Monday, November 12, 2012

The ears of the hurricane

“The trees are dancin’” my son Evan said, looking out the window from his air mattress in our foyer.

The wind from Hurricane Sandy had the trees violently dancing and swaying, turning our yard into an arboreal mosh pit.  Some of the trees seemed to be bending in decidedly untreelike fashion, like the inflatable dancing stick figures that must somehow lure people into buying used cars.

“Yeah, they’re getting down out there,” I said.  We hadn’t mentioned that we’d chosen to sleep downstairs in case one of the trees decided to dance its way through our roof.  Evan had just recently gotten over his intense phobia of falling trees after witnessing a tree collapse in our backyard last summer, so if a tree falls in our forest, we don’t make any noise about it.  As far as Evan was concerned, we were having an impromptu slumber party, and he was stoked.

“You asleep yet?” he asked as he bucked like a rodeo bull on his mattress.  Zack, our seven-month-old, tossed and turned in his travel crib.

“Oddly enough, no,” my wife Kara responded.  

Just then, the nightlight, which had been flickering, went dark, and the hum of the fridge went quiet.  Kara and I had been preparing for this moment for the past several months, as any safety-conscious parent would, by watching the first two seasons of the post-apocalyptic zombie show “Walking Dead” from our Netflix queue.    

Survival in a world without electricity is one of the show’s main themes, along with how to properly puncture a zombie’s head so that it will stop trying to feast upon you.  We haven’t really picked up too many practical tips yet, at least none that we might be able to apply without investing in a crossbow, but we’re still watching, just to be safe.  At the very least, the show does give some helpful perspective: no matter how long the power is out, at least you don’t have hordes of undead attempting to devour you.

After confirming that we’d lost power for good, I headed downstairs to start the ritual, with some guilt, of unhooking the garage door from the electric opener and dragging the generator into the driveway.

When I was a kid, part of the fun of a power outage was the silence.  It was one of the rare times when everything went perfectly quiet, except for the sounds of nature, if just for a while.  Nobody had exhaust-spewing, cacophonous gas-powered generators.  We just quietly let all the food in our fridge spoil, and we liked it that way.

Now, as soon the lights flicker out, you can almost hear the pull cords on the generators in our neighborhood being yanked simultaneously, and then the surround-sound roar begins.  Our own generator is just a little 3500-watt unit, but when the engine revs up, it sounds like Satan’s lawnmower.

My decibel-induced guilt isn’t quite as strong as my preference to keep our barbecue sauce in the fridge that expired in 2009 from getting worse, though, so I found myself out in the hurricane adding to the racket.  
On my way back in, I noticed a huge, dead oak tree that had fallen parallel to the house, twenty feet off to the side.  It had dropped a gigantic branch that came within three feet of landing on, or through, our roof.  Somehow, though it must have sounded like a stegosaurus stomping through, nobody heard it fall, including, thankfully, Evan.  Probably because he was too busy stress-testing his air mattress.

We got lucky all around.  Many people affected by the storm and its devastation would probably have chosen a zombie apocalypse instead.  Within a couple of days, though, our lives were back to as normal as they get, and our trees, thankfully, were back to being wallflowers.
You can pop Mike Todd’s air mattress at

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