I Made the Right Call

Sometimes I stumble into the right decision. I reluctantly cancelled today’s office hours and rescheduled tomorrow’s exam via this email to LA245 students:

I hate disrupting the schedule. However uncertainties created by Hurricane Sandy make it prudent to reschedule tomorrow’s exam and juggle the next few classes. A number of students are stranded in weekend travel destinations and the University has cancelled classes and urged that non-essential personnel limit travel to campus (ironic, isn’t it, that teachers are non-essential personnel?). Under these circumstances I am not going to hold office hours. I think the risk of storm-related injury is negligible but I could not live with myself if something happened while you were in transit. I considered answering questions via Skype or holding a Google Hangout but there is a significant chance that some of us–especially me–will lose power during the next day.

I just received an alert that the MBTA will suspend all transit service today at 2 pm–which means students who wanted to attend office hours would have had to walk, bike, or take a taxi. Had I not already cancelled this would have forced my hand.

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We’ve Got the Power

Early yesterday afternoon Central Maine Power restored electric service to our camp 96 hours after Tropical Storm Irene knocked it out.  I had just left an Incoming Students’ Parents’ Orientation (too many modifiers) Lunch when the answering machine responded to my fourth phone call to the camp in five hours.  Answering machine responding = live electric power.  I called again to query our alarm system, just to hear its robotic voice say “the power is on.”  Great news, since Nate was hosting friends for dinner at the camp last night and we have a houseful of guests arriving from Florida at midnight tonight.

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Cutting Your Own Path

Speaking of metaphors . . .

We lost power in Maine early Sunday afternoon.  The storm felled an oak tree across our road, taking out the power lines and blocking the way.  Without that immediate problem we would have lost power anyway, as the entire area went dark Sunday afternoon.  One wire lay on the ground. The oak lay suspended on the others, with its top hung up in other trees. Without the potential for electrocution removing the tree would have been a bit dicey–it will spring and move when either end is cut free–but I would have done it.  I don’t mess with electricity.  I left the tree alone.

Neighbors shared our Sunday dinner–pasta with tomato sauce from tomatoes just picked from our garden, cooked on the gas stove–and as darkness fell we played Scrabble and read by flashlight.

Monday’s weather was glorious.  When I swam at 7 am the lake–roiling, churning mud washed from its banks, choked with broken branches and torn pipe weed 12 hours earlier–was perfectly still.  The air, its temperature in the low 60’s, felt scrubbed clean and the sky was free of clouds.  The water, still a bit turbid, was remarkably clear given it’s recent chaotic pea-soupy condition.  It promised to be a wonderful Maine day, with two large overhanging questions:  when would the fallen tree be cleared, and when CMP restore power?

I prepared to deal with things as they were, without total success.  I pictured the day unfolding–a bike ride around the lake (I’d walk the bike through the woods around the felled tree and downed wires), a few hours work preparing for the semester until my laptop battery died, swimming, reading on the dock, more Scrabble, grilling all of the meat in the freezer, dining outside by candlelight as the sun set.  Very idyllic, but I could not forget that my fully-powered house was 150 miles away.

I considered this as I headed to bike.  Walking through the woods around the blocked road the solution began to form.  Most of the trees were saplings spaced many feet apart, and it seemed possible to cut a large enough path between the large trees to squeeze through my truck. The bike ride confirmed that power would likely be out for a while.  There was not much tree damage but the electricity was out all around the lake, which meant the outage was widespread, which meant that three houses with blocked access on our dead-end road would be a low priority.

Meanwhile Judy had already lined up a ride to Portland where she and Nate could catch a bus back to Boston. The bus was not an option for me–or more accurately, for the dogs–and the appeal of remaining powerless at the camp for what could be many days was waning fast.  I called the neighbor who owns the land where I’d bypassed the road and explained that I wanted to remove just enough trees for my truck to fit. He said “like I give a shit about those trees.”

I enlisted the support and help of another neighbor and we went to work.  Two hours later we’d driven out my truck and the neighbor’s Volvo wagon.  (Getting it through required widening and regrading the path a bit.)  I relaxed once I knew we were not dependent on anyone else’s help to leave. We enjoyed the rest of the day on the dock. I took a long swim. We emptied the refrigerator and freezer.  We were on the road shortly before 6 pm.

Now, almost 72 hours after the storm hit, the power in the camp is still out.

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Waiting for Irene

We drove to Maine at 11 pm, leaving the wedding just after the cake was cut.  (The wedding ceremony was wonderful, the reception at Noche in the South End [closed to patrons for the night] was terrific.) Traffic was light, weather was wet, sky was dark, road was shiny-black.  We arrived at 1:30, to find Nate up to greet us. We unpacked in a drenching downpour, plugged in everything requiring charging, and I was asleep shortly after 2 am.  I woke at 6:45 to steady rain and calm air.  The lake was glassy, disturbed only by the pocks from raindrops, as I retrieved the boat in from the mooring and had my morning swim.  Most boats were already pulled from the lake. After coffee Nate drove the boat and I drove the truck and trailer to the Casco boat ramp.  The wind had picked up and the southern end of the lake was just starting to chop. We pulled the boat, bought a Globe at the Casco AG, and returned to the camp. Now our chores are done and we can wait out what will be nothing worse than a tropical storm by the time it reaches us.

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A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall

And a hard wind’s gonna blow and a hard line has formed at CostCo for bottled water. It’s unclear how severe Hurricane Irene will be in our parts of New England.  Normally we would just hunker down for the storm’s duration at home or in Maine.  I want to pull the boat from the lake and secure dock and deck furniture so Maine is the obvious choice. Complicating the picture is that we are attending–and I am officiating at–a wedding tonight in Boston.  Wind strength is projected to start to increase in Boston tomorrow between 7-8 am and in Maine around noon.  One plan is to rise tomorrow at the crack and drive to Maine.  The other plan, currently favored, is to drive to Maine tonight after the wedding.  I’m the designated driver. We’ll see what we do.

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