The next morning I rose and went downstairs and manually raised the garage door and got my car out and then manually lowered the locked the garage door. I drove to a corner only a few blocks (within reasonable walking distance, a way I would have gone if I had gone out anywhere the day before by myself) to a gas station just inside the Tacoma city limits. One side of the road, Pierce County, Tacoma, Gas Station, power, long lines of cars. The other side of the road, King County, Federal Way, Walgreens, Starbucks, empty parking lot, no power. (You should have seen it during the snow storm. Only one side of the street was plowed. Talk about petty.)
Anyhow, I got home as quickly as possible, manually raised the other garage door, got the SUV out, closed the garage door and went back and got in line. Because of how the station and its entrances were arranged, there was two lines and one was much shorter and there wasn't anything anyone could do about it, so I got in the shorter line, bought a tank full of premium (that's all that was left) and went home and went through the process of putting both of the cars back in the garage and closing the doors. Then we loaded the cars, secured the cats in the laundry room, loaded the dog in the back and headed for my parents' house.
Best drive to their house yet. No problems at all.
We spent the next two nights there. I was thankful for the diversion. Barkley loved having over four acres to roam and took it upon herself to explore much further. The parents loved the time with Rachel and with us and we appreciated having someone else to distract Rachel. The poor little one did not do so well. Didn't get her regular naps, spent a lot of time in the car, a lot of time being cold and a lot of time being carried around. A lot of time being around stressed out parents who asked her to be quiet.
On Sunday night we were to drive back but I started feeling ill. I was unable to stand for long periods of time and ended up e-mailing in sick.
On Monday afternoon we packed up and headed home. We had an invitation to stay at a friend's home in Federal Way but we were hoping that we could stay with my brother's fiance in Tacoma or my brother in Bonney Lake because it feels a little better to accept charity from family.
We arrived home at 2 pm. By this time, only God knows how many times we've called PSE. I'm sure PSE logged each and every call we made, but it didn't log all the times we called and their system hung up on us without even going through. The best? "Press 1 to report a gas leak. *1* Sorry, we cannot take your call at this time. Goodbye. *CLICK*" (Why did I press "1"? Because every other time we had called up until that point (and a few hours after that point), pressing 1 was the option for Gas and Electricity.)
The power was still out. We were happy to find out that while it was 38.6 degrees in our bedroom, it had never dipped below 45 degrees in the downstairs where the cats were. We were imagining cat-sicles or living the rest of their lives with cats missing toes and tails and ears from frostbite, but they seemed perfectly normal, if not a little more aloof than usual. Usually when we come back they either punish us by avoiding us or they're incredibly clingy and won't leave us alone. They acted more like we had just been down a few minutes prior to run laundry. Perhaps they had been hibernating.
We noticed the dog was bleeding from one of her paws. We couldn't find much of anything sharp in the yard she could have cut it on, except ice so were puzzled. We'd later learn my parents had found blood on the floor in their house, so whatever the dog had done she had done in Silverdale but then not bled at all in the truck on the way home. (Later examination of the paw turned up no blood and she wasn't treating it weird at all so we're watching her but not concerned.)
We went to Panda Express and then Petsmart and then Petco) looking for something warm for them to stay bundled up in (not at Panda, though). I now officially prefer Petco over Petsmart. I wasn't sure I could even tell them apart but Petco was much more open and less claustrophobic-feeling. Then we went back home and re-packed for another night away. And then we got in the car and drove to Home Depot.
As soon as we got to Home Depot, I again called PSE. For the first time ever, the person was able to give me an estimate... Wednesday, maybe, hopefully. She, of course, told me more different information than anyone else, but at this point, I was expecting a completely different story, so she did not disappoint.
As soon as we got off the phone with her, my phone rang again. Brinks Home Security was calling. Apparently our alarm system had complained to them of a low battery. Suddenly I was very excited. We have VoIP from Comcast at home, the only way they could have heard from the security system would be if the power was up and the cable was up. They told us how to intiate a battery re-charge on the system and we hurried home.
We didn't get to be excited until we were really close because all the houses near us had already had power. The houses that share our property line to the back are apparently on a different grid or switch or circuit or network or something. But as we came up the ridge, we could see street lights, and then our neighbor's kitchen light, and then we turned the corner and saw our meager Christmas display in full effect in the front yard and it was a joyous moment. We had power.
Not only had the lights come up, but the security system had reverted back to its armed stage and the thermostat had turned the heater on. It took about 5 hours to raise the temperature 27 degrees in our bedroom. I don't know if that's good or bad but it was exactly the right amount of time for us.
The irony is that at the time we were talking to PSE, the power was actually on. And yet she didn't have the ability on her computer to see anything indicating that. It took someone in Texas calling us to let us know. (I have been nothing but completely satisifed with Brinks Home Security. Of all the services we've ever dealt with... Southern California Edison, DirecTV, DISH Network, Comcast, Los Angeles Water and Power, Puget Sound Energy, City of Tacoma, Verizon Wireless, AT&T Wireless, Sprint PCS, Chase, Citibank, Wells Fargo, Washington Mutual, USAA, Navy Federal Credit Union, Union Bank of California, and on and on and on, only Brinks Home Security has -- after 3 years of having me as a customer -- not yet ticked me off even once.)
All told we were 89 hours without power. And I know there are still people without power, people who made it to work yesterday, made it to work today and who have suffered more. Maybe I'm a wus, maybe it's harder with so many animals and a two-year-old. Maybe I'm a wus, yeah, that bears repeating. But I'm glad the mini-ordeal is over. And that's all I get to call it because I was never forced to live in a FEMA trailer and I was never forced to live in a tent with blankets to cover me when it was 20 degrees out like the people in Pakistan who at the same time had no food and were grieving the loss of loved ones. And that when the power goes out here we don't have to hope that someone from the same country who bombed away a lot of the infrastructure might get around to get it up and running so we can have an hour or two of power a day.
And I wasn't trapped in a car with my family for seven days, only to give up on being rescued, set out on my own, walk 10 miles in the snow and eventually die of hypothermia two days later about the same time as my family was being rescued.
And we had family to flee to. And I mustn't be bitter that it took so long to get to us because there are still lots of people without.
So in perspective, it was nothing. I'm disappointed that I wasn't able to bear it a little more resolutely but hopefully I can learn from it and re-read only these last few paragraphs when I need to be reminded of how I shouldn't take my cush reality for granted.