A Tale of Ice and Fire or Winter is bloody well here!!!

I am seriously displeased. I live in the south. We don’t have to deal with too many winter-related disasters, but boy howdy, when they hit, they don’t pull punches.

Power outage is a typical side effect of mother nature’s icy wrath. I’ve experienced this several times and lived to tell the tale, but this time, I had some concern… And I blame watching some poorly dramatized disaster movies which prompted my imagination to provide a looped reel of images where I and my loved ones (including the fearsome Toehunter) were discovered frozen into popcicles like that homeless dude in Scrooged (“You’d be a prettier color, I can tell you that!!!”) Aside from my vivid internal playback, and a tendency to catastrophize, I also blame power companies with a significant lack if emergency planning.

Modern humans are more dependent upon the comforts of electricity than we are aware. Aside from lighting, entertainment, food storage and preparation at the press of a button, and heating, there are a number of conveniences we don’t consider: Such as modern phones (yes, even the land line type), garage door openers, and water heaters.

During my most recent brush with nature’s elemental fury, our power got knocked out at around 10:30PM. Temperatures diving into the teens and wind chills lower than that, we were still ok inside provided the power resumed within a reasonable amount of time. “Reasonable” is apparently a relative term upon which the local utilities and myself completely disagree. Additionally, we are campers, and we do have some equipment to forestall tragedies of Donner Party proportions. We also have a gas fireplace, but that, sadly, has been malfunctioning and refused to light.

Again, we had no reason to manifest fear. Surely, the power provider was prepared for this apocalypse (since the meteorologists had been screaming about it for a week). Perhaps that was the problem? The “Crying wolf” thing?

The temperature in the house began to fall, and with each passing hour room temperature came closer and closer to those out of doors. Attempting to reach the electric company, I used my smart phone to go to their website. It proclaimed that their offices were closed due to inclement weather. They did provide an emergency number. I tried it. It was busy. For seven hours it was busy. Finally, in a desperate attempt to reach someone (perhaps we are the only ones left?!?), I called through a line to a different region and got the recording “Thank you for calling … Our offices are closed due to inclement weather…” But it allowed me to patch through to an emergency line, where upon I encountered a male who obviously was not used to customer service calls. I was informed that they could not give me any updates or timeframes, nor could I find that they even knew my area was experiencing an outage. He did thank me for the information and suggested I make other arrangements.

Other arrangements? Like move to the tropics, because I am not entirely certain what other arrangements he was imagining. For those of you who own homes in areas that drop below freezing, you may be aware of things like pipes that freeze and other little foibles of home ownership. At that moment, trapped by frozen garage door, shivering in the now below 45 degree house, and dressed in my most fashionable impression of homelessness, all I could think was about people who might be at the mercy of medical equipment that only have battery back ups, are without transportation, are alone and cold. I guess they should have made “other arrangements”.

I have also called someone to hopefully fix our fireplace that we might not achieve solid ice block status tonight, and dear friends have offered us shelter and a chance to warm ourselves (if able to pry open the garage), but to say I’m less than pleased with the efforts of our local utilities to support the community in this situation is a massive understatement. It isn’t even that I expect miracles. I understand they are working hard. I really do, but to pretty much give me the “Sucks to be you” speech and tell me to make other arrangements? Wow, I’m so glad they get nearly $300 of my hard earned wages every month! There is a rival power provider that supports the adjacent area, with more people in need, they were able to keep power on or restore it to a large portion of their customers (not all yet) relatively quickly and provide updates… Yes! Updates, and a press conference to discuss the plans and where to locate shelters. Oh, and they didn’t shut their doors and turn off their phones. Isn’t that amazing?!?

Second chapter of the icepocalypse:
I call a place to see if perhaps they can fix the gas fireplace. We could have some heat. I speak with the dispatcher who took my information and all the details of our unit (a gas fireplace! Come on!) The nice man on the line said the absolutely could help with that! They would try to get someone out today. Awesome.

After a few hours of waiting, I call back to see if we are on the list at all, and I’m told “Probably not today, because of the weather. Maybe tomorrow.” Ok. I’m disappointed but not dismayed.

About a half hour later I get a call from a guy who says “Are you still needing service?” Of course! Yes! Thank the heavens! He verifies my address, and asks about my unit (stop it!). I explain about the fireplace and lack of the beneficial attributes of… Well… Fire! He suddenly says, “Oh we don’t do gas fireplaces.” What?!? They said… “Oh they’re dispatchers. They don’t know.” Um… Ok. At this point, I’m tired (not much sleep), cold, and trying to come up with some plausible alternative to freezing to death.

Finally a friend (bless you Margaret!) called in a favor from the man that moved the gas lines in their house. This darling man talked us through and managed to get our fireplace to work well enough to knock off enough of the cold and get us through the night! So, while still not entirely happy with our utility providers and some of what I perceive as planning issues, I am grateful for friends, my hobo/homeless chic style (quite warm and dead sexy), and a fire in the grate.

In no way connected to any thrones or George R. R. Martin

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