Caveat: Venter

Think about all of the things that make your brain itch. These are mine.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

C-Bart And Her Crew

If you read the two post before this one (yes, I know the publication dates and times are almost identical), you will understand more fully why I am writing this. Let me say, right up front, that I hope you will consider donating to the Red Cross, either money or blood.

It is easy to look at a 9/11 or a Katrina sort of situation and see that the Red Cross does wonderful work, but it is difficult to know, no matter how many shamelessly self-promoting Geraldo interviews air or how many different wind breakers Anderson Cooper wears, just what it really means to the people receiving the aid.

A warm bed, a hot meal, and light are three things we do not have at home right now, and as I write this almost eighty-four hours after we lost power, those are the three things the Red Cross has provided that I most treasure.

When we arrived, we were greeted with a smile and a, "Thank you for coming." It sounded strange at the time, but the volunteers—these are people who, if they work, either take time away from their jobs or volunteer during hours they would normally be relaxing at home—seem genuinely to love these opportunities to assist others. One, Carol, told us that Red Cross volunteers train and then wait all year for the opportunity to put that training to use.

On arriving, I was prepared to offer my assistance. They were, after all, feeding and housing me. They were, after all, letting me feel once more human. But then we got here, and I saw their badges and their coordination. I thought that they probably had it all covered.

After dinner, one volunteer approached me and asked if I might be willing to disinfect some surfaces and door handles; someone sick had been in the shelter, and it was better that the volunteers not risk too much exposure since they would be dealing with everyone in the shelter. I postponed my shower, but I didn't hesitate to agree. I have since helped assemble cots and assisted in unloading a delivery of lunch items.

We don't have the money to make a donation right now, but I have good, clean blood, and the Red Cross is getting some of that when this is over. I am planning to look into volunteer opportunities, too. I could certainly stand a night or twenty doing what these volunteers are doing, and I doubt it would measurably harm me. It doesn't take much to believe in what the Red Cross does.

I hope never again to be in this situation, but I will always remember what it means to a staffed, funded organization there for anyone who needs it. That makes all the difference.


We are still without power, and the thermostat is proving as unreliable as Tully's wireless of late. Another thermometer in the house—one of far superior quality than the one that regulates the temperature inside—had the temp at a balmy 38 earlier today.

We've managed to get a reservation at an area hotel, and we will be kenneling the cats tonight. They can survive in these temperatures, but it's just not right to leave them there as the mercury drops even further.

Our substation is slated to be up in a couple hours, but we can't have our local lines energized until the local damage is repaired. We may yet see the power up today, but after another two hours, we're not waiting to find out. There's just too much to do, too much at risk, and too little daylight (sunset tonight is at 4:20—no jokes, please).


When I think of the word "homecoming" I think of my return to the Puget Sound region in July of this year. Sometimes, of course, it conjures memories of October football games and their attendant festivities. I had never, however, thought of it in the terms that this power outage has brought home.

Our power went down somewhere between midnight and 1:10 a.m. Friday (my wife had woken up and seen her clock at midnight, and I woke up to darkness and checked my cell phone at 1:10). For the purposes of counting time, I call it 1:00 a.m.

We ate breakfast in a local restaurant that somehow had power amidst blocks of darkness, including a dark gas station across the street from it. We managed to make a dinner of those staples we could salvage before the food went bad , sleeping that night under much bedding as the temperature dropped into the low 50s inside the house.

Saturday was as dark as Friday, and once more we ate restaurant food in the morning, purchasing dinner at a supermarket that was back up and running. By that point, most of Bellevue had seen power restored, though the suburbs were largely without electricity. By the time we turned in Saturday night, the temperature in the house was below 50.

Sunday saw my wife getting worried. She could see her breath while lying in bed. She could see our cats' breath. She was more concerned for them, in fact, than for us. Assurances that the cats would be fine are, if you will pardon the pun, cold comfort under such conditions. While my wife and I were packing up our computers at the library, she mentioned that she had read about area shelters. We drove to Bellevue High School, my alma mater, and checked out the situation.

The Red Cross volunteer who greeted us explained that she, too, was without power and that she, too, had a cat. The cats would be fine, she told us. My wife teared up, and I was a half step from that stage myself. We were educated. We lived in a good neighborhood. We shouldn't need to stay in a shelter, or at least we shouldn't need to for something as silly as wind. This isn't Katrina, after all. Still, we resolved to stay the night.

We headed home to gather some things, and my mother made it back as we were about ready to head out the door. We passed on the assurance that the cats would be fine and urged her to come with us.

The three of us arrived around 6:30 p.m., in time for dinner with sandwiches, hot soup, and all manner of packaged food. It was the first time in more than two days that we had felt normal. I managed to get a hot shower for the first time since before the shower had gone out (my wife and mother had showered that morning at the YMCA, where they have a joint membership).

We slept a little fitfully on cots. Some of the gymnasium lights power on and off periodically. People snored. Cots squeaked. Infants cried. It was a good night.

This morning my wife and I woke up before 8:00 a.m. and got some breakfast before heading home to check about the power. The cats were fine, but the power situation showed no signs of being worked on. Nearby transmission lines that were down remained in the same state, complete with uprooted trees.

Right now it looks as if we are looking at another night here. Right now it looks as if it will be at least tomorrow before normalcy, rather than the so currently precious sense of normalcy, has any chance of returning to our lives, and even that will be a incomplete, given that almost everything in the refrigerator and the freezer will be stinking up the trash.

No, this is not the kind of homecoming I imagined, here less than a year from my twentieth high school reunion. Maybe, though, this is better than a football game. After all, they won the state championship without my being in the stands.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Just. Plain. Wrong.

I understand good-natured jests between friends, but in the middle of December, gloating that power has been restored, including in the voice mail a hope that the recipient (me) does not yet have power back, is just wrong. This is not a race. Furthermore, as our refrigerator and freezer slowly allow food to rot, as our cats have to live in temperatures that were down to 50 by mid-day today, as we have to walk around the house in two to three layers, eating food before it goes bad (but not the stuff we cannot cook) or spending extra money to eat at restaurants, such a voice mail message is backward.

Yes, I was pissed. Indeed, I was justifiably pissed, and I let that be known in my own voice mail by which I expressed by shock and disappointment. I think I am done venting now. That's the thing about friends—it's the defining trait, in fact—feet get inserted in mouths, but no one ever gets teeth kicked in over it. Let's hear it for Blake's "A Poison Tree."