I woke up on the Sunday of Irene and was a little excited to see the damage. It almost felt like when you wake up on Christmas and look outside to see if it snowed a foot and you can settle in to opening presents and eating cinnabons with coffee at a leisurely pace, since you couldn't possibly go anywhere. Leaves everywhere and a smell of fall were surprisingly pleasant considering I was expecting the nightmare from above. I went outside, took videos and pictures, had a branch fall on me while snapping shots and then went inside to see if I could coax the last of the hot water for some instant coffee. Last Christmas, I had bought a Red Cross emergency radio that only required winding – and it came with a flashlight – as a joke gift that was part of a zombie survival kit. Joke's on everyone, since that was the only source of news from the outside.
Living for almost a week with no power reminded me of two things: A) I hate the radio and the horrifically awful blather that passes for lyrics nowadays and, B) I hate three things in this world: injustice, racism and cold showers. In that order.
I had to stop in the mornings for gas station coffee and breakfast and one day, my breakfast was moldy. Thankfully, someone at work had bought an extra breakfast so we shared. She had no power and no water, so at least we could wash the dishes and shower and water the gardens, which were walloped almost to the point of no return (check out my blog for the before and after).
On the sixth day, I got a call while at work telling me the power had finally come back, but that there was a foul smell in the house. I shrugged it off as maybe some dust had settled on the water heater and it was burning off once the power came on. I got a call a few minutes later telling me that there seemed to be smoke in the house. Probably dust, I thought, since I hadn't cleaned or vacuumed since last weekend. The third call was definitive: FIRE IN THE HOUSE! I ripped the door open from the empty office I use when I take personal calls at work and yelled “The (expletive) house is on FIRE. What's the number for the Branford Fire Department?” to which all of my co-workers responded, “Call 9-1-1!” Oh, right.
To my surprise, the dispatcher didn't say what they do on TV, which is “What is the nature of your emergency?” What they said was, “Where is the location of your emergency?” I surprised myself at how calm I was when I gave my address. I was transferred and the dispatcher asked me where and what and when? I told her that our landlord was out of town and that there was a fire, most likely in the basement, to which we didn't have access. I have to make a mental note to get one of those stickers in case no one is home for them to tear down the whole bloody place if they have to to save my dogs. Thankfully, my dog was already outside with my other half, waiting to greet the fire fighters.
I left work and drove straight to pick up my other dog from day care and as the owner was trying to tell me how well my puppy is doing with not hurdling the fence, I was fumbling with her leash and trying to open the gate even though I was supposed to wait until the other dog was out of the greeting area and the woman said, “You look exhausted!” “My HOUSE is on fire!” She ripped open the gate and said, “GO!”
I got home and found out that the fire department luckily didn't have to break the door down, but that the door to the basement had come off anyway in the haste to get to the smoke source. A neighbor had come out because of the smoke and smell and to check if everything was alright and nailed the door back on. Apparently, because the electricity had been off, the oil tank was too full and when the power came on, the burner ignited the excess oil. No damage – horrible smell, though, which made my dog throw up – but still no hot water. I was instructed to leave all the doors and windows open on my landlord's side and I was concerned about animals coming in. “If a raccoon comes in, well, now your landlord has a roommate.” So finally, lights and real news and the deep slumber that can only come from toxic fumes poisoning.
Now onto the part I'd been dreading: opening and cleaning the fridge. Those of you who read any of the know that I always have a plethora of organic and naturals foods on hand. Well, organic foods smell just as bad as processed when they've sat in the danger zone temperatures for almost a week. I had some fresh sausage that was now a bag of red goo with a ghostly casing floating around in it. Out went everything in the freezer. Out went almost everything in the fridge – the condiments were fine. I'm glad a friend of mine had talked me out of shopping on the Friday before Irene, because I was about to buy pork shoulder for pulled pork empanadas. Good call.
Since garbage pick-up wasn't until Tuesday, I drove to the on Saturday to stop animals from testing their stomachs on the rotting cacophony that was my trash. Kudos to them for staying open later and opening earlier to help everyone else in my position from suffering the smell of would-be dinners. As I was dumping trash, I saw what looked to be a pork tenderloin with a trail of slime behind it, as though it was trying to escape its fouler smelling compatriots at the station or the heaping pile of maggots, which looked as though they were wrapping up a strategy meeting on what to infest first. It was like insect Risk. “Alright – First Maggotry! You're on eggs and dairy. Second Maggotallion! You're on lunch meats and soft cucumbers. The Officers and I will take the whole packages of chicken breasts and hot dogs. Unleash the larva of WAR!” This was my main fear about opening the fridge. I was convinced my hurricane salsa would have grown legs and a frontal lobe and would have claimed the freezer as its own.
I am extremely thankful that I don't have an unplanned and unsanctioned indoor pools like some people along the shoreline and that no one was hurt. I am even more thankful that I didn't have to evacuate. And I think the dogs are thankful that they are back to their regularly scheduled dinners, which involve lights and yogurt. It wasn't too hot to be unbearable and we weren't looted. I wish I'd been able to read, but that's kind of difficult with no lights.
To recap – earthquake, then tropical storm with no power for six days, then fire. There seem to be a bunch of large spiders with surprisingly strong webs around the house lately. I'm not sure which plague I'm on but I'm going to try and swear less to see if I can avoid horsemen with scrolls.