Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Count your Blessings

November 21, 2012
I was working in the office on Monday when the power went out.  We had just finished lunch and I was working on payroll.  I came out into the diner to hear that one customer had heard a large explosion off towards the east.
Jay and I decided to check on things at the house and we soon discovered that a rather large tree had taken down the electrical line on Bear Creek Road.  We drove out to the house and Immediately discovered the drive in gate to our back yard was in distress. Using some items close by, we secured it and went on to work on securing the items on our back deck.  Our house lives in a rather windy area having very few wind breaks toward the west.  As I stepped out onto the deck that had all of it's chairs already blown off, I noticed the back fence was very close to going over.
Jay begin picking up the chair while I grabbed the drill and some long screws.  Taking some old fence posts that I found in an abandoned lot next door, I quickly braced the fence against the still buffeting winds.  Jay and I then took bunjy cords and secured the items on the deck.
I then returned to the diner to attempt to decide what measures we should take there.  The tree was so big that I knew the power could be off for quite some time, so I struggled with whether we should close down or not.
Customers kept streaming in and were quite happy with eating cold sandwiches with pie and washing it down with the remaining coffee.  I had said to close when I saw a man being wheeled in the front door.  "We have no power.", I exclaimed.  "And I have been looking forward to this all day.", the man in the wheel chair said. "I only have cold sandwiches.", I returned.  "Can I have one with a slice of that pie?", came the reply.  I smiled to myself, knowing the answer to what needed to happen right then.  We would remain open for as long as possible.  Today was not about profit.
We found battery operated lights to use in various parts of the kitchen and Judy joined in to help the crew that was still working on the preparations for Thursday's event.  Judy and Shelly cracked hard boiled eggs while Matt polished off an apple salad mix.  Jay and I drove down to Big Lots who had power and purchased some more lights and batteries.
As the sun begin to set, I had to make another decision.  So, I jumped in my car and drove around the neighborhood attempting to access just how long we might be down.  Jim called while I was out so I headed back to the diner so we could make the decision based upon what we had in front of us.  The power had come back on in parts of the kitchen but not in other.  We have two panels.  One was hot and the other was down.
As I drove into the parking lot, I was trying to get an update from the electric company and I sat in the car with the blue tooth on as a strange man approached me.  The side of his face was all scratched up and he waited as I finished the call. "I need a ride home.", he stated.   Now, I believe that sometimes things are placed in front of you to see how you will react.  I knew without hesitation what was needed and I told the man to jump in the car.  I called my daughter who was still in the building and she knows me also.  A teary eyed answer to the phone said it all.  She did not want me to take him.  Jim came walking over to the car and I made a snap call.  Since he really could not do anything, I asked him to jump in the back seat so we could access the situation on the way back and calm her fears of her father getting jumped by the stranger.
The man seemed very disoriented as we attempted to find where he lived.  "Down past Fred Meyers.", he claimed.  I asked him if he had fallen and if he needed medical assistance.  "No, I am fine.", he exclaimed, "I just need to get out of this weather."  We determined that his car had broken down but he didn't seem to know just where so we headed towards the south side of town and Fred Meyers.
Traffic was very heavy as people were going home early for the evening and so the going was a bit slow.  Both Jim and I attempted to find out just where he lived to no real avail.  "Jim asked him if he lived in an apartment and he said, "No, it is a house.".  "East or West of the highway?". I asked. "West", came the reply.  The further we drove, the more anxious that I got leaving my daughter and grandson with the remain crew in the diner as the sky got darker and darker.
Following the man's directions, we found ourselves in Romaine Village and he guided us into his house.  As he opened his door to get out, he turned and looked at me and said the first sentence that seemed to be complete and full in thought.  "Thank you so much!", he said, "You have no idea just how much what you have done means to me.".  I bid him farewell and watched with my lights on the house to help him get to his door.  He smiled and waved as we backed out.
As we drove away, I attempted to explain my thoughts to Jim regarding angels.  "I think sometimes God places them in our lives to see how we will handle a situation.", I explained. "You might have just met one.".
I called the diner and found that the had already secured the building.  I asked that one of the men stay until we arrive so that Trin and Jay would be secure while Jim and I took the opportunity to discuss last minute plans for Thanksgiving on our drive back.
Then the phone calls begin to come in regarding poker.  I told them all that I felt we should just cancel as I had no idea when the power might come back on.  One of the guys who does not normally get to play seemed disappointed.  "I won't be able to play again till the end of the year.", he stated. "If we play, it is by lantern", I returned.  "Great", he said, "I will bring mine also.".  So, I started calling the few back who had called earlier and they called others.
In the pitch dark, we set up by lantern light.  I got a couple of coat hangers and hung the lanterns over the two tables and we played with 17 people.  It made the game more special.  Kind of like camping out. One of the players stated that we should do this once a year, regardless if we have power or not.
The game actually gave me something to do as I waited for the power to come back on.  In between hands, I attempted to get updates from the electrical company and soon found the shortest way to filter through their electronic system.  I knew then that the night might be long.
As people dropped out, they left and we soon were down to the final table of which I was no longer a part of.  My daughter had knocked me out when she pulled a straight that took out my two pair.  By the left over light, I re-stacked chips as the final table dwindled.  Around 8:30, we had a winner and Jay and Trin left, leaving me alone in the building.
I walked around trying to better access the situation.  I knew that we had the walk in cooler back on line and I was very happy about that as that was where the turkeys were for the big day coming up.  I was concerned about the other refrigeration and freezers when I made a rather happy discovery.  Our main fridges along with the walk in freezer were also on line.  I moved the pies from up front into the walk in cooler and we seemed to be secure when it hit me.  We have tens of thousands of dollars worth of product and even though we have no power to half of the building those perishables remain protected. I quickly sent up a prayer of thanks as I attempted to secure the very dark building and go home for a bit.
There was no internet or cable at the house so I watched shows that I had taped on the dvr as I waited for the power to be restored at the diner so that I could shut her down and secure the building.  I took a break from the shows every hour or so to drive down to the diner and check.  I would sit in the parking lot and filter through the electrical companies phone system to let them know I was still without power and get updates.  At Midnight, they said 1:30, so I drove back down then.
The building was still dark and so was the area around it.  The power to one light in the parking lot had been on through out the evening as it was attached to the walk in power.  I noticed it out and figured it was the timer.  Driving around the building to switch the light back on, I discovered a pickup sitting out behind the building. I thought I noticed movement in the truck.  I got out and switched the light back on.  I know we had power at the time because the compressor was on next to the light switch.  But, when I drove back around, the light was off. As I drove around the building, the other circuit in the area had gone off.  This left us even darker as other street lights in the area had gone out.  I drove back around the building and as my lights came across the pickup truck, I noticed movement within it.  People were sitting in the dark at 1:30 in the morning a block off of the main road.
Now,this bothered me.  1:30 in the morning.  Pitch dark.  Off the main road.  I thought of calling 911 but waited until I arrived back home.  I called the non emergency line and reported the sighting.  "Next time just call 911", she said, "It does sound kind of strange for them to be just sitting there".
Five minutes later, an officer called to let me know that it was just a flag crew for the electrical company waiting to be assigned.  Evidentally, they had moved back there catching some sleep while they waited for assignment.
The electrical companies phone system now said the estimated time of 3AM for return of power so I watched yet another taped show and drove back down at 2:45 to find a lite up diner.
As I unlocked the door, it was as if the diner was open for business.  Lights were on and music wafted out of the kitchen.  I walked around, securing and accessing.  One coffee pot had been turned on just before the outage and the pot had been removed so a water mess needed attending.  Then, I closed out the till and credit card machine before setting the security.  By 3:30, I was on my way home.
As I laid my head down on the pillow, Judy and I talked for a few minutes of the eventful day.  She stated that it made her think of the people after the hurricane Sandy that had been affected.  Some of them went for days before getting power back on.
As I drifted off to sleep, I thought of how blessed we truly are and have been.  My fence was still standing.  Our food had remained secure.  And friends had gotten together in the cold dark blustery night to enjoy some time together and raise a bit more money so that one day, a family just might have a home of it's own.

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