Sunday, September 04, 2011

The outer banks of sanity

All this giving my dog bottled water would make me feel like a celebrity, if I had showered within the last 48 hours. As it turns out, using bottled water for everything only makes you feel rich and famous if you don’t have to relieve yourself in your parents’ pachysandra several times daily, a fact that becomes clear when a hurricane knocks out their power and water for two days while you’re visiting.

We’d initially intended to visit my parents for just one night, leaving our dog with them before heading down to North Carolina’s Outer Banks for a week’s vacation with my wife Kara’s family. This sounded like a much better plan when the Outer Banks still existed.

Actually, Hurricane Irene didn’t cause the complete devastation we’d all feared, but it did drag the entire Northeast through enough of a car wash to snap off several antennae, leaving us stuck at my parents’ non-electrified, non-plumbed house, which is functioning more like a tent with windows at the moment.

If this column seems more romantic than usual, that’s because it’s written by candlelight, using the last of my laptop’s battery. Now might be an appropriate time to uncork a nice bottle of Riesling and check the front door to see if I sent you any flowers, too.

Fortunately, before the storm hit, we all charged up our electronic devices. You know what they say about hurricane preparedness: Buy plenty of water and make sure your iPad is charged, otherwise you may be forced to go days without hydration or Angry Birds.

A fun way to pass the time when there’s no electricity is to make an announcement to everyone in the room about once per hour: “Okay, everybody, check this out. The power is going to come back on in 3…2…1…Bang!” Then point at the ceiling.

It hasn’t worked for me yet, but if it ever works for you, you will forever be known as the Babe Ruth of Electricity. Don’t say it more than once an hour, though. You have to strike a delicate balance between increasing your chances of being right and decreasing your chances of being slapped.

Otherwise, we don’t have much to do but sit here in the dark, expecting the power to come back on any minute now, for several thousand minutes now. I’m writing a play about this experience, tentatively titled “Waiting for PECO.”

“The hurricane ruined my vacation” is not a headline that’s going to win any Pulitzers or garner a whole lot of sympathy, but that doesn’t make this whole thing any less annoying for us. At least the direst predictions didn’t come to pass. From the initial news reports, it sounded like civilization on the Eastern Seaboard would cease unless we all sprouted gills like tuna or Kevin Costner.

The past few weeks have seen Mother Nature reneging on her deal with the Northeast. We handle all of the country’s stress and banking while everyone else is off munching granola and drinking microbrews. They get the good surfing spots, we get the Jersey Turnpike. They get Jimmy Buffett and Scarlett Johansson, we get The Situation. In return, they get all the earthquakes and hurricanes. That seemed like a pretty fair deal until this August, when we started getting natural disasters, too. Clearly, Scarlett Johansson is going to have to move to Camden to restore the balance.

In any event, our family is waiting in limbo to see if we’re going to have a truncated vacation or none at all. If we don’t end up going to the beach, it’ll be a shame that I’ve spent the past few months cultivating these six-pack abs for nothing. If we do go, though, it’ll be a shame for Kara’s family to see what a lie the previous sentence was.

You can send Mike Todd a Category 4 email at

1 comment:

  1. Hilarious! Can only laugh now, well after recovery.

    That's an experience we'll never forget---and never repeat---thanks to the new generator being shipped to us! With a generator in the garage we'll probably never lose electricity again. But it'll be like having a car in the garage. Whether we need it or not we'll be glad to know we have it.