Living Hell - Volume #2, Issue #12


December 4, 2002

Special Severe Ice Storm Edition!

3:15 a.m.  Boom!  The sound of an explosion.  Was that real?  Was it
a dream?  Haze of sleep starts to recede.  In bed.  In darkness.  At
home.  Warm.  Oh yeah, there's an ice storm tonight.  Or supposed to
be.  The bedroom is uncharacteristically dark-- no neon glow from a-
top the dresser; no hallway bathed by computer monitor.  Guess the
power's out.  How 'bout that.  Sounds are trickling in.  Heavy rain-
drops on metal awnings.  Not-so-distant creaking and cracking.  Then
a gunshot.  Then another.  Tree limbs, I'd guess.  Amble onto feet
and wander to window.  Wow, it is bright outside!  What time is it?
The entire backyard is outlined in crystal.  Branches droop and the
bushes lay unconscious.  Wood-filled icicles are everywhere.  What
do I do now?  Shuffle into living room.  Cat is somewhere, probably
splayed on couch.  Peer through front door porthole.  Sheet of ice
in front, cracked in most places and collecting pools of water.  And
more limbs askance and branches askew.  And in the distance, maybe
two neighborhoods away, distant lights.  So somebody has power.
Shuffle back to bedroom.  Feel around for flashlight, plugged into a
socket somewhere around the lamp / phone / scanner area.  Damn, for-
got to charge my handheld.  Oh well, no fire calls for Yours Truly.
The decades-old torch barely casts a beam.  Better call CP&L.  Shuf-
fle to kitchen.  Feel around for telephone books.  Grab one and look
closely.  It's a picture of something.  Okay, guess the *other* one
is the white pages.  Shuffle back to bedroom.  Climb back into bed.
Begin utilizing green glow of telephone.  Damn, *this* one is the
yellow pages.  Press nose to paper.  Nope, no number for CP&L.  Duke
Power's listed, under Electric Companies, but not Carolina Power and
Light.  How strange is *that*.  Screw it.  Let's go to sleep.  Phone
back in cradle; phone book placed on floor.  And a pillow over my
head, as the gunshots are still sounding.

7:30 a.m.  Inside the training building.  Looks like a house, but is
designed as a practice facility.  For explosives.  The hosts are
computer-generated holograms of Marilyn Monroe and a young Anthony
Hopkins.  He's nuzzling at her neck and making animal sounds.  Sigh.
Always the cannibal.  The actor's hold a handful of compact discs.
Camouflaged bombs, I guess.  He flings them into an ornate living
room, where they nearly immediately ignite.  Okay, not explosives
but *incendiary* devices.  And we're to *combat* the flames.  Fire-
fighter training, I guess.  Outside the house, or down the hall, or
above grown, the mutant apes are amassing.  Or something like that.
Truth be told, the dream fades faster than my gaining consciousness.
Daylight now and at least a few hours later.  Good, I slept.  The
blinds before the windows are glowing with early light.  Must be 7
a.m. or later.  Repeat earlier routine of glancing out windows.
Yup, still encased in a crystalline palace.  Begin making phone
calls-- to girlfriend across town, to electric company hotline, to
girlfriend again, to another friend in another direction across
town.  The reports are all the same:  power's out everywhere, the
road's are clear but barely traveled, school is cancelled, busi-
nesses are either cancelled or delayed, and the whole doggone mess
ain't gonna be gone by nightfall.  Great.  Tune handheld radio a-
cross AM and FM dials.  The insipid local morning shows are utterly
un-listenable.  "Imus in the Morning" entertains for a while, but I
soon switch the radio off.  Even attempt some more sleep-- with cat
this time-- but to no avail.  Check temperature.  64 degrees.  Was
67 degrees earlier this morning.  Hmmmmm.  What does that compute as
a rate of change?  Shuffle into kitchen.  Time to take seasonal ad-
vantage of gas power.  Flame one!  And in minutes, the four burners
of the stove have heated the kitchen to a toasty degree.  Call girl-
friend and rub it in.  She's shivering in a two-story townhouse in
Cary with two whiny cats.  Felix is silent and staring out the
kitchen window.  I've started a pot of water boiling.  Since the
food's gonna go bad, might as well make soup!

8:33 a.m.  Avgo lemono, e.g. egg and lemon soup.  Grammie's recipe,
modified by Yours Truly.  Boil water, add chicken.  Three half-
breasts.  When nearly cooked, remove and place in pan.  Place pan
outdoors to cool, on top of car in case roaming pack of wild animals
passes through.  Add water and chicken stock to broth.  Boil again.
Add two coups of rice, Uncle Ben's Converted, thank you very much.
While rice is cooking, begin tedious process of hand-whipping one
half-dozen eggs.  Add one-half cup lemon-- Food Lion brand concen-
trated juice-- to frothy mixture.  Stir in broth.  Pour mixture into
pot with rice.  Stir in chicken.  Eat heartily.  And listen to scan-
ner while cooking, after opening car window and turning speaker vol-
ume to max.  The fire department's running everywhere.  Power lines
this, tree limbs that.  Assorted avenues are blocked, as are select
lanes of the Beltline.  Fire alarms get single-engine responses.  No
fires yet.  Just a lot of felled stuff.  Soup's doing' fine, though
I took the chicken outside to verify its "done-ness."  (A single
kitchen candle ain't cuttin' it.)  And I've turned the rest of the
stove off.  Though toasty warmth is nice, the resulting gas bill
won't be.  Eh, I'll suffer.  Crack, rustle, thud.  More tree limbs
in the front yard.  At least the hedge-trimming clippings from the
other week are gonna get picked up.  And I wonder if I could do a
bit o' pruning by simply... snapping off the offending branches?
Hmmmmmm.  Nearly 10 o'clock now.  Just how in the world *will* I
amuse myself today.  Have two hours of "laptop juice" left.  A cou-
ple candles.  Several hundred books.  It's dark and I don't feel
like reading.  Oh, that's right, I can write on paper.  Silly me.
And those bastards at WDNC-AM cancelled the only good mid-morning
radio show on the dial-- G. Gordon Liddy-- the other week.  Memo to
self:  call and register complaint with (read: gripe to) Program Di-

12:11 p.m.  Now roaming 'round north Raleigh.  Power's on on Capital
Boulevard at Spring Forest Road and people are parked ten cars deep
for gas at three corner service stations.  I've been criss-crossing
side streets, taking pictures of icy fire stations and just gener-
ally enjoying the clear-coated scenery.  The scanners chirp merrily
with more lines 'n' limbs down.  There's an occasional car accident
(with injuries) and a reported fire or two.  (One fire report sends
Raleigh responders to house on Marlowe Road.  The District Chief,
upon encountering a blocked street, informs Headquarters that he's
"proceeding on foot.")  The radio reports a million N.C. residents
without power and central North Carolina's provider Duke Power suf-
fering its worst service interruption *ever*.  (Worse than even Hur-
ricane _______ <- insert name of favorite severe storm.)  Traffic's
steady on the major roads-- Atlantic, Millbrook, Spring Forest, and
Capital.  And cars are moving at regular speeds, resulting in excit-
ing "ice bursts" from hoods and roofs.  (Though those riding behind
said snowy offenders are probably less enthused...)  I have one roll
of film to my name, having snapped a dozen shots in my limb-strewn
yard and, up the road, at Fire Station eleven.  (Located at 2925
Glenridge Road, in the Highwoods section of the Brentwood community,
Station #11 houses Engine #11, a 2000 Quality/Spartan Metro pumper,
and Truck #11, a 1990 Spartan/LTI aerial ladder.)  No power *north*
of Spring Forest Road, it turns out.  No polizei directing cars, ei-
ther.  Just pokey passenger vehicles, inching through intersections
as they attempt to cross traffic.  Weenies.

4:59 p.m.  Leaving Smithfield's BBQ in Johnston County.  Had hanker-
ing for fried chicken after awakening from mid-afternoon nap.  That
is, after a *toasty* mid-afternoon nap.  Restored power greeted my
return from roaming around Falls Lake and west Wake Forest.  (Pas-
sed Fire Station Twenty-Two on Durant Road and the Falls fire sta-
tion on Falls of the Neuse Road.  Hafta ask about some paperwork at
the latter, though today's probably not the best day to pop in...)
Of course, the juice disappeared about a half-hour *later*, though
not before Yours Moment-Seizing successfully washed a mess of dishes
and at least *started* recharged several electronic devices.  Check
e-mail as well and discover a couple messages from concerned friends
and *really* concerned family members.  Like the weatherman said,
chill.  And then, somewhere in mid-nap, the house resumes its click-
ing and buzzing.  Power is back, baby!  Regain conscious *and* appe-
tite, return to car, revisit Capital Boulevard-- now with working
traffic signals and a Perkins that's doing serious business-- and go
south.  I-440 to I-40 to Highway 42.  Cleveland School, 'bout five
or six miles south of the Wake County line.  And *everything* is o-
pen.  McDonald's.  Bojangles.  Burger King.  Waffle House.  Oh, but
Dairy Queen is closed.  The bastards.  First to Food Lion, in search
of candles.  In case the power goes out *again*.  No dice.  Cross
over interstate and into Smithfield's.  Parking lot is packed and
the checkout counter's four-people deep.  Walk into restaurant and
slam into brick wall of grease smell.  On any other day I'd be re-
pulsed.  Or at least be taken back to memories of firehouse cooking.
Fifteen minutes later, one order for here:  two-piece chicken snack
(with fries), a half-dozen hush puppies, and a "small" Diet Coke.
Though, and as is the case with most faster-food establishments,
"small" is a relative term with regard to pop.

5:55 p.m.  K-mart.  New Bern Avenue.  East Raleigh, out Highway 64
in direction of Knightdale.  Night has fallen.  No ice on the roads.
Yet.  Traffic is steady.  Parking lot is packed.  Slide into fire
lane.  Throw dice that towing companies are busy elsewhere.  Plus
the Mayor's gettin' tough on their predatory practices.  Down coats
and ski caps everywhere.  I'm wearing a sweatshirt and thin slacks.
What can I say, I'm not terribly cold.  Enter store.  Customer ser-
vice desk on left, packed.  People everywhere.  Right inside door is
temporary rack of candles and heating supplies.  Store manager or
similar lackey stands alongside.  "Are these the last candles?" I
inquire.  "No, there's more in that direction."  He points.  I walk.
Need candles, batteries, and sundry foodstuffs.  In case power goes
bye-bye.  Three, maybe four cash registers operating.  Each with
line.  Overhear jewelry counter person shouting "I can take someone
over here!"  Bump into acquaintance while passing health and medi-
cine.  Swap stories as Metamucil bottles look on.  Find candle dis-
play near school supplies.  Secure four, no six, no ten long-stem-
mers.  Green, because it's Christmas.  And it's the only color they
have.  Not Martha Stewart brand, tho.  She's a babe.  Snack rack
next, they toys, then electronics.  For bat'tries.  "Do you see any
'D's" asks another?  "No, but there are battery racks scattered all
about the store" I answer.  Opines another, "well, I was going to
buy a flashlight, but if there are no 'D' batteries..." Snatch set
of double-A's.  Generic, of course, as off-brands are made by the
same companies.  Pack of Twizzlers for Sweetie.  Packs of chewing
gum for self.  And that's that.  Return to checkout counters.  Lines
are still long.  Proceed to service desk, recalling store announce-
ment reminding customers that they can checkout there.  Three people
ahead of myself, including a person who checks himself out on adja-
cent register.  His face appears identical to the store manager
photo on the wall above.  Five minutes of waiting.  Pretty painless.
Good people-watching.  And everybody's in layers, so nobody smells.

7:50 p.m.  Interrupt "Osbournes" season premiere to kill cockroach.
Small one.  Maybe a baby.  Spot same on southwest wall of living
room.  In corner, climbing above stereo speaker.  Promptly point out
to girlfriend, who has immediate cow.  Pause VCR.  Retrieve paper
towel.  Chase fleet-footed bug behind display rack of fire engines.
(Left to right, top to bottom: HME/Luverne pumper, Chicago; Hino ae-
rial ladder; AEC pumper, Hong Kong; Ahrens-Fox quad; Ahrens-Fox pum-
per, Lockland; Seagrave pumper, FDNY; E-One aerial platform, Boston;
Wiley's jeep, Tarn.)  Grab Gregor.  Walk slowing toward bathroom,
pausing for dramatic effect as girlfriend screams "take it away!"
Smile with evil grin.  Flush dangerous cargo.  Bug be gone.  Check
clock.  Her show starts in five.  Switch VCR off.  Seclude self in
computer room.  Day is done.  Three or four hours and it'll be bed-
time.  Skim local and national news sites.  Power's still out every-
where.  Governor's declared state of emergency.  Durham's affected a
curfew.  Friends and family members still mailing, still concerned.
Relax, folks.  Phone'll be ringing tomorrow, no doubt.  And there'll
be chores, too.  Eight large limbs decorate yard.  Plus Time-Warner
cable formerly connected to neighbor's house.  No chainsaw to name.
Don't dare.  Just an axe.  And associated puns.  Fallen parts, ap-
proximately 10 to 15 feet in length.  Say, 150 to 400 pounds.  At
least the largest is already perpendicular to driveway.  Should be
easy to rock and roll.  Dude.  Temperature's expected in forties.
Ice'll keep melting.  Stores'll be open.  Mail'll be delivered.  And
for this lucky Raleigh resident, the fast-fading memories of momen-
tary hardship.  And to all a good night...

Copyright 2002 by Michael J. Legeros




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