This past Saturday, I posted on Facebook an overly long post-birthday whine and/or pre-Festivus airing of grievances. It was sufficiently hyperbolic to draw a snicker or two, but at the time I wrote it, I wasn't feeling up to proper, or improper, rhetorical devices. The text follows:

If ever I wanted to fall on my sword — well, first I'd have to get a proper sword. But this is the kind of day when there seems to be no point in going on: the weather is miserable, my concentration is shot, and I just know that the power is going to go off for three days and I will freeze to death and it won't make the slightest bit of difference.

There are, of course, things I'm not telling you. A guy I've known for the better part of 20 years had the life nearly torn away from him this past week by a heart that wouldn't take it anymore. He's alive, if rather exhausted by the proceedings. And, which I didn't know, he's a smidgen younger than I am. This always stings a bit more, because I have to ask "How come I'm still here?" What did I do to justify my continued presence?

It goes on. The alleged "romantic" part of my existence ended many years ago. Life would be much simpler if I could accept that on a subconscious level. Yet I spent about 20 minutes today fanning through pictures of starlets and such in Diane von Furstenberg wrap dresses. Now I've written enough stuff on fashion over the years to be able [to] justify this sort of thing as research. But I know better.

So I'm in a rut, in the wagon-wheel sense of the word. But it occurs to me that a grave is nothing more than a rut with the ends knocked out of it. And as I sit here, waiting for the man with the chainsaw to clear the storm debris from my driveway — we're under an Ice Storm Warning that's been extended three times already, because the damn stuff won't go away — I wonder why I should even bother.

Before letting it go, I stuck a disclaimer at the front pointing out that this was not in fact a suicide note.

And then the power went off.

It was about ten minutes to one on Sunday morning. Chainsaw Guy, who'd scheduled me for late Saturday, had asked to reschedule for early Sunday, an emergency having come up; okay, fine. This stuff isn't going anywhere. I went back to sleep, and woke up not enough hours later to discover that the darkness from outside, having spread to the inside, was still hanging around. I panicked. I had exactly two communications devices working: the old landline, which is hard to kill, and the little flip phone, which wasn't capable of much.

What it could do was tweet. And so I sent up a series of tweets, each more miserable-sounding than the last. Various people sent me messages asking what was wrong, which of course I couldn't read. (The way I'd set up notifications was basically write-only.) I retreated to the Big Chair in the living room, about two degrees warmer, threw an afghan over myself, and awaited my fate.

A knock came at the door.

Jan Bost, old friend from early blogging days, and her family had arrived to do whatever it was they could. And what they decided to do was to put me up in the first available hotel room they could find until the danger passed. Fortunately, I have experience at packing a bag in a hurry. It was a couple of hours before check-in time, but nobody seemed to notice that.

Jan said that she'd coordinated this effort with Dan Lovejoy, another old friend from early blogging days. (Dan, at least, knew where I lived. I'm in the phone book, sort of, though the last time they put out white pages in this town was like 2008.) Dan met me for dinner, then we came back to the pitch darkness of my home and sprung my car. (Electric garage-door opener with manual release: not tricky to release, not all that easy to reengage.)

If I'd been wiser, I'd have asked hotel staff then if they'd consider extending my stay. Waiting until morning got me a polite but firm no. I drove back to the house, found a large truck in front of the driveway, but no lights yet; I went back to the hotel, sat there like a lump for a couple of hours, then checked out. Still no juice, plus the battery that backed up my security system was down to its last watt or something. Dan found me another hotel room; I said I'd be there as soon as I finished a couple of errands, one of which was buying another battery. (The other was a hair appointment; I'd noticed when I'd checked in that I was the very picture of Old and Shabby.) And I made one last check of the house. The truck was farther up the street. I turned the key, and — lights! It had to have just happened; the furnace had only just kicked on for the first time. (52.6 degrees Fahrenheit in the back bedroom, marginally warmer up front.) Total period of darkness: 36 hours, 40 minutes.

The important part of this story, of course, is not my inability to cope with things: it's, as Princess Twilight Sparkle would say, the magic of friendship. I've always been one of those people who hates to ask for help; if I'm not self-contained, how the hell am I calling myself an adult? I am, fortunately, a bit better at gratitude, and I need to thank Jan and Dan and the staff of the Hilton Garden Inn and the folks at Beverly's Pancake Corner for making what could have been the worst experience of my life — possibly even the last experience of my life, given my newfound fragility — into something that will be remembered positively.

Oh, and the guy with the chainsaw? He arrived as we were leaving for the hotel. Got two nice big stacks of limbs on the curb, which the city says will be picked up on the 7th of December.

The Vent

  1 December 2015

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 Copyright © 2015 by Charles G. Hill