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Brief Re-Cap: Partner and I have just discovered that a big chunk of neighbor-tree has just fallen on the utility lines in our backyard, not quite snapping said lines but perilously close to doing so…
After recovering from the initial shock (pun only half-intended), we wander back into the house, fully expecting to lose power at any point. Partner gets on the horn with Oncor Energy, so while he’s dealing with that, I wander around the house in a slight daze. I don’t like it when things happen to my house, especially costly things that also involve potential discomfort. It makes me think very dark thoughts that could lead to unhealthy life choices in the near future.
Just then, the heater kicks on, and all the lights in the house dim. Not one of those brief things that sometimes happens in older homes, where there’s a slight power adjustment when a major appliance comes to life and starts sucking up juice, and then everything goes back to normal. Nope, the lights are staying dim, almost as if we are now operating on emergency power, even though we don’t have such an arrangement. For some reason, the name “Titanic” flitters through my mind, along with more dark thoughts, with said collection of thoughts plotting further action, darkly so.
[Random, Titanic-Inspired Note to Self: Why don’t those people who live in perpetual flood plains have lifeboats attached to the side of their houses, via some type of clever winch device? Sure, said device wouldn’t be all that pretty, but at least it would be less embarrassing than having your ass hauled into the sky by a helicopter after you decided to ignore official warnings to get the hell out before it was too late. (“I ain’t worried or nuthin’. I’m just gonna ride it out and see what’s what.” Next thing you know, you’re on the roof, spellin’ out “Hep Me” usin’ the bag of fried pork rinds left over from breakfast.)]
Partner hangs up with Oncor. “Well, they issued a ticket, but since we still have power, we’re on the bottom of the list.”
Sort of expected that. “Did you tell them that the power lines are basically on the ground?”
He pauses for a second, just staring at me, debating the merits of being offended that I apparently think he’s an idiot. Of course he told them. It now might be necessary to have an argument and say hateful things. I stare back at him with an expression that, although a heated exchange of bitter accusations might prove entertaining in other circumstances, right now I am just trying to confirm that Oncor understands that we might end up on the menu at a local barbecue joint at any second. (“Did you have you some a that Brian Brisket? Real juicy! That boy must a had some fat on him, may he rest in pieces.”)
He decides to let it go. “I told them. They said not to go anywhere near the tree.”
I’m not planning on going anywhere near the backyard. “Okay, so we just have to wait for somebody to show up.” (Echoes of the early days of my dating life, when my creativity and self-esteem were a bit low.)
And wait we did. We knew nobody would be out until at least the morning, since the nightly news had indicated that half the city was without power. We might not see a technician until next week. Unless, of course, the power lines finally snapped and the entire neighborhood turned into a deleted scene from “Apocalypse Now”. (What’s that burning smell? Oh, it’s just Marlon Brando’s career, never mind.) Then they might move our appointment up a day or two.
After considering our options (not many) in the oddly sepia-toned atmosphere of our dimly-lit dwelling, we just went to bed. Why sit around and watch the lights pulse just so you can be reminded that something is freakishly wrong with the electricity flowing through the house? Besides, since it was very possible that we might have to suddenly flee the house at any moment, clutching cherished pictures of relatives and Granny’s china and a remastered copy of Madonna’s “Burning Up” remixes, we needed to get some rest.
We woke up the next morning, which was nice and all, since it meant that we hadn’t roasted in our beds during the night. Now we had a full day ahead of us wherein we could experience the supreme joy of sitting around and waiting for someone who probably wasn’t going to show up. This is a situation that they should warn you about in high school. You will never have complete control of your life. Ever. Accept it now and maybe you won’t need the medication later.
It wasn’t too bad, though, as long as you didn’t dwell on the potential for a sudden loss of the power supply at any given second. (And we could survive that, right? After all, the Republican Party hasn’t had a supply of new ideas since 1850, and yet they still keep showing up on the ballot.) I worked on my blogs, Partner did something on Facebook that required hundreds of mouse clicks, and Scotch the cat terrorized a dropped cotton ball. (“I have found you, Infidel! Confess your sins or the clawing begins.”) Remove the electrical infidelity from the equation, and you had a fairly-typical day.
Then something happened in the late afternoon that shoved the electricity right back to center stage.
I decided to take a shower, usually a rather mundane activity of little interest. This time was a bit different. I stepped into the spray for the initial soaking, decided the water was a tad warm, wiped the water out of my eyes so I could see better, and reached for the faucet handle to up the cold water a bit. When I touched the metal, a tingly spasm raced up my arm and my hand involuntary jerked away from the handle in a dramatic manner, as if I were Bette Davis un-slapping Joan Crawford.
What was THAT? At first, I was more confused than concerned. Had I just imagined the sensation? After all, I’m getting older. I’ve reached that point where, on an almost daily basis, you wake up to find that yet another part of your body doesn’t work the way it used to in years past. So, I gripped the handle again, a little tighter, and watched in stunned amazement as my hand actually vibrated and that unpleasant sensation coursed through my arm again.
There was live electricity coming into the shower. Holy cow.
I threw open the shower door and leaped out. “Partner! Come here!”
He stops planting virtual crops on Facebook and races in my direction. “What’s going on? Why are you yelling?”
“I just got shocked in the shower. There is CURRENT in the water!”
He blinked at me, not certain if I was just messing with him or if I had fallen and banged my head on the tile floor. (Fair internal debate, I must say. My agility and grace has never approached that of a gazelle. Or a sloth, for that matter.)
I was undeterred. “I’m serious. I know that sensation. That’s what it feels like when you change a socket plate and the screwdriver touches the live wires.” (Yes, I know, you’re supposed to cut the power before you do such a thing, but nobody does, right? Oh, they do? My bad.)
Partner looked like he might possibly have some faith in my story, but there was a considerable reality checkpoint to reach. How could there be current in the shower if there was nothing electrical in there? (His internal debate now shifted to whether or not those brochures concerning managed-care facilities that he had been secretly hoarding might prove relevant in this situation.)
I didn’t have any idea how it was happening, but I certainly didn’t like it. How could one conceivably remain sane if there was indeed voltage in the household water, with the threat of electrocution every time we got a drink of water or flushed the toilet? This was no way to live. “Can you call Oncor Energy and see where we’re at? We’ve got to get this fixed.” He raced off to grab a phone. Or the brochures, not sure.
I stood there for a second, glaring at the evil shower where the water was still running and steam was billowing. Now that I’d had a few seconds to calm down, I realized that the water itself couldn’t be hazardous. It had to be just the plumbing. Somehow. I hopped back in the shower, performed the quickest cleansing-ritual of my life, lasting roughly 17 seconds and only involving the critical parts (did someone mention plumbing?), then wrapped my hand in a towel before shutting off the faucet. No shock that time.
I got dressed and joined Partner, who had an unpleasant update from Oncor Energy. They wouldn’t be rolling a truck at all, as they had now decided that the immediate issue was not theirs. The damaged weather guard (the mangled pipe sticking out of the roof, got it?) was the responsibility of the homeowner. We need to call an electrician, there’s nothing they can do. Have a nice day. If you’d like to hear about our next rate hike, please press 2.
Now we were back at square one, again. We’ve wasted 24 hours waiting on the wrong people to not show up. Terrific. Partner gets back on the phone and leaves a message with a contractor that we’ve used a few times before (such as the soul-deadening experience we had when the plumbing backed up and our personal contributions were suddenly floating down the driveway). But this guy is not real speedy with returning calls, and by this point in our wretched saga, it’s a Friday evening and nobody is going to return calls, to anyone. We’ll give him until morning to get back with us.
We spend another restless night, tossing and turning and racing to check things out every time we hear an odd noise, convinced that more damage has befallen the house or that something was on fire or it was time to climb on the roof and spell out an S.O.S via leftover snack foods. Such a situation does not make one a mentally-healthy, well-adjusted member of society. And it may have just been nerves, but at times I swore I could hear the electricity throbbing oddly, like the evil pulse of a stealthy predator ready to snatch me in the dark if I didn’t keep up my guard or return my library books on time.
Morning finally breaks, but the black bird hasn’t spoken and there’s certainly not any praising or singing. Just the demoralizing realization that there are no assistance-offering messages on our voice mail. We are adrift and alone in the house of killer showers.
Partner wants to give the contractor a few more hours to respond. After all, he’s a nice guy and he’s cheap. He’s just a little slow. Fine. We’ll wait some more. But let’s do something. This sitting around and hoping is sending me over the edge. Thus inspired, we traipse outside and start knocking snow off some of the shrubbery and smaller trees, none of which are located anywhere near the Cirque du Soleil madness of the down-but-not-yet out power line. It may be too late to save some of the violated bushes, but it’s worth a try and it keeps my mind occupied.
This goes on for a while, the mindless but distracting ministrations, to the point that I begin to wonder if we are those vapid cheerleaders in horror movies who spend their time blithely having sex with everyone and ignoring the real threat in the situation until their startling but completely expected demise in the first third of said movie.
A bit later, as I’m standing on the back patio for a quick smoke break, just glancing around the yard and trying to remember what it looked like when things were green and I had a purpose in life, I notice that the carport looks a little odd. At first, it doesn’t quite register, just this unease about something. Then it hits me. The roof of the carport is bowing downward slightly.
It’s not too bad, and I’m not even sure that it didn’t look like that before the snowstorm. As I’m debating on whether or not I should pursue this a little further, Partner arrives on the patio, brushing snow off his jacket. (Why does he smell like a cheerleader? Et tu, Brutus?) He has a little revelation. “I was talking to Russell earlier today” (his co-worker and a mutual friend) “and he asked how our carport was doing.”
Okay, first, it was a little odd that we were on the same wavelength without any pre-planning or careful review of plot-development spreadsheets. (Maybe the renegade electricity on the property was causing a spike in psychic activity?) And second, “What does Russell know about carports that would lead him to ask that question?”
“He says it’s on the news. They’re falling down all over the city.”
Hmm. Gee, maybe you could have mentioned that right after you talked to Russell instead of letting it marinate for a bit? Because it hadn’t even crossed my mind to worry about the carport, as that thing has done fine in quite a number of hellacious summer storms, with trees toppling in the neighborhood while the little stand-alone carport remained unaffected, silent but strong. But if they’re falling down in other parts of Dallas…
We pause for a few minutes, gazing upon the carport. You know what? That thing really is bowing. I decide it’s time for action. “We need to move the cars. Just to be safe.”
Sufficiently motivated, Partner runs in the house to get our keys, then runs back out and eventually zips both cars out into the turn-around of the driveway. Mission accomplished, albeit a possibly unnecessary one, we head back into the house. There’s just enough time for me to walk to our office, sit down at my desk, and nudge the mouse so the latest screen-saver on my PC (a once-fascinating image of the Galapagos Islands that has lost its luster but I’m too lazy to change) vanishes into the ether, or possibly into our shower, where it will kill me later, who knows.
Right at that moment, there’s a tremendous crash in the backyard.
You’re kidding me. We both thunder onto the patio, knowing full well what we’re going to see, but we are still stunned when we see it. The middle of the carport is now resting on the cement parking pad, creating a giant M, like a crazed, techno version of a Sesame Street scene.
A foot of snow had been piled on that thing for two days with no issues. Yet less than five minutes after Partner moved the cars, the carport is now a twisted wreck.
I swivel around in the opposite direction and look at the house. A foot of snow has been on that thing for two days. What kind of pressure is going on there? We already have psychotic electricity running amok, and now there’s the realization that not just tree limbs but entire structures can fall down with snow this heavy.
I look at Partner, who still smells vaguely of pom poms, but I let that go. “You know what we need to do now?”
Me: “Drink vodka. And not stop, ever. Because I’m done with this mess.”
Click here to read the next installment in this series.
Categories: The Stories