It’s Tuesday night. I’m nice and warm and on my sofa, I’ve got things baking in the oven, and I’m watching a TV show that I’m barely interested in. When the storm began on Monday night, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to say any of these things tonight, let alone say it from a computer with the screen brightness turned all the way up, so I’m not at all annoyed with myself for watching something dumb and forgetting that I rented a terrific documentary a couple of nights ago.
That is: well, yes, I’m a little bit annoyed. I’ve been looking forward to seeing “Finding Vivian Maier” ever since I saw the trailer last year. But it sure beats clinging to a Kindle through numb fingers and an uncertain future.
Whoops! I forgot that I didn’t lose power during the blizzard. Also, the communities that really got socked by the snow (and boy, did they ever) were well north of here. My town only got what might be termed “a buttload of snow.” It certainly wasn’t the kind of storm that invites survivors to add dates to the end of that phrase (“The Buttload Of 2015”) or to call themselves “survivors.”
Put it all together, and I really shouldn’t be kiting up the drama of the situation…even I’m only kiting up how badly the Andy in some alternate universe is suffering. No need for sympathy for Ihnatko-prime on this day.
Oh, what a relief it was to wake up this morning and see the correct time on my cable box! I went to bed at about 3 AM Monday night, after essentially replaying that scene from “Apollo 13” where Command Module Pilot Kevin Bacon finishes shutting off every last electrically-powered system in the CM. The camera pans across acres of panels that are seriously never supposed to be totally dark like this. He takes a moment to appreciate there is no circumstance in which you are floating in zero gravity inside a command module without any power and can say “my life is going very, very well.”
As a preventative measure, I shut down all of the things inside the office could be damaged by a sudden loss of power and also unplugged everything from my uninterruptible power supplies, so that all of that stored energy could be used to recharge tablets, phones, and laptops over the next few days if necessary. My NAS was cold, dark and silent, as was the iMac that I normally set to crunch on a project overnight, the network bridge that turns lights on and off at the right times, the SONOS interface…all kinds of beep-boops were no longer beeping nor booping. For the first time in ages, there were no fans whirring or LEDs blinking anywhere in the house. Actually, just for the first time since the last power outage, but you know what I mean.
The house was restored to a state of utter quiet, and a minimum of visual distraction. It was like a meditation space.
This didn’t create a space of calm and peace. Quite the opposite: like Kevin Bacon in his darkened spacecraft, I found it slightly unnerving. And then, I was unnerved by the fact that I found this decreased level of distraction unnerving. This observation makes me want to seek out one of those monasteries that maintains a few minimally-appointed rooms for paying guests. That’s a real thing I once read about. The monastery gets a few bucks, and their visitors get couple of nights of distraction-free contemplation.
(Ideally, this monastery would also Chipotle-adjacent.)
I think of my brain as a computer running the general-release human operating system. I customize and extend the OS as I go, but there’s still some core code that’s so important it’s flashed into the bootloader and its expression can’t be suppressed by circumstance. So, for example, if someone fails to have a child, and also fails to die before age 35, then the “be alert to the possibility that a child has either wandered off or stopped moving and breathing” background daemon shrugs and finds another outlet.
In my case, this code making me react to house-wide silence by making me worry that maybe my servers have crashed or the main board of a computer has failed.
Oh, and I took one hell of a stupid risk before I shut everything down. I needed to free up some space on my DVR, but it was filled with hours and hours of shows that I wanted to keep. I hooked my Mac Mini to to the DVR, started a “Great Performances” broadcast of “The Marriage Of Figaro” playing, and spun up the capture software.
It’s three and a half hours. But hey, man…free opera!
This was a fine idea, in the sense that deleting this one show would free up more than enough space for future recordings. This was also a terrible idea, in that oh, right, a blizzard was just starting up and I’d been preparing as though I were certain that I was going to lose power sometime between Monday night and Tuesday afternoon. Cutting power to a hard drive while it’s writing data is muchly super doubleplus ungood.
I dunno. I guess I just wanted to feel like a Han Solo-esque rogue. The man who starts a 210 minute write operation on a machine that’s not plugged into a UPS and could lose power at any moment is definitely the sort of devil-may-care scoundrel who would try to shake off pursuers by attempting to manually navigate an asteroid field. The loser who busts his ass hauling a completely-not-even-connected-to-anything thirty pound UPS up a flight a stairs doesn’t win the heart of a kick-ass princess at the end of the movie.
Well, everything turned out OK; the capture ended and I shut down the Mac Mini safely. Which means it was definitely a safe thing to do! I knew it all along. “¡La historia me absolverá!” I shouted, as I defiantly stabbed my index finger onto the mouse button to begin the 210-minute capture. And hey, I wasn’t wrong.
So I somehow fell asleep inside a creaking and rattling house lashed by high winds. I woke up Tuesday morning, I discovered to my profound relief that the power was still on, and then I pulled Lilith off of the nightstand for my first look at the world.
I tabbed into Messages and eyed, with a mixture of interest and concern, my Buddies list. It had become a status board of how my New England friends had fared over the evening. A green pip next to the name signified live computers and, likely, a home with power. A grey one told me to, um, keep an eye on that one, and to remember to send a reassuring text message from my phone later in the day if the situation hasn’t improved.
I didn’t consider myself to be totally out of the woods until about noon, when the winds had completely died down. The fierce, blizzard-like conditions of night and morning transitioned into a mere Lovely Non-Aggressive Powdery Snowfall.
In fact, the weather had completely lost its ability to intimidate. The neighbor kids texted me to see if they could incorporate parts of my yard into an epic multiple-property sled run. I was so eager to grant my consent that I flaked and gave them Monday’s passphrase. Needless to say, when the backyard critters working on my security detail rounded them up and herded them to my back door, I had a lot of apologies to make all around.
Other than that? This has been a semi-uneventful Tuesday. The MacBreak podcast went off hitchlessly and afterward, I was left in a house filled with snacks and the other things I’d bought to stave off what could have been serious stuck-in-the-house-without-electricity-for-a-long-time grumpiness.
I’m closing out this day with some Amazon shopping. It’s hard to think of everything you’d like to have in a certain situation until you’re actually in that situation. Now’s a good time to order those things so that they’ll be on hand for the next one of these. I used to own a lovely pair of Army-surplus windproof and dustproof goggles but I can’t find them anywhere. I won’t have ’em for whatever cleanup duties I need to perform outside tomorrow, but a few days from now I’ll have a new pair standing by. I also thought about what I’d be doing right now if the power cut out and that’s what took me to The Wirecutter’s page of head lamp recommendations.
(I love The Wirecutter for stuff like this. I’m grateful to the sort of people who, unlike me, care enough about this sort of thing to obsessively test out twenty different options and present a parametric argument defending their choice. I kind of feel guilty when I wave off the twenty eight-by-ten color pictures with the circles and arrows and the paragraph on the back of each one explaining what it is and instead just buy what they suggest I buy, without any further questions.)
Ultimately, I reflected on the fact that during previous power outages, walking through the house at night holding an LED lantern before me like a slightly doughy Diogenes had been a perfectly fine solution and that perhaps I should spend $40 without some additional contemplation.
As for the storm prep stuff I bought over the weekend but didn’t have to use? Almost all of it is a useful thing to have on hand, whether I need it today or two years from now. As for the rest…hey, cool, I have corn chips and salsa. I almost never have corn chips and salsa in the house.
I guess the fun ends on Wednesday. That’s when the kid comes by with the snow thrower, I hope. If not? We didn’t get so much snow that I can’t just shovel my car out by myself. But I’d rather do that work in the form of writing columns, for which I get money, which I then pass along to the kid with the snow thrower.
A pile of automated shipping notices in my Inbox underscores the fact that it’s vitally important that I clear a safe path from the street to my front door. There were an unusually high number of FedEx and UPS and other deliveries scheduled for Monday and Tuesday. One of them is — oh, dear — a queen-size mattress and platform.
Truth be told, I’d really like to spend Thursday in Boston, taking a long walk and a pile of photos of the city decorated with a couple of feet of snow. But if I came home in the early evening and discovered a door tag waiting for me, I’d be nervous and guilty. I’d examine every loop and whirl of the handwritten “time of failed delivery” for signs of hostility. Poor driver. Came all this way, in terrible roads, probably in shorts, even, only to find a recipient who couldn’t be bothered to hang around.
If I do make it out of the street tomorrow, maybe I’ll pick up a few Dunkin Donuts Gift Cards. It’s gotta cost less than the expense of removing muddy boot prints from a mattress.