All Sixes Sevens And Nines

Part I.

Continuing: Part II.
The more you think about it, the more it becomes clear that sometimes in an emergency you’re going to be on your own or with one other person. Pete and I have lived where we do nearly our whole lives, so we’re not surprised when the river rises over the small bridges or when low roads become fast-moving creeks. It happens now and then that I’m at work when the river comes up. I don’t hang around and wait for the inevitable four-hour crush to drive two miles. I stupidly did that once in snow: lesson learned! When the weather map says it’s going to snow for a whole day and the clouds deliver I’ll be at my house.

You’d be surprised how many people think this is dumb. I bet they’re out of milk and bread.

Listen, I try to be ready for predictable things, but I get caught flat-footed all the time. Yesterday, we drove down to Delaware to see Pete’s elderly aunt and uncle. We thought we were having lunch, then heading home, but when we got there, no trace of lunch could be found. We’d had breakfast, but that was hours before. By the time dinner was ready, Pete and I were ravenous. I wanted to pick up the bowl of meatballs and pour them into my mouth, and it was really hard to not imagine us making growling sounds when someone else reached for the plate of sausages. We were unprepared for this situation despite the facts that we are hypoglycemic and this has happened with our retired relatives twice before. You know: we could’ve had a V8, but we didn’t. Oops?

What if I can’t get to my house, which I love love love and want to be in? The river between my office and my house sometimes floods four out of five nearby river crossings, and getting to that fifth bridge can serve as an IQ test, and this can happen when our skies are clear but North Jersey has had rain for two days or a sudden thaw. Surprise! A flood! But that’s not part of our game. What is? Here in Central New Jersey, people get in cars and panic with the fall of the first flakes. If you drive, take cabs or buses, your job is to get off the road before people with their hair standing on end drive their giant SUVs into a ditch, tying up traffic, emergency personnel and tow truck drivers past your bedtime. If you take trains, keep in mind the Long Island Railroad, for instance, goes haywire when the tracks get wet. No, I don’t understand that. Yes, I think we should all be able to take trains, but what the hell? Anyhoo: my mother’s house is on the other side of the river and about two miles from my office. If I couldn’t cross the river I still have places on higher ground I could retreat to. Bonus: mom’s house has a wine rack I could find in the dark.

If I couldn’t get home, I could still win the Snow Day game by retreating to a backup shelter I know stocks a pantry, a wine rack and warm clothes – but only if Pete is at home with the cats, and they are wearing little sombreros and eating meaty treats.

Part III.

The Dome Back With the Bass

I’m not much of a game player, but I have a few favorites. My sister Daria and I compare grocery store register tapes with ferocious game faces and end zone dances; I play bumper cars with traffic on my bicycle twice a day and my crappy memory makes all of life a constant game of Concentration, but my absolute favorite is Snow Day.

Stuff’s gonna happen. Weather’s going to kick your ass now and then, and depending on where you live, in invigorating ways. Here in the eastern part of Central New Jersey, weather is fairly mild most of the time, but once or twice a normal winter, snow is going to tie up traffic and macramé brainwaves. The game has three parts:

1. Prepare.
2. Get home before I cannot.
3. EVERYBODY DANCE NOW!

When snow is in the forecast, I count on about half the people around me to head to the grocery store to buy bread and milk and the other half to forget they’re out. Most people are not good at this game. But look: this is fun. Imagine yourself cozy inside your happy house for – let’s say – two days, even three. What would you need? What would you want? What would make these three days awesome?

Need
Food
Water
Cat Food
Cat Litter
Light
Heat
Snow Melt (for the sidewalks)
Toilet Paper
Shovels

Want
Enough Extra For Additional People, Animals
Ability To Travel Locally
Warm Outdoor Clothing
Warm Indoor Clothing
Fun Things To Do, Including Each Other

Awesomeness
Adult Beverages
Clean Laundry
Human Treats
Cat Treats
Mariachi Band!

It’s a complicated bit of imagining. What if your neighborhood loses power in this fantasy? What if you find yourself stranded with guests? What if you, whoever and whatever you are, have to take care of an injured person? Can you do it?

Need
First Aid Kit
Candles
Mouthwash
Toothpaste
Antiseptic
Antibiotic Ointment
Clean Towels

Want
Extra Blankets
Ability To Wash Dishes Manually
Books/Magazines

Awesomeness
Power Generator
TV
Music

I don’t have a generator and probably never will, but that’d be great, wouldn’t it? Maybe. But then you have to store combustible fuel for it. Here, where power outages are few, far between and brief, keeping a generator is probably not a great idea. Where you live, it may be absolutely necessary. How do you feel about a mariachi band? So let’s amend:

Awesomeness
Drink Umbrellas
Festive, Warm Costumes

What, you think a party just happens?

Look, I’ve been broke. I don’t mean out of pin money for the weekend, I mean ate once mashed potatoes a day while pregnant, and I have a rule: Every grocery list that includes ramen noodles must include paper drink umbrellas. Life is short! But everyone has a different definition of Need, Want and Awesomeness, and some things you can build into your regular life and count as part of the game. A really good example: batteries. Locate your flashlights at the beginning of October, replace all the batteries and store enough new batteries to replace what you’re using in January, should the need arise. Bonus: you can feel very smug when a TV PSA asks if you’ve thought of it.

Another thing: coffee. I don’t know about you, but I am going to be very unhappy in a situation where I’m denied some caffeinated swill. A power outage does not threaten my ability to make coffee, however, since I’m perfectly willing to build a fire in the backyard, boil water and use the french press to make coffee, which I can store in a thermos. Do I sound desperate? Maybe, but a warm drink on a snow day sounds like a basic need. So: charcoal or small logs, newspaper, coffee grounds, french press, clean water, a thermos or large carafe. Or: you could make the coffee before the snow hits and set aside. Fewer conflagrations for you! By the way, do you have a fire extinguisher?

Part II.