CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Here we go again -- more opportunities to see how we cope in a crisis. Don't you just love this living laboratory?
As I write this, I'm still without power at home (at least the electrical kind!), and I'll admit I'm definitely not much of a pioneer. I actually missed the first 24 hours of the outage because I was traveling home, and my flight was canceled.
I have vowed to myself, though, that I won't let the situation get to me, like it did with the derecho storm last summer. That was eight days without power -- I bailed out after three.
And "crisis" is relative (or maybe it's about your relatives). Anyway, when I see how much devastation has occurred all along the East Coast, it helps to put things into perspective. When newborn babies on respirators need to be transported from a hospital because its power has gone out and backup generators have failed, that's a crisis.
Hurricane Sandy took away homes, businesses and lives. There's really no comparison to the temporary inconvenience of being without our utilities and electronics, and I'm certainly not suggesting that it is.
Yet a power outage goes right to the heart of our routines and our behaviors. Heat, lights, water, phone and Internet are things we depend on. Not to mention refrigerators, ovens, televisions, hot showers and hair dryers.
Thanks goodness for our trusty Buck Stove at home -- and my husband John's long-term fascination with fire. Fortunately, we just had our annual allotment of firewood delivered a couple of weeks ago. I jokingly referred to it as "wood for life" at the time, and marveled at his gleefulness at splitting and stacking it into neat, multiple rows. Now I'm more grateful than glib about the giant pile.
Times like these bring out the best and the worst in us. When fear sets in, folks may feel threatened and start to hoard supplies. A type of guerrilla warfare can set in, accelerated by the jealousy that accompanies the spotting of lights across the ridge. A power outage is truly the great equalizer -- just like the Department of Motor Vehicles.
On the other hand, I've seen an outpouring of support and generosity from volunteers, neighbors and friends who have helped each other. Those who have had their power reinstated (or who never lost it) have issued offers of warm places to stay, hot showers to take, etc. Yummm ... I remember kissing my hot water tank after another lengthy power outage years ago.