Okay! I’m done. I carried the last handcart full of firewood from the car to my Supplemental Woodpile, wrapped it up in a blue tarp, laid a pair of snow shovels on top like the cross marking the furtive burial plot of the weakest member of team of Antarctic explorers, and then I said goodbye to the outside world. If things go well, I’ll be free to go back outside on Wednesday. If not, then Thursday.
If things go very badly, the neighborhood will lose power. In which case, my parking the car close to the end of the driveway changes from a “too lazy to shovel the whole thing in case the snow-removal guy never shows” move to part of an escape plan. And yes, I mean “escape plan.” If there’s an extended outage, the ability to get the hell out of Dodge will become an important thing. I’m well equipped to hunker down in an unheated house for a night or two but after that, I’ll bunk in with friends whose living rooms are well above freezing. In a situation like that one, I’ll want to be able to get my car freed and on the road after something less than six hours of shoveling, you see.
No worries, though…this is just good planning. By stacking a night’s worth of heating fuel by the wood stove, and another couple of night’s supply by the front door where I can easily get at it, I’ve reduced a long list of variables to an easily-managed list. I can now enjoy a winter-weather lockdown.
If you’re well-prepared for these things, the experience is a lot like camping. I assume we all agree that the signature feature of camping is “enjoying nature while being annoyed by your temporary living situation?” Good. There you go. You get Nature in the form of gorgeous flocks of snow all around, and Annoyance is represented by the fact that you can’t leave the house and nobody’s willing to deliver a pizza.
The pluses: you get to sleep in a real bed and you’re surrounded by all of your stuff. Even if you lost your electricity, well, you wouldn’t have had that in the tent, either, right? At least here, you’re cold in a real bed. And you won’t have to carry all of this stuff back to the car when you’ve finally had enough.
I’ve been prepping for the blizzard all weekend. I think I’ve completely run out of batteries to charge. After topping up my phones, my tablets, all of the USB battery chargers in the house, and a couple of batteries for the camera — critters come out in force after a big snowstorm — I started charging up a few Bluetooth speakers. I honestly don’t know why I wouldn’t prefer to listen to music through headphones, but how much work is involved to plug this thing into the wall? It’s actually more work to think the decision through than to just shrug and go ahead.
Besides, I might be glad I did. After two days without electricity, I might need to turn the kitchen into a roller disco just to maintain my sanity.
(Crap. I don’t own roller skates. Well, wool socks on my feet and Lemon Pledge on the floor will do just as well. “The old Dunkirk spirit” and all that.)
Lilith’s battery is at 100%. I can keep charging it for a couple of days off of the UPS in my office. Check and check. If I want to put in damned-near a full workday, there’s little to stop me. I’ve got mobile broadband and days and days worth of electrons socked away. Even if the town loses power, the cell tower will keep running for a day or two. Meanwhile, there’s a police-grade LED flashlight in my pocket at all times and big LED lanterns in almost every room, waiting to be put into the game.
I went out for breakfast this morning. It was just one last, long, lusty sniff of the outside world before the indoor camping holiday began. As I tucked into a plate of hot French toast and sausage and thought about my battle plan, I realized that although I’d done such a careful and thorough job making sure that all of my digital necessities were in order, and laying in fuel for the wood stove, I was only about 70% certain that I owned a box of matches.
This would have been the classic “larder full of canned food, not a can opener in sight” blunder. As I truly was in no rush to go home and begin my three days of contemplation, I set out to lock down this ability to make fire.
Once again, I’m embarrassed by the ease with which a freelancer can get things done while the normal people are at their offices. I encountered no lines at the Home Despot (box of strike-anywhere matches, box of firestarters, plus a butane fire-lighting stick thing which I’ve always wanted to have). Even the supermarket was barely lapping above a Saturday-afternoon level of crowding and hostility. Peanut butter, sliced turkey, bag of apples, tea, cocoa, oooh they have the BIG cans of alcohol cooking fuel. I have a camp stove that can make quick work of a pot of liquid or a pan of vittles, but it’s even quicker work with the softball-sized cans. Two in the basket.
Sterno is terrific stuff. It’s like a stovetop burner that you can safely use indoors, and you can keep lighting it, dousing it, and resealing it over and over again. Toss it in the pantry (unlit, ideally) and it’s good forever. Honestly, losing electricity to the house during winter sucks, but so long as you can have hot oatmeal or scrambled eggs in the morning, hot soup and a sandwich for lunch, and a burger or a steak for dinner, it’s easy to recite prayerful thoughts for Those Less Fortunate instead of focusing on the lack of any microwaved Hot Pockets.
I was well-prepared before the trip to the store (two bags of tortilla strips, two jars of salsa, and enough whiskey to keep me naked and raving for days on end). Now I’m weller-prepared. It’s all an investment in the ability to relax through this. It’ll be okay. I’ll be warm and I’ll eat well, and though the outside temps would be a threat to life and limb if I didn’t have a roof over my head, I have that thing. Plus, if I lose power I can empty the freezer into a cooler and drag it into the garage; nothing will go to waste.
As such, I am indeed looking forward to a couple of days of quiet contemplation.
It’s weird to say that. I’m a freelancer. I could arrange a couple of days off from my work schedule at any time and just, you know, not leave the house. But the words “snow day” work the same magic on the adult as they did to the child. It’s the hand that stills the daily metronome and an opportunity to do something else.
I have a shelf of new, unmarked notebooks, collected in stationery stores from across the country and all over the world. If I do lose power, I’ll pull one of them out and write longhand for a few hours at my desk, by lantern-light, living the dream of being the struggling writer in a freezing garret trying to eke out a single solitary bud of genius before dying in a fashion that a moody artistically-inclined teen will one day commemorate with some Sharpie art on a jean jacket.
Oh, some folks asked me about MacBreak Weekly tomorrow. I am not only going to participate but I’m going to participate the hell out of it tomorrow. Even if there’s no electricity, I’m going to stream live video and audio through my phone, and I’ll have the curtains open so everyone can see just how bad it’s all coming down. It might cost me forty or fifty dollars in overages on my data plan, but you would — nay, you should — question my fitness for command if I don’t take advantage of this opportunity for such a killer backdrop, and exploit this gold-plated opportunity for generating sympathy and shoring up my fragile legend.
So to everyone who’s emailed me on social media: I’ll be fine.
I am not, however, expecting that the “guaranteed Monday delivery” of the new mattress I ordered will happen.
Outside, the snow that’s been falling all day is now being tossed around by high winds. That’s the difference between a blizzard and a mere snowstorm. It’s also the reason why being outside in this is absolutely foolish and why by the time this dies down on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, many people will open their doors to find another door of packed snow preventing their exit.
That won’t happen here (for reasons). Once again, this all could be very, very worse. Here’s just one example: I could be the parent of two children who were only just this month starting to stop being such obsessive freaks about “Frozen.” I’m not a parent but I instinctively believe that the sight of several feet of snow everywhere will trap mothers and fathers in a Frozen hell of Disney’s making until the next “Avengers” movie opens, at the very soonest.