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More Power To You

C'mon, Baby, Light My Wire

It’s over. Yet the unpleasant smell loiters like a fish fry on a humid August night.

Nearly two weeks after the area was devastated by a nor’easter, angry accusations abound concerning Connecticut Light and Power’s seemingly negligent response to the unprecedented power outages that brought most area towns to a total eclipse for over a week. In the afterglow (no pun intended), West Hartford residents are weary and still furious, yet grateful and anxious to get back to their routines. It was a tough road to hoe but, in the end, like any compelling saga, there was tension, heroic efforts, tragedy and the bad guys. For those of us stuck in our frigid, dark homes night after night, it seemed like a home movie version of Groundhog Day, minus the humor.

Once the cleanup is complete, vivid memories will be all that remain of those long, powerless days. Among these will be thoughts of the Good Samaritans who, despite their own circumstances, volunteered tirelessly at the town’s shelters and looked in frequently on elderly neighbors who refused to leave their homes. There were also those who drove around town tying rags and socks to partially downed power lines. Some others, feeling fortunate to have power, welcomed families looking for a meal, a hot shower and a place to spend the night.

Frayed nerves also led to a few unpleasant incidents. Long lines and a limited supply of gas resulted in fisticuffs at some stations, and anyone trying to maneuver himself into an already claimed seat at was met with threats and the stinkeye. Even Town officials got into a with a CL&P liaison.

People coped and made the best of a bad situation. Families camped out in one room, tacking sheets of plastic to open doorways to retain fireplace heat. Catherine Denton, owner of , spent the days with her three children holed up in her heated office atop the restaurant. They stayed until it was time to go to bed. By the fourth day, her son Owen, a sixth grader at , was so bored with the routine that he admitted, “I’m really ready to go back to school."

As for me, every day I would leave my icebox of a home, laptop in hand, looking for a warm corner to plug in and tune out. The problem was that everyone else had the same idea and free WiFi became a commodity as dear as tanning spray on the Jersey Shore set.

And so, more times than not, I spent my days hop-scotching from one warm place to the next, usually finding myself at Westfarms Mall. From the day after the storm, Westfarms seemed to be a generator-fueled beacon to beckon, as Emma Lazarus wrote, “your tired, your poor/your huddled masses yearning to breath free." What it got was screaming children, exhausted mothers, teenagers sprawled on the floors and everyone else looking for heat and an electric plug to recharge smartphones and other internet connections to the rest of the world. Sales staff observed people still dressed in their pajamas waiting for the mall to open at noon the Sunday after the storm. In the Nordstrom ladies room, women washed and blow dried their hair; one woman set up a portable office with a folding table and chair.

If patience was a virtue, than I was oozing with goodness the first three days of the outage. As the days wore on though, I became increasingly cranky. The prospect of another night flipping through a Pottery Barn catalog by flickering candlelight, because I could not concentrate on anything more pithy, seemed unbearably loathsome. I began to rant and, like a child having a tantrum, I ranted until I was spent. It wasn’t productive, but it sure was cathartic and I believe that it raised my body temperature a little.

So, I thought that I would share with you some of my rants during those many powerless hours. The sentiments are mine but my style is taken from a Saturday Night Live news skit called “Really?”

Really CL&P? You're doing the best you can? Really? You say that not paying your bills for three months is routine? Really? I’ll try that argument with my next energy bill. We’ll see how understanding you are then. Really! You tell us there will be a large influx of line crews by the weekend. Funny, I saw my first and only utility truck on Saturday morning and, after that, nothing. Really? A midnight Sunday deadline? Oh really! You’ve got be kidding. Mr. Butler, you’re living over there in Avon with a generator. Really? Isn’t that akin to boarding a plane and seeing the pilot with a parachute strapped to his back? Really! Some bloggers wrote that we needed to get over ourselves and stop complaining. Really? I dare say that most of you were writing from your warm, well-lit computer rooms, hot mugs of coffee by your sides, freshly extracted from your plugged-in Keurig machines. Really! Lastly, for those haughty fashion editors who perpetually excoriate Uggs, labeling them the gargoyles of footwear – I say spend a few days walking your exquisitely pedicured toes on unheated New England floorboards. Your Christian Louboutin stilettos will be chucked in a corner immediately and you’ll be begging for a pair of the toasty slip-ons. Don’t nobody talk smack about my Uggs. Really!

Mandy November 12, 2011 at 02:11 AM
Love your article. It perfectly captures the craziness of last week! Thought I would share the pic of our outage experience . . . http://www.outandaboutmom.com/2011/11/02/wordless-wednesday-cozy-babies/
LADY GOO GOO GAGA November 12, 2011 at 03:33 AM
Here's my take: http://lgoogoogaga.wordpress.com/2011/11/06/storm-alfred-is-a-mfer-and-other-lessons-learned-this-week/ Great article!

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