Written by: SUSAN VALENTINE
As relatively new islanders, we now experience a sense of gratitude like never before for all of the times we successfully switch on the lights, run the water, etc. Power outages are such a regular disturbance of island living, unfortunately so common that every islander has his/her own array of electricity-related inconvenience stories. We’d heard many of them, though were somehow still left a bit dumbstruck by our most recent run-in with the Island Power Gods…
It was a sweltering Sunday in late September, just minutes after 1pm. We had just flipped on the A/C, tuned into Game Pass, and settled down with icy cold beers and snacks to enjoy the kickoff of the day’s NFL action. Suddenly, the power went out.
A power outage on a Sunday rarely ends well.
Though we were pleasantly surprised, relieved, and grateful when someone from the electric company actually answered the phone. They were unaware of any power outages in our area, but took down our location (note that I did not say address) and promised to send a crew. Another island miracle: the crew arrived shortly thereafter and simply reset the breaker at the meter. We were back in business by half time! However, before we considered ourselves too lucky, the crew informed us of a potentially dangerous fire hazard that required our immediate attention. So we immediately called the landlord.
A little background: We rent the 2nd floor apartment in a building with 18 units, though we are the only tenants as the building is not finished. (This is an island first, right?) There is only one electric meter and it is in the owner’s name, so we pay him for the monthly electricity usage for the entire building. We never knew where the meter was until this happened, even though we had conducted several walkabouts in search of said meter. As it turns out, the meter is located on a crumbling, abandoned structure behind our building. The meter and its riser were hanging off the building, almost level with the ground. There were small trees, grass, and bushes growing around and through the riser, making it nearly invisible unless you were standing directly in front of it.
And that’s when the fun began! On Monday morning, the owner met with the electric company and informed them that it was their responsibility to replace and correctly hang the riser and meter. The electric company countered that it was the owner’s responsibility. After some back and forth in the traditional Island Blame Game, the owner reluctantly agreed to replace the riser, after which the electric company agreed to come back and hang the meter.
So, that being settled as far as everyone present was concerned (except us, the actual people effected, of course), the crew removed the meter and drove off leaving us both literally and figuratively powerless (not to mention, sweaty). At around 5pm on Monday afternoon, the landlord came back to work on installing the new riser and assured us we’d have power back that evening. So, like all seasoned rock dwellers do, we went to the bar to wait. By 7pm, after we’d had several drinks and raucous conversations with our local barflies, the owner dropped by to tell us that we would not, in fact, have electricity that night after all. He bought us a round (as though that would make up for a night without power!) and went on his way.
One miscommunication after another between the owner and the utility company compounded with the sudden requirement of a Government inspection of the owner’s work by the Planning Department that took all of Tuesday to arrange, left us with no power again on Tuesday night. It was late September, the hottest month of the year. At this point, we were seriously uncomfortable – the sweat oozing from every pore making us more than a little cranky. We wanted our A/C back. If only we had enough energy to form a proper protest…
Wednesday dawned hot and humid. The owner called and promised that the power would be restored in the early morning. Island note: promises of energy restoration should never be made by anyone outside of the utility company! Finally, many hours later, the meter was reinstalled and we had power again shortly after 6pm. By then, we were exhausted but rapturously giddy to be back in charge of our own comfort.
Fast forward to 4:15am Saturday morning. A massive lightning and thunderstorm was in full force. Suddenly, a huge bolt of lightning struck, traveled through the telephone line, and lit up the cable router and… thunder drum roll… the power went out again. We mourned not only our returned powerlessness, but also our two routers and my favorite printer, which travelled with us all the way from California only to be fried in the islands.
Lessons learned: We were new to island life when Hurricane Gonzalo struck last year. Our (then) landlord was off-island and we were clueless about things like storm shutters (as in, were there any?), the horizontal rain that blew through the jalousie windows, the need for auxiliary power… everything! This year, we wised up and bought a small generator to power the refrigerator and water pump during emergencies. However, we did not expect to have a 3 day power outage without the drama of a tropical storm or hurricane, but Mother Nature had her way with us in the end! That little Honda generator has definitely paid for itself and was totally worth the bureaucratic paperwork shuffle of Customs and payment of duties to have the peace of mind that running water, cold beers, and ice provide, not to mention saving all that food in the freezer!
As for the NFL Game Pass Package and the internet? I’ll save that for another post.