Thursday, February 3, 2011

Snow Day(s): A Rambling Tale

I woke up Tuesday morning, grabbed my cell phone, and carried it on my person for the next hour as I got ready for work. Surely, I thought, looking at the snow outside, we would have a snow day. The night before, I'd been in Walmart. The whole store had been cleared out of all edible food products (for some reason, tons of Ramen remained on the shelves). I managed to grab a package of cookies, then I left before the hordes of terrified country-folk took me as their own.

No call came. I finally got dressed in my work clothing, leaving behind my warm pajamas. I would miss them.

I got in my car, powered out of the driveway through the snow (you can do that when you don't drive a 25 pound Honda), and headed for the library. The roads were still covered with snow. I drove carefully, but once I got to 15, it wasn't so bad. I sped up, sang along to the radio, and barely noticed when my phone rang.


(extra punctuation means extra excitement)

I could have turned around in a random driveway and headed back home. But I knew the likelihood of getting out of whatever driveway I chose was...well, low. So I kept going. I was almost to Wabash, anyway.

In Wabash, I grabbed a gallon of milk and doughnuts for everyone. Because I am nice like that. Then I drove back home.

All day, the snow fell. All day, wind blew against the house, right into my bedroom, which grew increasingly colder. Then, at about 9:30 p.m., the power went out.

Nooooo....I thought. We had all hoped that the power would last a little bit longer. Maybe through the night. Something! But this would leave us shivering all night, then through the next day, because even more snow was coming! And ice! We were supposed to get ICE, and the last time that happened, we had no power for DAYS.

Where I live, out in the country, no power means no lights, no heat, and no water, because the well doesn't work. No water means we have to cart water up from the river to make the toilet flush. The First World becomes the Third World real fast when we lose electricity. Suddenly, we're shivering in front of a fire, and we've stopped all liquid intake, because no one wants to be the one to use the toilet next.

Right now, the river is frozen solid. Yeah. SOLID.

"I'm not going down to break that ice," Dad announced.

"You don't need to this time," I told him. "We can use snow."

"You can't flush snow!" Dad insisted. I stared at him.

Did I mention my dad's IQ drops by something like 100 points the second the power goes out? It does.

"Snow melts," I said as Dad stormed out of the room. He gets angry, too, because we all are trying to cope with his drastically reduced intellect, causing us to talk to him as if he's five, not 56. (Yeah, that's his real age. You think I would lie to you? Or protect his feelings? Do you even know me?)

At this point, we were using one candle for light. Dad had a flashlight, and was in search of more. He also was looking for oil lamps, but he believed they were somewhere other than their actual location. Mom had moved them into the basement, because she was sick of dusting them.

We have a lot of oil lamps. Also tons of (unscented) candles. Why? Because my parents like buying things that light up. Send them on vacation, and they will return with only different things that light up--candles, oil lamps, rustic-looking lamp's endless. There are no places for these things. But Mom shuffles things around, and we have different ones seasonally.

While Dad dug around in every room for lamps Mom had put in the basement, Mom and Paul rigged an elaborate curtain device over the door to the living room, so we could keep as much heat as possible in the room with the gas fireplace, which was the only thing heating the house. I plopped down in front of it, because I had no flashlight or lamp to use, and I didn't have a job to do anyway, so why bother.

Dad, meanwhile, had finished lighting a candle in his empty bedroom and had left it unaccompanied.* Now he decided that the lanterns Mom had found, lit, and placed on the dining room table were in fact actually in the shed. So he needed the shed key.

"Does anyone know where the shed key is?" Dad asked.

Mom looked at Paul. Paul looked at Mom. I looked back down at my cell phone, where Twitter was working hard to keep me from committing patricide. I could tell neither Mom nor Paul knew where the key was. And neither cared.

"Dad," Paul said. "We can't find the shed key on a normal day. How do you think we'll find it when we have no lights?"

"Where is it?" Dad repeated.

"Kel," Mom said. "Even if you had the shed key, you can't open the shed. There's snow in the way of the door. It would never open. You'd have to have to dig it free and have help opening it. And none of us are going to help you."

I really liked the way she ended that, don't you?

Dad stormed off to the garage, where he located several oil lamps. He lit them, then dug around for more. While doing this, he took an oil lamp and hung it up from the outside of the house, on the hook where the wind chimes usually are. It was very windy outside, did I mention?**

I drew you a picture.

Now the lantern was swinging back and forth, back and forth, coming ever closer to the house. The lantern, of course, was filled with oil. Firefighters would call that "an accelerant."

"That lantern is going to smash into our house," I announced. "It's going to light the house on fire, and then the fire department won't be able to get to us because there's so much snow."

As with many stories I make up in my head, it quickly became more plausible to me. Indeed, this WOULD happen, and there was nothing anyone could do to stop it.

"And then," I continued, "The house will burn to the ground with us inside, because that's the only other exit since the garage door won't go up or down anymore because the power is out. And we'll try to put water on the fire, but it won't work, because we don't have water anymore because we have no power. And they'll find our charred corpses, frozen, tomorrow when the roads are cleared."

I drew you another picture.

"That's an uplifting story, Laura," my brother said.

I decided not to press the issue. Paul decided to go tell Dad to take down the lantern, before it proved me right.

Then Dad started to worry about heating the other half of the house. He opened Mom's new curtain. Mom told him to close it, because we were conserving heat. He told her no, because we had to heat the bathroom, in case we needed to use it.*** That was when I decided I'd had enough, so I went to get a book and my iPod, which still had a charge. As I rounded the corner, I glimpsed the bathroom door. Which was closed. I opened it. There was a lantern inside, which was burning unsupervised.**** My parents' bedroom still had a candle burning, as well, despite the fact that both rooms were empty.

"Dad," I called as I walked back into the dining room. "I know you want to keep the bathroom warm, but leaving the curtain open isn't going to help if you also want the bathroom door closed. Do you want me to open the bathroom door or close the curtain?"

Dad, who had apparently been arguing the curtain issue with Mom while I was getting my supplies, had heard enough. He stormed down into the (unheated) basement with an oil lamp, where he played his Irish whistle to drown out the sound of the rest of us having fun.

Mom and Paul were playing Hearts. Then they tried playing Poker. Then they discovered that they'd managed to combine the two games into a new game. Paul called it "Parts." When the sounds of hysterical laughter became too much, Dad came back, leaving the lantern burning downstairs.*****

The three of them decided to play Poker, for REAL. Dad got out pennies, which they renamed Doubloons. I was surrounded by pirates. Playing Poker. Pirate Poker. They even did voices.

This is what it looked like:

Shortly after Mom cleaned everyone out, the lights came back on. And the next day, to our joy, our neighbor came to plow our driveway for us, so we didn't have to use Paul as a slave to shovel it. I knew I should take pictures, but I was very lazy and, frankly, it was hard to walk around in, so I took this video:

Feel free to mock my drawing, photography, and video-making skills in the comments.

*This is the first of many fire safety rules Dad violated that evening.
**This is the second fire safety rule Dad violated.
***Of course, we wouldn't, because we'd all stopped liquids the second the lights went out. We weren't stupid, and we knew it would take a long while for our giant tubs of snow to melt.
****This is the third fire safety rule Dad violated.
*****Yeah, it's a wonder we made it through the night, with all these fire hazards.


  1. The snow is up to Chip's shoulders, he won't walk very far past the step, he should have a path cleaned for him. He is also, definitely too short for this much snow.
    Also, nice mittens!

  2. Thank you! I love my mittens!

  3. This is an excellent post.

    The main character in one of the novels I'm trying to sell is a whistle player. He doesn't violate fire codes, though.

    (Maybe he should. Then maybe I'd find an agent.)