November 2010 Issue

And now, our monthly quiz. The National Weather Service has just announced that an incredibly violent line of storms, boasting winds of 70 mph, is heading your way, and it’s due to hit in about two hours. Since this in the middle of an unusually hot October day, there is the distinct possibility of tornadoes. Do you (a) run to the store (a 20-mile round trip) for batteries and water, since the lights are nearly certain to go out; (b) begin the tedious process of herding your two dogs and multitudinous cats into your tiny Civil War-vintage cellar, keeping in mind that it took well over an hour to find and apprehend Gus the Cat the last time he noticed that you were looking for him, or (c) wash the dishes?

The correct answer is (c) wash the dishes. You will also want to vacuum the whole house, do all the laundry, take one last shower and cook any perishables you have in the fridge that require either the microwave or the oven. If you have any frozen pies, cook all of them.

You will do all this because there is nothing worse than spending two or three days without power (and thus no well pump) in a dark, dirty house with a sink full of dishes, eating peanut butter sandwiches and wishing you could wash your face. Now at least the rugs will look nice, you’ll be fairly clean and you’ll have lots of lukewarm food to eat. Assuming that you have thoroughly vacuumed the bedroom, you may actually be able to sleep in the pitch blackness without worrying too much about the humongous venomous spider you saw in the upstairs hall last week.

None of this, however, will make up for not being able to watch TV or surf the net, which is exactly what you’d want to do if you had power but for some mysterious reason couldn’t read a book or do real work. So when you absolutely can’t stand it anymore, drive to the Big Box store in the upscale suburbs 25 miles away. Important: If you will be returning after dark, make sure when you leave to turn on a light that can be seen from the road.

At the store, spend a few hours picking a new dish-washing sponge and reading the plot summaries on the offerings in the two-for-five-bucks DVD bin. Browse the power tool aisle and try to imagine actively wanting to own a power tool. Amble over to the TV section and see if they’re showing anything interesting on the wall of 35 flat-screen TVs. (I once watched nearly half of the Simpsons Movie this way.) On your way out, zip over to the gun department and buy three 50-pound bags of deer corn for the bunnies and chipmunks to eat this winter. (Be sure to explain to the cashier that you’re not using it to lure Bambi’s mom into an ambush.)

Swing by Barnes & Noble, buy a coffee in the cafe and spend twenty minutes kicking yourself for not bringing your notebook with you. Console yourself with a cupcake. Stroll past the bargain books racks to see if your publisher has remaindered any of your own books lately. Wander down the strip mall and check out the Gigaplex on the off chance that they’re showing a movie not aimed at dim, angry children of all ages.

Go to Target and look at cat beds. Buy half-price Halloween candy. Look at the computerized wedding registries of people you will never meet. Wander around the store and pretend you’re doing your Christmas shopping really, really early, but don’t actually buy anything because you are stressed out, to put it mildly, and your judgment is impaired. Read the label on the spray cheese to see if it has to be refrigerated. If not, buy two cans and several kinds of crackers.

Take your time, but be sure to buy a few new cat toys before you head home. If the aforementioned light isn’t burning when you reach your driveway, it means your power is still out. Keep driving and head for the nearest all-night mega-supermarket. It’s time to see what they have in the way of carpet remnants and desk lamps.

Repeat every day until the power company gets its act together. And when you can finally relax and fire up your computer in a clean and well-lighted place, please subscribe.

p.s. – – Cats love spray cheese.

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