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Irene Leaves Columnist Feeling "Powerless"

Thankful storm left only minimal damage locally, but yearning for electricity and the joy it brings.

In the aftermath of Hurricane/Tropical Storm/Pain in the Butt Irene buffeting us with high winds for a relatively short time, I am now entering my second full day without power at home. And I am not happy.

Our power went out about 10:30 Sunday morning. It had flickered on and off quite a few times prior to actually shutting down, so it was hardly unexpected. But when it finally went off – and stayed off – the full impact of living without the modern miracle of electricity we so take for granted truly sunk in.

Now, I know others are worse off. We are hardly Katrina-type victims here. We should be counting our blessings this storm only gave us a glancing blow. But what kind of born-and-bred New Englander would I be if I passed up a perfectly good opportunity to complain?

While you might think the lack of refrigeration and the inability to cook meals might be our most serious problem, in my case that is second to the fact I have neither television nor internet access. My 55-inch flat screen stares blankly yet accusingly back at me in our family room, almost like a pet disappointed you have not fed it. My computer and my iPad have both been charged via my car, but without my home network, the internet might as well be the moon as far as being reachable. Thank goodness for my iPhone, the one thing keeping me in contact with the cyber world and my email.

My wife and I drove around town during the day yesterday taking pictures and visiting friends and relatives. It took some time to get off our own road, as Maple Street had trees blocking it on both ends.  Eventually we wound up at home feeling the walls closing in. We talked for a while, listened to a short audiobook on my iPhone, and made some phone calls to the kids. Then we talked some more. Then a bit more. Soon we started laughing at the situation.

Having been married 34 years, we have learned to tolerate each other in many ways (her tolerance requires much greater effort than mine).  We decided to play cribbage, but couldn’t find our deck of cards. We argued about which candles we should light and where they should sit.  At one point we seriously considered breaking out my grandson’s Candy Land game and giving it a try.

Around 7 p.m. we decided to look for a place to eat. We soon discovered North Attleboro had power while most other towns did not.  We laughed when we saw cars at the Attleboro McDonalds lined up down the road waiting for the drive-thru. It took us about five stops before we found a place that would even guarantee us a seat before closing, but we did get a good meal and felt much better.

Then we were back home and preparing for bed. Both of us sleep with a CPAP breathing machine for sleep apnea, and with no power that was not happening. So we lay in the unnatural quiet of our house, until I had to find my grandson’s battery-operated noise machine and turn it on next to the bed. Then I slept with one eye open, convinced I would wind up snoring and discover my lovely wife leaning over me with a knife and a shovel.

The morning found me dashing in for a quick shower before what hot water was left dissipated. Then it was off to work early, since my office is in North Attleboro and has power. We also have a TV there – I was really going through withdrawal.

Now we wait for the National Grid crews to reach our home and restore power. We will survive of course, but I really hope it is soon. I can’t stand any more guilty looks from the television.

Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and a big fan of electricity.  He can be reached – eventually – at aninsidelook@aol.com.

Tanya Willow August 29, 2011 at 02:56 PM
I suspect we all had the same day in Norton. We played "Clue" last night. We drove around looking for food and got lucky and realized our local red trailer opposite the Yelle school was open--way better than McDonald's. Real food. No lines. Who knew? Three burgers and chicken salad, thank you. My electrician neighbor had his doorbell lit (generator) while we sat in darkness. But my other neighbor had their pool crushed. So it's all relative. Sending my son out today to get ice. Looks like it'll be a while before Norton comes back to life and we'll try to keep our melting food alive in the fridge in the meantime. But TV? Ah, Bill, who needs it? Internet--well, maybe we all need to unplug once in a while. Re-learn how to talk to those shadows that share our house while we stare into our separate worlds brought to us by our interconnected fabulous devices. But even board games I think have some false romanticism to them. Family can be sore sports. It's just so much easier to lose a game to an impersonal machine!
Mark Stoughton August 29, 2011 at 05:14 PM
Like I told my kids, "Welcome to 1850"! With trees blocking all of our exit routes, we inhabited the 2mph world of our ancestors for an afternoon. After Tanya beat us at Clue, we went out and looked at the stars. Yes there were stars out last night, and with the temporary reprieve from the light pollution, we were able to see the Milky Way and a shooting star.
Jacqueline Haley August 29, 2011 at 06:10 PM
Candle light BBQ last night.. My friends and I made it into a party.. Much fun!!! but now its time for reality..No hot water, laundry, tv, and NO DUNKIN IN NORTON!! this is a nightmare. I spent my morning before work searching for a dunkin.. then to pull up and wait 20 min for a coffee.. I am hearing rumors Lights out till the end of the week!! Is this true??
Bill Gouveia August 29, 2011 at 06:25 PM
My wife just informed me she is buying a generator - never argue with a sleep deprived and angry wife!
Tanya Willow August 29, 2011 at 07:48 PM
The Dunkin lines were ridiculous this morning. Just like McDonald's last night. I'm relearning what I've known...don't go to the big box stores/franchises. It's habit with us all. Go to the little, privately owned joints. I hit a small local deli today on my way to work. Got my coffee and a homemade sandwich. No lines. Great price. My friend last night went to Subway and had to wait and wait. The advertisements for these big places stick in our heads and we forget Dunkin& Subway aren't the only place to go. Lots of tucked away places have good coffee and something else to eat besides a zillion calorie hunk of sugar.
Bob Havey August 30, 2011 at 01:52 AM
Good luck finding one, Bill. Home Depot in Mansfield got 16 in today and they were gone in 15 minutes.
Bill Gouveia August 30, 2011 at 12:40 PM
Oh, she found one! It's like trying to sleep next to a lawn mower! She slept great, I went to the furthest corner of the house and curled up in a ball!
Walter Eykel August 30, 2011 at 01:00 PM
Our family game of choice was “Life”, cool, irony. We lost a couple of trees including some that landed on the wires. Clear now, but still no power…
Bob Havey August 30, 2011 at 03:39 PM
I don't claim to be an expert on generators, Bill, but I'm fairly certain you're not supposed to put it in your bed. :-)
Kara M August 31, 2011 at 12:00 PM
Where did you find a generator Mr G? We couldn't find one anywhere.
Bill Gouveia August 31, 2011 at 12:51 PM
My wife found one at Grainger in Worcester! But we got power back last night - thank goodness! If anyone needs to borrow it (particularly anyone elderly or with small kids) we would be glad to lend it out. It is a heavy sucker!

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