real tragedy in this storm. Well done! I just hope you and Lauren never lose power at the same time - although the column sure to follow might be worth it :)

Jerry Zezima said...

Thank you, Liz! I've always been in the dark, so the outage wasn't really a big deal to me. And, yes, many other people had it a lot worse. I hope Sue and I and Lauren and Guillaume don't lose power at the same time, but it's always a possibility with LIPA (the Long Island Powerless Authority).