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From Darkness Comes Enlightenment

Every experience in life is an opportunity to learn something new. Sometimes what you learn is interesting. Other times what you learn is that you never want to have that experience again. Following Hurricane Sandy, we lost our electricity for 8 nights. While widespread, the power loss seemed random. Luckily there were pockets of the area that still had electricity. I spent a week roaming the county as a nomad in search of an electrical outlet. Evenings were long, dark and cold. As I sat shivering in my home under piles of blankets, I contemplated the irony of being so cold as a result of a tropical storm and the lessons I had learned from this experience.

  • Smartphones are the Swiss army knives of the 21st century.
  • Using a power strip when charging multiple devices at a public outlet is proper power outage etiquette.
  • Thoroughly scrubbing the refrigerator and freezer is much easier to do when it’s empty because we’ve had to throw out all of our food.
  • Thanks to the cold, I’ve had the opportunity to do a complete inventory of every blanket in our home.
  • It takes approximately 4 days without power to stop trying to turn on light switches.
  • Sleeping with a hat on gives me a wicked combination of bed-head and hat hair. Yikes!
  • Darkness can be a blessing. There is no fashionable way to wear so many layers. I would have been horrified to catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror.
  • I don’t need light to shower; I know where all the necessary body parts are.
  • Toothpaste and toilet seats get very, very cold.
  • Ziploc bags filled with hot water and laundry detergent are a great way to wash underwear, but  it will take days for them to dry since there is no heat in the house.
  • I’ve memorized my car’s license plate because I needed to know if I could get gas on even or odd days while it was being rationed.
  • Always, always, always get a full tank of gas before a storm.  (see above)
  • If I owned the company that makes orange traffic cones, I’d be rich.
  • Using a hand cranked radio is a great way to keep warm and burn calories.

    Using a hand cranked radio keeps Oregano warm and informed.

  • A candlelight dinner is not nearly as romantic when I’ve actually had to cook that dinner by candlelight.
  • When I go to bed when it gets dark at 6:30 p.m., I wake up at 2:00 a.m. and it is still dark.
  • I don’t have what it takes to be Amish.

One of the most important lessons I learned is that I have caring, generous friends who opened their warm homes, refrigerators and washing machines for us.

Oregano and I were very fortunate that our home only sustained minor damage. Others were not so fortunate. If you want to help the people deeply affected by Hurricane Sandy, you can donate to the Red Cross.

About Paprika Furstenburg

I was born with an overly developed sense of humor and poor coordination. The combination of these two character traits has taught me humility and given me the perspective to find the funny in everyday experiences.

54 responses »

  1. wow, this must have been quite brutal. yay for your sense of humour – probably more so in hindsight. thanks for sharing. all i can say is, more power to you!

    • You are quite right. It was a lot harder to see the humor in this situation when we were in the midst of it. We knew we were lucky given all that other people had lost and that helped us keep things in perspective. Sometimes perspective gets lost when you are putting on mittens before you go to sleep. LOVE the power pun 🙂

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  3. This is wonderful. Sorry it is sad that you still don’t have power. Here’s to you being up and running soon.

  4. You are way more of a trooper than I am. I wish I could say that I made our 26 hours without power an adventure but I whined. In retrospect, I feel guilty as many of my friends were out for a week. I would not have been a good pioneer woman! Glad you are restored!

    • I don’t think I was trooper, but rather a disappointed optimist. Every morning I would wake up and think that the power would come back on that day. As the sun set, I realized it would be another cold, dark night. I kept thinking it had to come on any time now and that seemed to stretch itself for 8 days. It was miserable, but seeing the pictures of people’s homes destroyed kept things in perspective for us.

  5. We only lost power for three days. Last year during the snowstorm it was six. I was still flipping the light switches. I suppose I am a slower learner than you.
    Glad you’re okay.

    • Glad you were OK up there in CT.

      I may have learned to stop flipping light switches on after 4 days, but old habits die hard. Oregano pointed out that the lights I normally forget to turn off when we do have electricity were the same ones I turned on then left when we didn’t have electricity.

  6. Glad you’re back on! This country is way to reliant on electricity, petroleum, and gadgetry.

    We’re no strangers to hurricanes, too much water, and no power for several days. The last one in 2008 resulted in as much on your punch list, only it was in the 90’s and very muggy. And the house was wrecked so we had to move into an apartment for 3 months. Makes one appreciate the little things! (We will never take A/C for granted again.) We now regularly (like daily) live without power for long stretches. Our energy bill has been cut in half, there’s no urgent need for the internet or cell phone, and we’ve learned how to eat well without needing refrigeration or the corner grocery.

    • Thanks, Shannon. I think being in the 90s and muggy without power is just as miserable as being in the cold without power. I didn’t mind not having the lights or TV so much, but I really missed the heat.

      We aren’t huge cell phone useres, but I will say that our cell phones were our life lines after this storm. When the power went out so too did our landline. Our cell phones were the only way we could communicate with family and friends, check on power restoration and road closures.

  7. What a great post! Hilarious! I can remember from the times we’ve been without power, like following a snowstorm, that the forgetting and still hitting the light switch thing is dead-on accurate.

    I’m so glad that your home sustained only minor damage. I hopes things are looking up for you and Oregano. Thinking of all the storm victims and what a huge mess it is there right now. I have several friends and a couple family members in New Jersey.

    • Thanks, Angie. The first few days after the storm we couldn’t go anywhere and couldn’t watch the news. We heard them describe the impact of the storm on the radio, but the first time we saw the pictures from the Jersey shore and NYC, we could not believe the level of destruction.

      Things in our part of NJ, where there was mostly damage from wind, are slowly starting to return to normal. Our hearts break for the people along the coast who lost their homes from the storm surge.

  8. I’m so happy you have your power back. I remember cleaning out the freezer and fridge numerous times over the years as we dealt with one tropical storm or hurricane or another. I’ve been thinking a lot about the fact if it’s better to lose power when it’s cold, or when its hot? I have donated to the Red Cross a few times but still feel like I’m not doing enough.

    • I was so happy to get my power back Tuesday night I almost cried. I was so cold and it was getting colder by the day. (Of course this weekend it’s nearly 60 degrees.)

      As I sat there shivering with mittens on in my house I too wondered which is worse, being without power when it’s hot or when it’s cold. I came to the brilliant deduction that they both suck.

      Good for you for donating to the Red Cross. They seem to be the primary source for caring for the people who’ve lost their homes. No matter how much you give or help, it never seems enough to make up for the loss those people suffered.

  9. Paprika, I’m so glad that you came thru this experience with your humor intact. Kudos to Oregano for working the hand-cranked radio. I found ours on Halloween and tried that out. It’s a lot of work. Ronnie, you also are in my thoughts and prayers. Hugs to all of you. May the power be restored quickly.

    • Thanks, Judy. A few more days without power and a few degrees colder and I’m not sure my humor would have remained intact.

      Thankfully, the crank radio also took batteries. It was getting tiring having to crank that thing all the time, but it was the only way we could get the news other than using our cell phones.

  10. oh boy! 8 days! we only lost it for about 2.5 days and I can relate to all of this – I have a clean fridge, waited in some interesting (and drama filled) gas lines, we had a pancake candle-lit dinner (yes, only kind of romantic), we were thankful we still had hot water, but I did really miss my hair dryer. But yes, we were really LUCKY. It was certainly was weird how spotty and pocket-y it was – we felt bad as we drove around the ‘hood and saw so many in darkness after we got power back. Are we planning to cut down every tree in our yard? Yes! Seriously. So scary.

    • I could do 2.5 powerless days standing on my head at this point. It was not fun. I’m glad we had friends who let us get warm and use their washing machine or things would have been a lot worse.

      I don’t ever want to hear that kind of wind again. We have quite a few large oaks in our backyard and I was terrified that they would come crashing through our house. Yikes is right!

  11. Glad you maintained your sense of humour! Not the same but my boiler broke so I just lost heat and hot water for five days this week. I tried the early nights too, only to find the early mornings just as cold! My dog was considered a valuable resource, I had her sat on my lap for a bit of warmth!

    • My cats were also a valuable ressource when we were without heat. They were snuggled up against me every night and, on the really cold nights, slept under the blankets with me. I’m not sure who was keeping who warm in that situation.

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment 🙂

  12. You have the most wonderful sense of humor and I’m sure that’s what carried you through. That and having city water. Cause that’s the hardest for us when we have no power — we have no water. No flushing, which is the worst. Modern plumbing is wonderful.

    • It was difficult to maintain a sense of humor when the temps in the house hovered around 50 degrees. As you said, having city water helped and the fact that we still had hot water made things bearable. I met a woman who had a well and said she needed to go to the creek on her property to get water to flush her toilets. I have never been so grateful to be able to flush a toilet. Modern plumbing is definitely wonderful.

      • We fill our bathtubs at the first hint of thunder. I would kill for a generator but it is my husband I’d have to bump off, and he’d need to set it up. (He thinks we will die of carbon monoxide poisoning if we get one. I suspect he is simply cheap.)

      • I think you might be right since they do make battery powered carbon monoxide detectors.

  13. Frozen Cat Barf and Frozen Cat Stools. Memories are made of this. Glad you troopers made it through the ordeal.

  14. You forgot the part about not being able to visually locate puddles of cat regurgitations on the floor. However it is easy to find them with your feet. Luckily, we always had socks on due to the cold temperatures.

    • I didn’t forget to mention it. I was trying not to remember it.

      • LOL!

        Chez moi, in Currier & Ives Connecticut, the little devils enjoyed so much one-on-one time with me, they began to return the catch from their extended late night hunting outings to our warm fireplace hearth – next to which I slept.

        Special sacrificial gifts, in all kinds of anatomical disarray: sometimes just the heads, often just the entrails, a tail, or a whole back end, if I was especially good that day …

        My own little Kitty Red Cross food donations, which I was apparently supposed to add to our dwindling pantry, or put on skewers like cat versions of marshmallows over the fire?

        … but mostly ended-up discovering with my bed socks during a blind mid-night shuffle to the loo. : \

      • Ewwwww…Thankfully, my little guys don’t go outside. We only had to play find the hairball, not find the random, disemboweled animal. Thanks for such a vivid description of your experience 🙂

        Maybe we should invent slippers with headlights for cat parents to wear.

  15. I struggle when the power goes out for less than a day. I’m glad you and your husband are okay. The light switch made me laugh.

  16. When the next edition of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) begins collecting new data, I believe there should be a new entry for those suffering from a loss of power for a significant period of time as a result of a hurricane and the malady should be called “Tropical Depression.” I am glad to hear that you are recovering nicely.

    • Excellent suggestion, Dr. Bob. You should probably begin petitioning the committee. Let’s hope the meteorologists and psychologists don’t have to fight it out to decide who gets to use that terminology.

      So happy to have this behind us.

  17. Since I live in the land of the “Big One” and can anticipate an earthquake of epic porportions in my lifetime, I really appreciate the hint about the ziploc bag, hot water, and laundry detergent. I will be adding that to my arsenal of ways to cope when we deal with our own natural disaster. Maybe if I keep those giant ziploc bags on hand I will be able to wash jeans as well? Glad your power is back on! I bet you will never take those light switches for granted again! I am curious, was there a problem with cell phone service due to the lack of electricity?

    • I’m sure you could wash your jeans in the larger Ziploc bags and with the California sun, they would dry. I hope you never have to do that though.

      Apparently, a lot of cell towers were knocked out by the lack of power especially when the power loss went on for a long time surpassing the life of the back-up generators. We live in central NJ and didn’t really experience any loss of service. The only problem we had with cell phones was finding places to go to recharge our batteries. Most cafes, restaurants and public buildings didn’t mind people plugging in their phones to recharge them. I was also able to sit in my car with the heat on to warm up and charge my phone.

      Other parts of the state had more difficulties with cell service.

  18. You managed to put a funny spin on every hurricane-related inconvenience! I can so relate to each and every one! I’m wondering how to justify my bedhead/hathead now that my power is restored . . .

  19. So hoping the sun is out. This is a great post – you are managing with wit and style.
    I had forgotten about ziplock washing potential! My dad was always rabid about you must always have a sleeping bag around – no matter the climate. Not so silly as it turns out.
    Power takes forever to start back up – they fix something and discover something else blows or is unexpectedly not working.
    Hoping ya’ll stay warm and dry ( and just a little crazy)

  20. Not only would you be a quatrillionaire if you invented orange cones, it’d be a great line to tell at parties. Plus you could tell everyone you got the inspiration from wizard hats.

  21. The belly laughs keep coming! Great title! And great idea to link to the Red Cross for donations!! Loved it, Paprika! xoxo

  22. Nice piece. Hope you’re OK on this forced camping adventure.

    • We were very lucky given the destruction that is all around this area. It was an uncomfortable inconvenience, but we kept things in perspective. This experience has taught me that I have absolutely no desire to ever go camping. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment 🙂

  23. Paprika, come to our house, which we lovingly call “The Tundra.” Day 11, and still no power. Yesterday a crew from the Ohio power company played with some wires across the street while a lovely crew from the Illinois power company toyed with some lines around the corner. Then they all met in the middle and played a rousing game of “Ring Around the Rosie,” and promptly quit at 5PM.

    The neighborhood still resonates with their music and suffers with the cold and darkness.
    Next summer if anyone complains about the heat………..

    • Oh, Ronnie, I’m so sorry that you still don’t have power. I didn’t mind the dark as much as I minded not having heat. We referred to our house as “The Cave with Indoor Plumbing.” Good news, the temperatures are supposed to reach 60 degrees by Sunday, I’m sure your power will be restored just in time for you not to need your heat.

      If you need anything or a warm place to relax, just email me. You’re welcome anytime.


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