What 'Not' To Say to Neighbors Still Without Power

Five days without electricity provided several lessons in maintaining civility.

Power was finally restored to my Anneslie home last night. After having gone without electricity since Friday, my wife and I have learned a few lessons along the way.

Chief among them are what not to say to neighbors still without power (along with civilized responses that served us well when we were Al Pacino-frustrated about being in the dark.)  

1. "We never actually lost power."

  • Civilized response of the powerless: "Good for you." 
  • Actual thought: "Good for you, braggart." 

2. "This must be such an incredible bonding experience for your family." 

  • Civilized response: "Yes, our biological ties are not enough. It's better that we sleep in a dank basement amid the stench of rotting food producing maggots and the sounds of a wild raccoon outside our window eating our garbage at 3 a.m."
  • Actual thought: "Did you mean bondage—as in captivity?"

3. "Is there anything I can do?" (This is actually appropriate if followed with an offer of freezer and bedroom space.)  

  • Civilized response: "That's so nice. When can we move in?"
  • Actual thought (after Day 3): "If by 'anything' you don't mean 'turn my power back on', then 'no,' there's nothing you can do."  

4. "Do you want me to lend you a fan."  

  • Civilized response: "Nice thought. But, remember, the power is out." 
  • Actual thought: "Only if by 'fan' you mean 'gun.'" 

5. "It really makes you value the simple things in life."  

  • Civilized response: "Yes," you say, nodding philosophically. "It really does."
  • Actual thought: "This is America. We put a man on the moon. I have an expectation of air conditioning." 

There were plenty of other positive results to emerge from the power outage. 

  1. My refrigerator and freezer have never been cleaner.  
  2. My trash cans have never been less disgusting (anything maggot-infested can never really be clean, in my mind). 
  3. We identified the varmint that had been knocking over our trash cans for weeks, and found someone to catch it.
  4. We found a new corporate villain for our middle class angst: instead of despising Comcast, we can now return to despising BGE. (But it's really no different than alternating resentments between the Red Sox and the Yankees.)
  5. I'm thankful that no one I know was injured or killed in the storm or its aftermath. Having had a friend killed in Roland Park by a falling branch two years ago, I'm well aware of the possibility of far dire results.

But it's better to find humor and fellowship in this ordeal. Without it, the heat would have won.

Of course, if we don't stay civilized, it still might.  

JDStuts July 05, 2012 at 05:34 PM
Not bad but correct your last line to read "stay civilized" not "still civilized". It is a shame to ruin the piece's hook from a simple oversight.
Lisa Rossi (Editor) July 05, 2012 at 05:58 PM
Glad to hear the power is back on for you, Doug, and glad someone caught the varmint!
Tim July 05, 2012 at 06:06 PM
I hated when people asked us if we lost power - right after they lamented the lack of their power. I intentionally didn't ask a single person this week if they lost power. I knew the answer for far too many people would be "No". Just hoped for their sake they would get it back ASAP.
David Taylor July 05, 2012 at 06:17 PM
Sean Tully July 05, 2012 at 07:35 PM
Yea, this would be humorous if it weren't such a serious issue with people's lives at stake. I'm not sure we are far enough away from the problem to begin the lists of "Things..." yet. Just saying.
myaaa alsoo July 05, 2012 at 07:41 PM
power is good
Gina July 05, 2012 at 07:55 PM
I didn't ask anyone if they lost it, I know I was miserable enough having lost it for 30hrs I couldn't imagine what it would have felt like losing it for longer and I didn't want to act like I knew by sympothising with them. I for one have a hard time holding back my sarcasm and would have excepted a punch in the face the moment I counter commented with a "I'm really sorry we got our power back Sunday morning" However we did end up blowing a cool $600 on a generator so if it does happen again we will be ready. Even after 30hrs w/o power there was a stench of death in our neighborhood last night before the trash men came, they certainly are going to earn their money today............I might have called out sick if I were them!
Tyler Waldman July 05, 2012 at 07:58 PM
That's what I said when I got my power back, so guilty. Then I lost it again about 12 hours later. Serves me right.
Elizabeth Heubeck July 05, 2012 at 08:16 PM
The author has an uncanny knack for finding humor in the miserable and the bizarre--anybody remember his article about the lawn chairs in the blizzard? Thanks for providing some much-needed laughs during this otherwise unfunny week, Doug.
Sean Tully July 05, 2012 at 09:31 PM
Elizabeth, my swipe isn't at Doug so much as our instant culture. Doug is a great writer. But we are so ready to begin making our jokes and lists about things in the news that the actual issues contained in the news are often overlooked. I did a video on those who use lawn chairs and other items to save parking spaces during the blizzard (it appeared on Arbutus Patch), but I did it after the emergency was over and the humor of those still savings spaces was evident. I just don't see anything funny about some 100,000 people without power during record breaking heat wave.
Doug Donovan July 06, 2012 at 12:05 AM
Point well taken, Sean. And thanks for the compliment and the criticism. Both are always accepted. I know full well the seriousness of the situation. We're trying to do our part to help. We have a family of four staying with us in the basement now. And, as I wrote, two years ago a dear friend was killed by a falling branch caused by a storm a day earlier. And during Irene a power outage cut off the electricity to my father's oxygen tank. I believe we've had a strong mix of the serious and the factual.
Nicolette Argyros July 06, 2012 at 01:37 AM
Doug, this is a wonderful, light hearted, and humorous piece. Thank you for taking the time to shed a little of your light on the situation.
Mark C. July 06, 2012 at 02:00 AM
You guys may have lower taxes and "better" public schools, but our City neighborhood never lost power, trash pick-up went on as usual, and I don't feel much guilt. So tell me again how you "loved" the City, but left when you had kids.
Gerry fey July 06, 2012 at 02:08 AM
As of 10:03 p.m. On Thursday night we STILL don't have power at our house, Sean. Frankly, at this point, comedy is the only thing helping to cope with the god-awful situation. What exactly do you want patch to do about it? Sometimes, the best thing a public site like Patch can do is bring some levity to the situation.
Daya Chaney-Webb July 06, 2012 at 11:26 AM
Great piece, Doug!
Dolores Berger July 06, 2012 at 11:42 AM
Doug, you made me laugh and I really didn't think I could today. Thank you. I live in Stoneleigh and my power came back on Thursday at 5 PM, only to go back off at 9:15 PM. It is still not back on, and B*!@E is reporting that it will not be restored until 5 PM tonight.
Steve Grantz July 06, 2012 at 02:13 PM
Funny piece. People really can be oblivious, as the offer of an electric fan shows. And totally appropriate for the circumstances. The writing acknowledges that the situation is serious, could be worse, but easier to tolerate when approached with a sense of humor.
CerahAnd July 06, 2012 at 02:18 PM
This is a cute little piece. We definitely had a fun home "glamping" experience after being out of power for six days with Hurricane Irene. Thankfully, that wasn't in the middle of a heavy heat wave. This time was "fun" for a few moments, and then tolerable. This time around, my power come back on (at Tuesday around 6:30pm), and I received a follow-up call (on Thursday around 7:30pm from Constellation) asking if my power was on and if I was an apartment complex. ??? No matter how hard the linemen work, or who they bring in from other states, this inability to identify a specific account on their line, combined with the continued outages are signs of an aging infrastructure that either BGE/Constellation/Exelon must invest to upgrade (which will be paid for by an increase to the ratepayer--you and me). In the meantime, hedge your bets on any utility upgrades and buy a generator--enough to power the fridge, the sump, and a few necessities. I believe outages like this will become more common before anything real is done to address the situation.
Karebear July 06, 2012 at 02:39 PM
Thank you for this article. I can totally relate, as it was 6 days for my street.
Karebear July 06, 2012 at 02:41 PM
Oh and I thought it was very funny! I can laugh about this now that my A/C is back on (hopefully for good!).
Bart July 06, 2012 at 03:07 PM
A fiend of mine just got the power on last evening. It's now out again.
Karebear July 06, 2012 at 03:10 PM
Oh no. I think I will lose my mind if mine goes out again! I hope your friend regains power ASAP.
Karebear July 06, 2012 at 03:14 PM
By the way fiend or friend? Freudian slip? lol
Bart July 06, 2012 at 03:19 PM
Oops! Friend for sure. HA!
Missy Elliot July 06, 2012 at 04:22 PM
WalMart in Towson now stocks generators in the Garden Section. They were stacked right down the middle of the isle, I think I'm going to invest in one.
Cheryl Parks-Weidley July 06, 2012 at 06:14 PM
I've been saying," Oh, no! That's awful. I am so sorry." and praying God help us all.
Needaname July 07, 2012 at 11:47 AM
I agree !
Sean Tully July 09, 2012 at 05:03 AM
Sounds good, Doug. Thanks.
Sean Tully July 09, 2012 at 05:05 AM
Gerry, the Patch can do whatever it wants. I can also voice my opinion, as you can. Now, if the Patch were still paying for reporters, I personally would have been willing to investigate just why they are so short of crews and have to outsource from other states. I have been told that BGE has only four working crews now. I'd investigate to see if that were true.
Graham July 16, 2012 at 12:13 AM
Mr Tully, nice piece that you did and I think that you are so very correct


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