One would think people of fairly normal intelligence would have been better prepared. We should have had granola stockpiled, the fireplace set and a generator hooked up out back. According to People Who Know These Things, we should have had the house cleaned, the laundry done and a first-aid kit stashed in a "clearly marked plastic storage container."
But were we prepared for the recent ice storm? Does a bobcat bark? Does a pine tree have unbreakable limbs? Does Howard Dean stand a snowball's chance in Swainsboro?
Nope, we were about as ready for a two-day power outage as our kids were to return to school once the roads cleared.
I don't know why we were caught with our woodpiles down. What the sky, wind and frigid drops didn't tell us the day before all sleet broke loose, the weathermen certainly did. That idiot Freddie the Forecaster tried his best. I guess we just had no conscious remembrance of how bad things can get.
Snow days, and especially ICE days, have been few and far-between in these here parts. The last really huge storm hit in 1073 (oops, I meant 1973), although there are probably a few folks left up in Appling who could testify about the former date.
So, while the precipitation was precipitating, we grimly surveyed our dire situation, and as conditions steadily worsened, with the lights, heat and cablevision fast becoming faint memories, so did our prospects for survival.
A hasty inventory found us with no matches, half a loaf of stale bread and bats in our belfry. And to add insult to injury, we had to fork over $99.95 for a gallon of milk at Circle K when Food Lion bit the dust; but hey, we can make three easy payments.
Calls to Georgia Power, Knology and Pam Tucker were pretty pointless. (Well, Pam did at least offer her condolences and a T-shirt.)
The one poor soul they left to man the phones at the electric company (all other hardy individuals having been given garden gloves and a pair of hedge clippers), kept changing her story. "Well, the grid is grid-locked, and we've misplaced the key." "Uh, the hypotenuse of the right triangle is directly out of proportion to the Age of Aquarius." "It should be on by midnight if Charles Walker will turn off his Winnebago."
Knology just transferred everybody to an automated system. "Press 1 if you're chilly. Press 2 if you're freezing. Press 3 if you need a hearse."
The really awesome aspect, however, was that we did manage to muddle through it all relatively unscathed. After tripping a nun on crutches, we successfully snagged the last kerosene heater at Lowe's to use in Grandma's room. That fiery little version of R2D2 prompted some of the best stories our boys have ever heard about days when oil lamps and candles were about all most people had, when homework and chores had to be done before sunset.
A giant air mattress and various makeshift pallets spread in front of the dining room fireplace brought to mind medieval days of lore, when teenagers played Nintendo outside, and even aristocratic castle-dwellers fell asleep to the sound of crackling logs under piles of quilts and coverlets, which could explain a lot of that crackling.
Once the brats extracted a solemn oath that we wouldn't tell anyone about our "bogus" set-up, we happily discovered the fact that we actually still liked each other and had a lot of stuff to talk about. Both boys launched into so much dialogue, I found myself amazed that their vocabulary really did exceed the usual "Huh?" "What?" or "Is anybody gonna wash clothes around here?" variety.
In fact, when our lights finally did come on late last Tuesday night, my youngest seemed sincerely disappointed to have the campout adjourned. "Geez, we didn't even get to the s'mores!" he whined.
Maybe what this all taught us, me in particular, is that sometimes a big shake-up, or storm, in our lives is just what we need to jerk us out of our doldrums, our complacency with the way things are. Perhaps, as Thoreau said, we occasionally need to step off of our "beaten track" or our "worn and dusty highway" through life, if for nothing more than a different view.
There's no telling what wonders may await us - meals together, a lot of laughing and snuggling against the wolf at the door.
And next time, I'll be a little more equipped for whatever Mother Nature sends our way - I've subscribed to The National Enquirer!
I hear it makes great kindling.
(Mindy Jeffers is a Martinez resident.)
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