What we learn about in the dark

After the hurricane, I was lying in the darkness, waiting for the power to come back along with millions of other Americans, including my daughter, who was whining because she didn’t have a hair dryer. And for the first time in a long time, I relished the silence of night, which was punctuated only by the sound of backfiring generators up and down the street.

As I looked out the window, I saw something amazing — stars. There was Orion and Pegasus and what looked like McDonald’s golden arches. Then, a piercing howl escaped the blackness as if vampires were roaming the land.

A pack of coyotes was skulking near the edge of the woods, waiting to descend on civilization now that we had no creature comforts like floodlights, burglar alarms and caramel macchiatoes. They were stalking prey. I just hoped it wasn’t the repairman from the electric company.

I’ve endured this before — six days and nights with no hot water and no power after Hurricane Gloria ravaged the state in 1985, uprooting dozens of trees in our neighborhood. Even though I had to drive from town to town looking for ice and candles, it didn’t seem as bad because I had no BlackBerry, no iPad, no mobile broadband, no electric toothbrush, and no Keurig coffee pot to worry about.

Did I mention my juicer and my love of hot water? Of course, there’s no greater proof of your manhood than taking a cold shower, and I still remember the Marist Brothers telling us randy teenagers at St. Joseph Boys High School that we should take two a day.

During the hurricane, a tree fell across the driveway and tore down the power line, which meant I’d have to find an electrician to repair the damage before we could get reconnected.

Everyone predicted our neighborhood would be dark for days, but after I heard the coyotes, I saw what I thought was a display of shooting stars, and when I jumped out of bed, I discovered every flat-screen TV and every light in every house on the street was burning bright … except mine.

I was a desperate man and if I could find a pay phone, I was determined to call United Illuminating or ConEd or CL&P — I wasn’t sure which one was our electric company because my wife pays the bills, but I was prepared to call them all, including Florida Power and Light. I realized it didn’t matter. We had been left behind, and by now the repair crews were in Quebec.

After days of cooking with sterno in the fireplace, eating Twizzlers for breakfast and shaving by the illumination of a book light, I realized how ill-prepared we were. Our ancestors lived like this for millennia, but all they had to worry about was hunting and gathering and not electric garage doors.

However, when I saw the hardships and loss that many others had to endure, I realized mine were nothing in comparison. I also realized this ordeal inspired countless examples of neighbors helping neighbors. Sometimes adversity brings out the best in us.

 

Joe Pisani can be reached at [email protected]

 

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