I will admit it: I was completely surprised by Hermine. As with Emperor Palpatine before me, my overconfidence was my undoing. I’m in my 40s now, as incredible as that seems to me. I may not look it, Gandalf, but I’m beginning to feel it in my heart of hearts. In all that time, I’ve seldom gone even an hour without the ability to plug some appliance or device into an electrical socket and have it do some kind of work for me, be it produce illumination or play a song. I’m spoiled in that way, predictably, seeing as I’m a middle-class white male living in the U.S.
When Hurricane Hugo surprised everyone by devastating in-land areas typically spared the worst by virtue of distance from the coast, my parents, who lived in rural North Carolina, were without power for well over a week, and without water, even, for half that time. I was 30 miles away in Charlotte, a hospital visible from my dorm room window. My power was restored within hours.
While living in Louisville, a rare winter storm once knocked out electricity throughout the Highlands, my neighborhood included, just as night was falling. The daytime would’ve been one thing, but night? With no more than the sickly beam of a rapidly dying flashlight? Sheeeeit.
Digressive rant: I’m unabashedly an Anglophile, and one reason stems from the frequency with which Americans muck up simple names and concepts, and I’m not referring to direct Americanization. I laughed at the pronunciation of Versailles, Kentucky, as Ver-sales, but I get it; the state may have historical ties to France, but this here ain’t France. (I say this as though the change was purposeful.) Pizza is perhaps a better example. Is it prepared in Italy as it is in the U.S.? No. But then, New York pizza isn’t Chicago-style pizza, either. All three are delicious.
No, I’m referring to cases such as zebra. By the linguistic conventions of our own language, zebra should be pronounced with a short vowel sound, as in wed. The fucking vowels are too far from each other to produce a long vowel sound. It’s like pronouncing wed as weed. Car park just makes more sense than parking lot, though I admit that one’s a close call. Not so, lift versus elevator. Sure, it takes me to points elevated, but don’t think I’d ever say that a steel box of possible death elevates me. The same general logic—which is to say, the general application of basic logic—applies with respect to torch versus flashlight. Bloody hell.
So, yes, a dying flashlight and no candles and a boatload of articles to read for class. I immediately called Jackass Angie. “Your power on? Be right over.” The fifteen-minute drive took ninety. I've neglected to mention to this point that the storm raged on as I raced from my darkening apartment. I also failed to say it was the weekend and I’d slept until well past noon. There would be no just going to bed. Rain pouring, tornados spawning, trees falling—better to face those than hours spent staring blankly into the dark like a serial killer.
Total time without power: under an hour.
The above helps explain why I paid Hermine no mind. Had no idea it'd been upgraded to hurricane. I’m no news junkie; in fact, I actively avoid the news, ever since nearly getting into a bar fight over George W. My more recent slide away from the sun, to borrow from a most excellent Katatonia song, took most other forms of media with it, entertainment and infotainment alike. (Only podcasts and select albums by Katatonia and Fates Warning remained. I pre-ordered the latest Counting Crows and still, to this day, am yet to listen to it for fear of its being too upbeat. Yet I keep buying tickets to see them live and not going or leaving before they take the stage because it’s been three years since I could handle songs such as “Anna Begins,” damn you to hell, Darla and Marsi.)
Furthermore, I have walked along the beach—Cocoa Beach, Florida, actually, not far from Ron Jon’s, to be precise—during a Category 1 hurricane., doing so just for giggles and coming away unscathed. I was also much younger then, and with a woman to impress. She wasn’t. The experience did succeed, however, in giving me new respect for hurricanes, especially the higher Categories. Stepping from the protection offered by the hotel’s outer wall, into the unshielded wind, I nearly fell, having underestimated the force of that initial impact of moving air with fleshy human. I remember thinking a Category 5 would just fucking toss me away to my doom.
None of those conditions applied the other night. Do your worst, Hermine! I shouted to the heavens. It didn’t, but it didn't exactly let me off the hook, either. I feel badly for those along the coast, whom I know are suffering more greatly than I. My own presumably soon-to-be ex-wife, whose safety I very much care about, only recently moved to Jacksonville, and I hope to myself as soon as I can. (A desire that has nothing to do with her and everything to do with trying to carry on, to live and love again.) But most coastal residents would themselves admit they knew the risks involved.
I’m not on the coast; I thought I myself immune. I was up late, doing nothing much. I should’ve been asleep. Doctor’s orders. But the university had already cancelled all classes for the following day, and, you know, why waste an unexpectedly free evening—er, late night? Yeah, I know the clichés—architect of my own demise; own worst enemy.
My electricity lasted until 4:30 AM, when the lights flickered but once before dying unceremoniously. It was then I realized I’d not been charging my devices, not even the Apple Watch. What a rookie mistake, and I’m no rookie! What I was, though, was overconfident. The rising panic subsided as it occurred to me I’d soon be sleeping anyway. So, again, let the storm do its worst! I’d simply sleep through both the damage and the repair work. Took another two hours, but with the help of meds with sleep-inducing side effects, I fell into a fitful sleep as the sun was rising. Mental note: don’t pen a missive to your ex right before going to bed.
I awoke just as the sun was setting. Hadn’t planned to sleep that much, but hadn’t planned to be up all night, either. I glanced over at the lamp across the room, which is always on, a habit born during years—decade, really—of needing to stay awake. It was still off. I tapped the bedside dresser but the Watch’s nightstand mode was unresponsive. The house was hot; the a/c was off. I was fucked.
I drove through the neighborhood. The local hospital located a half mile north of my house had power, of course, but the restoration extended no further south. The university directly behind me was dark and still. Fuckidy, fuck, fuck. I didn’t hesitate. Grabbing iPad Pro, iPhone, and their respective charging cords and adapters, along with a few toiletries, I once more raced from a darkening abode. At least it wasn't storming this time. But with no Jackass around, I had to go with a hotel instead.
Except...every hotel in town was sold out. Tourists know Valdosta as the last stop before Florida; apparently, Floridians must see it as the first stop beyond Florida. An hour later, I found salvation in a working power outlet along Interstate 75. Both devices will be fully charged before I check out. I’m hoping power to my house will be restored before yet another night falls. Hope—or overconfidence?