Saturday, December 18, 2010

Retirement in the Ice Age

Anticipation.  That first day of retirement will be great!  The feeling of relief at the reduction of responsibilities will be wonderful after getting up at 6:00 a.m. for decades.  My sense of autonomy will be restored as I gain a sense of where I want to go and decide what I enjoy doing the most.

I did something nice for someone on my first day of retirement.  I prepared a hash brown potato casserole for my husband's Christmas party at work.  I was also going to get a hair cut, but my stylist called the night before to cancel the appointment because winter weather was expected.  "That worked out well," I thought.  "I'll be able to get the casserole baked and up to Marion much quicker."  Everything was looking great.

I kept an eye on the weather as I worked in the kitchen.  There was a cold rain coming down, and ice started to stick to the tree branches, although the roads didn't seem to have much snow or ice.  By the time I was ready to go to Marion, the temperature would be higher and the precipitation would be rain.  Many times the lights flickered.  I held my breath, but the electricity stayed on.  The casserole was bubbling away when I pulled it out of the oven and wrapped it in foil and towels for the trip to Marion.

That was the high point of my first day of retirement.  The rest of the day went down hill.

As soon as I took the casserole from the oven, the electricity went off.  The roads had some messy looking slush, but other cars had driven down the street so I loaded up the scalding hot dish and carried it out to the car.  I had to gently crack the ice away from the car door handle, and I got the engine going as I scraped ice from the windshield.

The layer of ice over the slush on the streets had been mashed into troughs by car tires.  The branches of the trees in our yard were bending low with their burden of ice.  The main roads were only wet, but I wasn't prepared for the utility lines lying in the road or the trees fallen across the road.  On the interstate I could feel the car shimmy a little as the tires lost contact with the pavement.  Trailer trucks were not so concerned as they blew past me at full speed.

When I pulled up in front of my husband's office building, I told him, "This is the dumbest thing I have ever done," as he retrieved the food  from the car.  While I stopped at the gas station to fill up the car, I planned a route home that didn't go past stretches of road lined with tall trees.  I made it home to the dark, cold house with no internet service or telephone.

Amazing how most of my plans for retirement involved electricity.  Or at the least they required light so that I could see what I was doing, and it's incredibly dark on a rainy, cloudy, snowy winter day.

If any of you plan to depend on those wind-up battery powered emergency radios, I can tell you that there will not be any helpful information coming out of that contraption.  I was able to pick up country music, NPR, and limitless stations playing non-stop Christmas music, which included a jazz piano version of Walking in a Winter Wonderland.  There were precious few news broadcasts, and those failed to even mention the ice storm that had swallowed Smyth County.  There were no updates on power outages or when power would be restored, just Elvis or Bing or Tanya Tucker.  It always surprises me when television stations run those emergency broadcast tests, like they think that after a nuclear attack we're all going to tune in to cable television.  If we don't have electricity or cable after an ice storm, I'm not hopeful that broadcast services will be helpful after terrorists take out the power grid.

The first day of retirement is a once-in-a-lifetime event.  It wasn't what I expected, but it has come and gone, and it's a day I'll always remember.  Along about supper time on Friday, my husband said I'd been retired for 48 hours, and I'd been without electricity for 32 of them.  But eventually the power came back on, and the house breathed life again.

I can't change what happened on this first day.  It's a memory, a vivid memory now, but it will fade, and I'll only remember important parts of it later on.  It'll be something to talk about over coffee.

1 comment:

  1. too funny Janet!!! I am sitting here laughing. Girl you need to move down to Georgia. I can't believe how y'all have to endure all that ice and snow and KEEP living in it. Brrr. Keep're great. :-)