Monday, June 16, 2008

Do You Generate?

Well, it was an interesting Father’s Day around here. It started out normally enough with a gourmet breakfast-at-the-kitchen-table of cold cereal and toast. B, Kate, and I were sitting there together, the other two sleeping in for the big day, when suddenly the sky turned black and the wind picked up.

“Hmmm, looks like we might get a storm,” I prophecied. I’m good, I know.

As quickly as I said that, the wind picked up something terrible and the rain started pounding down sideways. The tree next to the family room window was bending over almost completely to the ground as if to say, “I’ll bend, but I won’t break.” Unless it’s the window.

“That tree looks like it’s going to come straight through the window!” I screamed.

“Nah, it’s too soft. It won’t go through.” This was one time I was glad they were right—it didn’t go through.

Our family room, just off the kitchen, is surrounded by windows on three sides, so we could see pretty much everything going on outside from every angle. (Of course, on a nice evening when our lights are on, our neighbors can see pretty much everything going on inside, but that’s a story for another day.) As the wind swirled around us and the rain came pelting down, we could only watch in amazement at how quickly and how forcefully the storm came up.

And then the lights went out.

And then the lights went back on . . . as the generator revved up.

Last summer, after years and years of flooding, we finally decided to put in a generator for just such a day as this. We get some pretty serious storms around here, and because of that (and because our city won’t address the flooding problem in our neighborhood) we have replaced our finished basement three, count ‘em, THREE times. Thankfully we were in good hands.

Our basement tends to flood when the electricity goes out because our four, count ‘em, FOUR sump pumps don’t work when the electricity goes out. Funny, that.

And it takes about five, (count ‘em!) FIVE weeks or more to get everything back to normal after our basement floods. It’s a real pain and, more than that, a real sadness that goes through us every time we lose our basement.

So last year, after all those years of battling the elements, we gave in and bought a generator. Not one of those mamby-pamby generators for us, though. We got a machine. One of those gas-powered deals that sits outside the house and looks like an air conditioning unit. But louder. Much louder than an air conditioning unit.

We have a feeling our neighbors hate it. Not only does it sit right outside their son’s bedroom window--have I mentioned it's loud?--it’s probably a constant reminder that we’re sitting inside in our air conditioned house not worrying about the trivialities of life like a little flooded basement. Nope, we’re cooking eggs on our cooktop and keeping the waffles frozen.

It’s embarrassing, really. It seems like such an extravagance to have power when the rest of the neighborhood doesn’t.

But all it takes is a jolt of remembering the many nights of lying awake in the middle of the night, just wondering if the power would go out or if our sumps would keep running or if we would have to start hauling furniture up the stairs again. Just that jolt is enough for us to not worry too much about what the neighbors think. The generator, the loud, obnoxious monstrosity, was a necessity.

So, on days like yesterday, when the storms are raging around us and everyone else’s ice cream is melting in their freezer, we’re sitting pretty with lights, cold milk, and television. And, believe me, it came in real handy yesterday after about eight hours with no power and the U.S. Open about to start.

As the old saying goes, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Or in our case, “If your generator gives you power, watch T.V.”

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