North Dreadful

The next day

Thursday afternoon we went for a dog walk, and while we were out it got even hotter and more humid. When we arrived home, we jumped in the pool. I put my iPhone well away from the water because we all know that iPhones are easily ruined and had to get out of the pool to answer my phone when it rang.
There is a certain style of customer service which is employed for especially valuable customers, either to handle a high profile person or to remedy a past problem. I received the call and immediately heard the urgency in her voice and went inside to take notes.
In her eagerness to help me, “Deb” kept accidentally calling me by my first name, then hurriedly correcting herself and calling me “Mrs….” As it turns out, we are just high profile enough, and had just enough of a problem to fall into both categories, so “Deb” was giving it her all and going to fix everything.
At the same time I started getting texts from my husband, the Medium Cheese (he is why we warrant the special treatment). I had to juggle the phone, continuing with “Deb” and letting the Medium Cheese know that he was making my iPhone buzz in my ear during my phone call. My texts to him say, “Getting smothered right now…like a Persian cat rubbing your legs right after you slathered them in lotion.”
By the time our conversation was finished, I was shivering and took a hot shower. We even had plans to go out to dinner. I got out of the shower to find the house was fully engulfed in a violent storm, with thunder, high winds and driving rain. In the midst of texting the Medium Cheese (who was on his way home on a Metro North Train) about the storm, the power went out.
I next wrote, “The long conversation with the Persian cat means my phone is almost dead.”
The Medium Cheese’s train then stopped. “We will have to sit in Chappaqua ’for a few minutes,’” he wrote. “Which means they don’t know.”
The source of the delay was a tree on the tracks, and I was advised to fetch the Medium Cheese from the train station in Chappaqua.
Turning right out of our driveway we encountered the first downed tree across the road almost immediately, at the top of our next-door neighbor’s driveway. Reversing, we discovered another mess of downed trees tangled in power lines about a quarter mile in the other direction. There was another way out, and we took it, but our way was blocked by another large tree which had pulled down the power lines. We reversed again, and made our way on the last possible route. This final attempt ended when we found the road blocked by a very large tree, about two miles from the red barn where we live. The Medium Cheese had to find his own way back. We were trapped.
The only way back was to re-trace our route, and when we got there we got busy lighting candles and deciding what we would eat, given that the dinner plan had been to eat out so we had nothing on deck. We ate the potstickers from the freezer and as much ice cream as we could. 
The Medium Cheese never made it home. His train was over an hour late, but he couldn’t get past the downed trees from the other direction, either. He went and found a hotel.
I checked the NYSEG web site before bed (having mostly recharged my phone in the car), and saw their estimate that the power on my road would be restored by 3:00 pm the next day. This gave our minor emergency an ending, in the near future, and made the situation seem like a non-event.
We woke to a stuffy, quiet house. I was quite awake before six, and walked a dog, and checked on the status of the fallen trees. Overnight road crews had removed the obstacles and our daily newspaper had been delivered. We cooked up all the bacon and fried some eggs, hard-boiling the rest of the dozen. I checked the NYSEG web site and it had changed the status of our repair to the next day, in the afternoon. The non-event felt like a minor emergency again.
In the afternoon I drove to the airport to pick up our oldest son and he had more friends with him than I had anticipated, so we drove home to our hot, dark house with an over-full car. I gave the houseguests a lesson in flushing toilets with a bucket of water from the swimming pool, and we all had a specific disappointment: there would be no hot showers despite a many-hour plane ride from Europe. Not long after this disappointment, I checked the NYSEG web site and found that the status of our road’s power outage repair had changed from the next day to a blank. I called NYSEG at this point, and spent 25 minutes on hold. I was told that the time was not posted because they no longer knew when power would be restored. We ate out.
That night, I woke at 1:57 am, very hot. I thrashed around for quite a bit, and then my phone rang at 2:25 am. I made motions to answer it, but saw it was a “425” number and decided it was a wrong number. I have had this number for almost two years, but I still get wrong number calls for the old owner of it. I imagine that someday each of us will have one number for our whole lives, but for now, I will still get calls for “Brian.”
I checked the NYSEG site then, and it was still blank.
I managed to get back to sleep.
For breakfast there was coffee (using a French press and bottled water and lighting the gas stove with a match to boil water) and cereal with less-than-ice-cold milk from the cooler. After a few hours of lying around we rallied and went to the grocery store.
On the way we had to detour around the first work crew, addressing the downed trees and power lines closest to our house. A NYSEG crew had commenced work despite the lack of a planned time of completion. We met the second NYSEG crew at work on the other mess of trees and power lines, and we were told by the only guy who didn’t look busy (the grumpily scowling guy standing in the road with no gear, no uniform, no helmet and no sign), “Road closed. You gotta go the other way.” 
I told them to hurry.

Also the next day


How cold and bright and startling is the American supermarket after a few days of no electricity! We replenished the drinking water supply and planned to barbecue. It had come time to buy plastic forks and paper plates as well, since we had run through the dish supply.
I think it was at this point, after the grocery store run but before the power came back that I dropped my iPhone in the toilet. Back when I was teaching at my last teaching job, I used to hear the sounds that high school girls make when they drop their mobile phones in the toilet. My classroom was across the hall from a bathroom, and while they were never supposed to take out their phones except during lunch, they often took advantage of the privacy of a closed bathroom stall. As for me, I did not scream.
As we re-stocked the food shelves and re-organized the coolers, a scheme was devised whereby the overflowing sink full of dishes would be washed by hand using pool water. All of the big pots were filled and set on the stove to boil. The sink was about half full of hot water when the light in the kitchen changed. The hood above the range had come on, for power had finally been restored.
My husband, the Medium Cheese, is also a Relentless Troubleshooter, and by the time we got down to making that dinner, my calls had been forwarded to another phone, and my profile fully installed. It feels almost like magic when technology works, and your pictures and contacts and apps are all there in the new handset. It reminds me that the iPhone is, for me, a nearly perfect device, with exactly three flaws: the battery life is too short, it is not waterproof, and it is made by workers who work under conditions so dire they must be prevented by nets from throwing themselves from their dormitory windows.

Storm victim found in road


 

Another Landlord Story: Appliances

While the stacked washer/dryer unit—which never manages to empty itself of water and has ominous signs of mold in its interior—seemed certain to be the first to fail, it was the ice-maker which had to be replaced not long after we moved in. Its replacement was necessitated by the formation of a glacier in the freezer, and if ever I find a glacier has formed inside my freezer again, I will know not to try to pry the thing open. The oven quit the Monday of Thanksgiving week, requiring a new burner unit, and creating the kind of household emergency so mundane it would barely be worthy of a sit-com, though it was pretty scary for me. In general the hot water situation is like an ancient polytheist religion: quaint, unnecessarily complex, incomprehensible, and frustrating. There is a toilet that flushes with a startling violence.  The room above the furnace/hot-water heater is a consistent 82˚F, perfect for rising bread dough. Most showers are equipped with two separate shower heads, controlled by individual levers, capable of spraying at the same time without overlapping the same sprayed body (unless the person is triple the width of any person in this family).  It’s a rental. It’s fine.
New dishwasher is
different from old
in one respect:
red light on floor
shows it’s on
Before it stopped pumping water out, the dishwasher had been making loud, unhappy-pump noises for a few weeks. Its demise was not unexpected from our point of view. I called the Landlords and She and I discovered that the unit would need replacing since it was not worth a repair.  She and I had two separate conversations where I assured her that ten years is a reasonable life-span for a dishwasher.  A replacement was arranged for, and being an updated version of the same model it would fit perfectly, as would the decorative front panel.
The following Monday we had an appointment for a new unit to be delivered and installed. The Landlord had paid in advance. Two guys arrived and got to work, and I did the sensible thing and stayed the hell out of their way.  It was at this point that I heard vigorous, fast-tempo, insistent knocking on the front door, and though I was only a few feet away I was unable to open the door before it burst open.
There is a sit-com scene where the landlord walks in to the apartment right after delivering his quick, signature knock, and the studio audience (or laugh-track) lets you know that he does it all the time. In the sit-com, this drop-in character will be wacky, and a reliable source for laughs.  While our Landlord is wacky, you do not really laugh at him; you might miss something.
First, he wanted to know if everything was going to be okay. He had to shout to get the attention of the two guys, and they did not really understand his question. Next, he asked if ten years was a reasonable life-span for a dishwasher. Again, he had to shout and ask the question several times. The two guys assured the Landlord that ten years was a reasonable life-span for a dishwasher, and got back to work. Lastly, he asked them if there were spare parts that we should keep from the old unit.  At this point the two guys did not answer even after being shouted at.
The Landlord turned to me and with a twinkle in his eye informed me that his dishwasher is 81 years old. He continued and said that he heats the water for dishes on his wood stove and washes everything by hand, because he has an abhorrence of chipping dishes. He may have actually gone on to tell me about brain scans, the strength of his fingernails, and how he had been a sharpshooter as a lad, but I was in such a hurry to have something else to do that I might have stopped listening.  When you don’t like the wacky landlord character on TV, you just change the channel.