Monday, September 15, 2008

Lumpy Salt & Other Inconveniences

Hurricane Gustav has come and gone, and I am changed somehow. I knew in the midst of the storm that I would be changed. I didn’t know exactly how, but I knew I would be different.

The morning of September 1, 2008, Jerry fed the horses and let them out in the pasture as usual. By noon we could tell the wind was really picking up so he put them in their stalls in the barn.

It was a wild ride from noon until about 5:00 p.m. Jerry, Suzanne, and I watched as five of the pine trees along the road snapped and fell across the road. More trees along the bayou bank and on the fence line east of the house came crashing down, too. Fortunately, none of the trees fell on the house or barn.

I thought the house shuddered during some of the strongest wind gusts. Did it really shudder or was it just the moaning sound of the wind? I don’t know. Jerry didn’t notice any shuddering. Maybe it was just that I was shuddering and imagined the house was, too.

When the worst was over, we went out to check on the horses and found them surprisingly calm. I was so proud of them! I guess they are growing up and not so easily rattled as they used to be.

If experiencing the storm changed me, being without electricity for ten days added to the change. With the generator we were able to run the refrigerator, freezer, television, a few fans, and minimal lights at night. And we were able to keep our cell phones charged - an important ability since the home phone was out.

A generator is a wonderful thing, but it has a voracious appetite for gasoline. Jerry had filled numerous gas cans before the storm and it’s a good thing because there were no gas stations open in town the first two days after the storm. When they re-opened, there were long gas lines. Jerry did gas line duty once or twice and then delegated it to me and Suzanne so he could keep cutting up fallen trees at home.

Waiting in gas lines was the best job I ever had. It’s not hard work. You just sit there in the vehicle and converse or read while the blessed air-conditioning that is no longer available at home keeps you cool. Wonder how much gas we all burned waiting in lines to get gas?

The ten day stint with no electricity brought back memories of my 1950s childhood. I think it was Day 2 when I noticed that the salt shakers would no longer shake. Without air-conditioning, the high humidity makes the salt damp and lumpy. I remembered the old remedy of putting rice in the salt shaker, but that doesn’t work any better now than it did in 1950. I finally gave up on the shakers and salted my food by putting a little salt in the palm of my left hand and sprinkling it over my food with thumb and forefinger of my right hand.

I hadn’t thought of Mexican Heat Powder in years. That’s what it was called when I was a kid. Now it’s labeled Mexana Medicated Powder. I had to have some. Wal-Mart opened on Day 3 or 4 and Mexana was on my list. When just the act of breathing in and out produces sweat, Mexana gives some relief. That stuff is dry! Gold Bond can’t compete. If you had enough Mexana, you might be able to dry up a flood.

I remembered my childhood method of falling asleep on a hot night. Position the fan as near to your head as possible. Then push your hair up off your neck and lay down on your back with no pillow. A pillow will restrict the air flow and accelerate sweating. Without a pillow, the air will flow under and around your neck. However, there will be no air flow between your backside and the bed - unless you’ve learned to levitate, and I haven’t.

When your backside starts to sweat, grab your pillow and turn on your side with your back to the fan. Sleeping on your side without a pillow will cause a crick in your neck. Just trust me on this; or, if you’re hard-headed, do your own test and get a crick.

When the lack of air flow between your side and the bed causes you to sweat, turn on your other side. When that side gets sweaty, you can try sleeping on your stomach, but I could never get comfortable on my stomach. The only sequence that works for me is - back/no pillow, right side/pillow, left side/pillow. Then I start the whole sequence over again. By flipping yourself around like a piece of meat in a frying pan, you can get a tolerable night’s sleep. By the way, it helps to flip the pillow over every time you flip your body. The side of the pillow that has been against the bed is always several degrees cooler than the side that has been in contact with your head.

All things considered, we can’t complain. We endured lots of inconvenience; but people, horses, and cats are OK. Now that it’s all over, I think ten days of inconvenience is probably a good character-building exercise. Some of the things that were very important before the storm don’t seem so significant now. All is well.