Midnight Madness

Besides all the normal things, and even those not so normal (as in the previous two posts) there are always the abnormal things that come into play. This past week was one of those episodes, blamed on weather, which only adds to the delays…and the stresses…of daily life.

First off, I forgot to go out and check the propane gauge on January 3rd…a Friday…and then we discovered that we only had 3% left. We would have run the tank dry over the weekend, when those near zero temperatures hit us Sunday night, and that would have meant a new inspection of the system (required by law on any empty system), creating even more delays. So we shut the furnace off, and relied on four electric space heaters scattered throughout the house…all set at “half heat”…to get us by until Monday. We could have called for an emergency fill, but then they would have charged us an extra fee for weekend delivery.

Friday and Saturday nights weren’t bad, and we kept mostly to the kitchen, where we could run the electric oven on 200 with the door partially open. But Monday morning, after the temperature took that drastic drop, it was down to 51 degrees in the house. I called for propane and they were there by 9:30 AM. As soon as I saw them coming up the street, I turned the thermostat back up again!

Sunday night, I decided to leave the water run a little bit in the kitchen sink. That was a good decision, but almost too late. It was 10 PM by the time I turned it on and only got a trickle at first. It was a good ten seconds before it started to run a full stream. Another 15 minutes and it would have been frozen, which would have involved even more stress, and probably expense! I attribute most of that to the way the new water line was installed and then the boxes out by the street undoubtedly pushed around by the excavating equipment on the sewer system.

Last Wednesday, the 8th, we had rain again, and my wife had a 3 to 10 PM shift at Walmart. She got to work just fine, but by the time she was ready to leave, the rain had turned to freezing rain. She called me before leaving to ask how the roads were, but they didn’t really look all that bad from my safe vantage point of the living room doorway. I told her that she could probably make it home if she took it slow.

At 11:30 PM, she still hadn’t made it home, which in dry weather would have been a 15 minute drive. Even if she had stopped to buy some groceries, it shouldn’t have taken her that long. I tried to call her cell phone, and it went straight to voicemail…strange, since she had already had it on after her shift and called me. I called the store to see if she had left yet, and was told that someone saw her going out.

At that point, I called the local police non-emergency number, but at that hour of the night it went to the 911 dispatch center anyway. I told them she had called me from work and wasn’t home yet, and what route she would be taking to get home, since there are several ways to get here from there. I was also listening to the emergency scanner at this point, and it took several minutes for them to get the call out. I could tell from the response that no one was in the immediate area, and that it took them a good hour before they got someone over here.

At this point, I would guess that there was a good half-inch of ice on all the roads, and I could hear that there were cars off the road or otherwise stranded all over the county and beyond. My scanner frequencies cover everything within about 50 miles, since most agencies’ frequencies tend to overlap.

I began to wonder if she actually left the store parking lot. Knowing how slick it was, she could have fallen, and been stranded there. I called the store back again, and got a different person this time. I asked them to go outside and visually verify that her van was actually gone. They said that it was, and that someone had seen her drive out.

When the police did start searching our area, I could tell that they were wasting time searching streets that she would not have used in getting here. I already knew where the most likely place was that she could be, because there is a downhill slope and a sharp right turn. If she couldn’t make that turn she would have had to continue down another quarter-mile of that slope and end up in a low area that would be next to impossible to get out of, as every way out is uphill again.

At one point, I saw blue lights coming up our street and spotlights on both sides, and tried to flash the porch light to get the officer in the 4WD vehicle to stop, so I could give him better information on where to look, but he continued on by the house. At that point I called the dispatcher again, and told her to have the officer call me so I could talk to him directly, as she hadn’t given him the information I told her to give him.

At this point it was well after midnight. What worried me is that my wife wasn’t answering her cell, and it appeared to not even be on. This could have meant many things, including being abducted from the parking lot and forced to turn off or give up the phone. It could have meant the battery was low, and she had shut it off, but if she was in trouble and needed it, shutting it off was unlikely. It could have meant that she had gotten into an accident and damaged the phone…again unlikely, but possible. All kinds of scenarios were running through my mind at this point. Also, there was a remote chance she ended up in a cell tower dead zone, and couldn’t call out or receive calls. Although most places around here now have coverage, with all these hills, dead zones still exist. Thankfully, it was the latter.

I heard the dispatcher relay the information (including my cell number) to the officer, and then he told the dispatcher that SHE could call me back after he had better information. That is NOT what I asked them to do, because by gathering better information from ME, on what route to look for my wife, it could have saved them nearly an hour of time! But no…that would have been too easy and too logical. Instead, they wasted nearly an hour searching everywhere except where they should have been looking!

It was nearly 12:45 before I heard the officer say he had found the vehicle and called for a license plate verification. After checking, he said he had found her, and she was fine, and would try to get her home.

Where he found her was at the lower most point of Algonquin Circle, between East Lakeshore Drive and Swift Cloud Trace. From where she was parked at the side of the road, she could have easily driven out in dry weather, but not on a half-inch of ice with every exit going uphill. The front wheel drive minivan was no match for those conditions.

Thankfully for the 4WD response vehicle (and maybe studded tires), the officer was able to find a way out of there that wasn’t too steep, but even then, it was still 1:35 AM by the time he finally got her home. It could have been an hour earlier if he had just listened to the dispatcher and called me as I asked him to!

With not having eaten since normal dinner hour, we were both hungry and had to fix a late dinner (or early breakfast) at that time of the morning, and by the time we were able to unwind from the ordeal it was nearly 3:00 AM.

My wife had the next day off, so that wasn’t a problem to sleep in, but the story wasn’t over. She was supposed to go in at 8:00 AM on Friday, but the ice was still covering everything, and we had even gotten more of it on Thursday morning, before we got a very slight melting that afternoon. But that was short-lived and then everything re-froze again Thursday night. It wasn’t until it started warming up above freezing temperature on Friday that we got rain, which washed away most of the ice. Even then, we didn’t even try to venture out until nearly 4:00 PM. We wanted to give it as much time as possible to melt off, and yet still get out to go get the minivan before it got dark again.

I had parked the bigger van at the back corner of the lot to get it out of the way of the propane delivery truck on Monday, but it started right up and we were able to go get the minivan. With the roads being only wet now, instead of icy, she was able to drive it right out, and we were back home in about 20 minutes from the time we left.

This is the second ice storm we have had this year…the first one getting nine inches of snow dumped on top of it, and then taking a lot longer to melt off. The first time, we were stranded here for over three days, before a plow finally went by and we were able to get out on very patchy roads. This time it was two days. Both episodes resulted in loss of work time because we couldn’t get out to go anywhere.

We both grew up on farms in mostly flat northern Indiana, and within the Lake Michigan snow belt. I, especially, have become quite adept at driving in snow and on ice, often ramming through two feet of snow with nothing but a 2WD vehicle and a front grill…as long as it’s on flat land. Being in hills like this is another story. And because they don’t have the snow removal capabilities that the places up north have, the tendency is to plow when they can get to it and let the rest of it melt off…which it usually does in a few days. The salt trucks are fewer, and even then use it very sparingly, reserving most of it for hills on main roads.

And if that weren’t enough, we also lost electric power around 1:30 PM on Thursday, and again, the house started to cool off during the 2-1/2 hours that it was off. We have inverters in all the vehicles if we really needed it, and could even power up the router for internet, but Entergy said they would try to have it on by 3 PM. They were only an hour late, but for that short a time, we just put up with the inconvenience again.

We have discussed installing a catalytic heater if the furnace ever needed replacing, but so far it is still hanging in there at 14 years old, and we are simply betting on the odds that we can get out of here before we have to spend any more money on this place. At our age we don’t want the hassles of a fireplace…at least…not a real wood burner. We have simply been putting up with things, and hoping for a quick sale and an early departure date.

But we are not used to simply putting up with things. We are not used to having hours and sometimes days of internet failures, power failures, weather related inconveniences, nor even being cooped up inside for days at a time. We are not used to having neighbors who let their huge dogs run loose all over the neighborhood, and put us or our own dog at risk. We can’t take walks outside without carrying a gun with us. We have had way too much of that in these last few years. This is why we HAVE to do whatever is necessary to get out of here, and get away from all the stresses of living here, and is also why I refuse to spend any money on this place that doesn’t have to be spent.

I have received many inquiries on whether I am going to finish the final version of the minivan book, and have answered every one of them as best I can. Yes, I will finish it, but I am winding down from worrying about a marketing business. I am not worried about meeting deadlines. I am retired…but not from having a life away from work. With my wife still working for awhile yet, I have some of her work to do here at home, plus my writing and other projects. The only deadline I have an obligation to meet is to help her get away from her job ASAP, so we can get out of this place entirely! Anything else that happens will do so on its own time, as it can be fit in.

I’m sure there are some of you out there who are fighting your own timelines and projects, and wonder if it will ever come to a conclusion. Despite the stresses we face, we do see an end to it, because we have been planning for the last 20+ years to make it happen. Some things (like having a quarter million dollar inheritance stolen from me) has caused some delays in our plans, but mostly through our own faults leading up to it. But it’s only a minor inconvenience. Our master plan is still working because we are working the plan. And we now have a pretty firm date as to when we can get out of here, despite it being nearly 18 months away yet. And when we do get away it will be at an earlier age than the person who stole from us, and we will never have to work again…EVER.

Those who never plan for a future will likely never have one. They will continue setting fire to their dreams or pissing them away down the drain with unhealthy habits, and when the time comes, they will moan and groan because they can’t live on what the government has set aside for them based on what they made while they were working, while they still continue to squander what they have left. And even while they do that, they will live on government subsidies for housing and food that the rest of us have to pay for through our taxes. I’m sorry, but I can’t feel sorry for those who won’t help themselves. I can barely help me and mine, and yet will still be forced to help out others who don’t deserve it, through the taxes that I worked hard to pay, while they wasted what they could have had.

But as the saying goes…I digress. That’s a topic not suited to this blog. We all have our problems, as well as our successes, and the main thing is to be prepared for them and don’t let the negatives outweigh the positives, for when they do it becomes a downward spiral that is hard to pull out of. These most recent things are only minor inconveniences to us. None of them will make or break us. Sometimes they only point out the loopholes where we could have done things differently, so that we can prepare for them the next time they show up…and that’s the way we try to look at it.

We hope you look at the inconveniences in your life the same way. Do you?