Service of Silver Linings

September 1st, 2011

Categories: Accommodation, Customer Care, Customer Service, Silver Lining


But first………….By Tuesday night, having been in the dark since Sunday at 7 am thanks to Hurricane/tropical storm Irene–no water, no wc, no clean clothes, no ice, no light after 7:30 pm–we were itching for a shower. Not having coffee first thing in the morning [or at all on Sunday] was a challenge. On Sunday we never left the house between downed electric wires and flooded roads around us.

I was angry at myself as we tossed all perishables from fridge and freezer because I’d bought all those sale items that we’d never get to eat on a rainy day.

With our neighbor, we called Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corporation regularly to check electricity ETA. On Sunday, the computer recognized our phone number, identified our address and acknowledged that we’d registered the house as electricity-free. By Monday, our phone number was no longer “in the system.” Twice we called to confirm that we’d been customers for 18 years and to register the house. We spoke with a live American who twice put us and our phone number back in the system.

yak-yak-yak1My blood pressure boils when talk show hosts whine about the precautions Mayor Bloomberg and the governors of Connecticut and New Jersey took prior to the storm. There’s also a lot of Monday morning bellyaching about the press coverage during the height of it.

I so disagree.

transistor-radioA radio talk show host this morning sneered at his newsman who admitted he owned a transistor radio [!]. [The newsman’s home was in the dark for a short time.] The host was in Europe on vacation returning to airwaves today so he was late to put in his infuriating two cents and comments about how soft we all are and how he sleeps through 70 mph winds. Tell this to those in the flooded Catskills towns and in Denville, NJ. Amazing how some feel no empathy for others.

Had people been caught in subway tunnels and in railroad cars, had there been injuries and worse, we’d have rightly never heard the end of it. And what about putting all that equipment at risk? What would it have cost to replace it?

We get fooled into thinking that we are in total control of everything but Mother Nature has a way of showing us up. She often punishes those who flaunt her, such as the men out in kayaks during the eye of the hurricane/tropical storm. One died. They are like those who refuse to evacuate their homes when so instructed. Some never consider how they put rescuers at risk.

We sat by our transistor radio hungry for news and were grateful for it. It rained buckets all day and well into the night without letup. We obviously had no access to weather maps to learn when it would stop. We wanted to know about the return of electricity, and how bad it was out and about. Sitting in the dark, literally, makes one feel news-needy.

wcbsnewsradioMy complaint about the news coverage: News teams of major New York City-based stations [that I listen to routinely] never reported what was happening in Dutchess County or in the county directly south of ours-Putnam. Parts of this county are a 1.25 hour train ride from midtown and there are plenty of commuters here. The blessed exception: WCBS news radio. We never moved from that station once we realized this.

So where are the silver linings? There were many:

chinese-checkersWe haven’t played Chinese checkers or Gin Rummy for ages. Once we could no longer read our books with natural light [thank you dining room skylights], we lit some candles, poured a glass of red wine [which tasted especially good in the dark] and learned that my husband is the family Chinese checkers champion and I did pretty well at Gin Rummy. What fun!

On Tuesday we arrived at the dump with such a heavy, supersize bag–that my husband packed like luggage–it took two of us to carry it to the garbage slide. [We’re charged by the bag so we try to squeeze as much as we can into one. Most of the time, the staff, who grab the bag out of the trunk before we can get out of the car, know our game and charge for a few.] Seeing our load the man said, “Freezer, huh?” and punched our card for only half a bag. Then he said something silly and with great satisfaction noted to all around, “Hey! I made her smile!” I guess my expression had been pretty stormy. We were charmed by his spirit which lifted ours.

norman-rockwellAs grimy as we felt, [and no doubt looked], we took off for the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge Mass. on Tuesday. What a treat that’s well worth a detour and a visit. We had lunch in Lenox, Mass. at Zinc, another delight.

On our return we checked the downed power line tangled under a fallen tree in the woods. It hadn’t been touched. However, there was a cardboard note hanging on our front doorknob-the shape of a hotel “Do Not Disturb” sign-from Matthew Free. Mr. Free wrote in pen, “We will be here as soon as we can. Thank you. Central Hudson.” On the card, along with his name was his telephone number, which we called. He said we’d have light by Wednesday. My husband praised him and his colleagues for their hard work, acknowledged how exhausted he must feel and thanked him so much. Live voices are wonderful when you feel at sixes and sevens.

At 10 pm, a few hours after this call, in mid Gin Rummy tournament, we heard a sound and a rumble and tadah! There was light. We so appreciate being clean, doing laundry, driving on dry roads and we feel for those who are still in the dark.

How did you fare in the hurricane/storm or during a recent natural disaster? Can you share some silver linings either lately or at any time?


13 Responses to “Service of Silver Linings”

  1. Rosemarie Hittmeyer Said:

    On Facebook:

    Rosemarie wrote: “I live in Long beach NY, a barrier beach island, 8 blocks wide and 9 miles long. We have respect for mother nature all year round, being a subject to her winds and tides. We were lucky, few were injured and the sand & water in a few streets and basements is due course for us. Today we start a big world championship surf tournament here in LB.( Pro New York) The festivities are a bit scaled back but we will still show the surf community how great Long Beachers are! SURF’S UP in more ways than one!”

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Glad that Long Beach came away relatively unscathed, Rose. The aftermath might have been quite serious with more wind. I always worry about sand erosion.

    Surf’s up is right–great timing [another silver lining]! That’s great. I think of California and Hawaii and yet there you are in nearby Long Beach with a world championship. Go LB!

  3. Debby Brown Said:

    During and after Hurricne Irene, in my little rural village in Northeastern Pennsylvania, every single neighbor checked in on everyone else. Those that had generators offered showers, storing perishables in their freezers/fridges, etc. One neighbor, a senior, had an auto accident and has been carefully tended to by neighbors in his recovery from broken ribs, driven to doctor’s visits, etc. Books (read by candlelight) have been traded, stories and gossip exchanged, etc. Kinda like when we had black-outs in the City, back in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.

    After three days without power, I couldn’t stand not checking Email, so visited one of our local libraries where I qued up behind a dozen ex-New Yorkers and ex-Jersites doing the same thing. (Please donate generously to your local library!)

    No desire for a natural disaster rerun soon, but I think we all kept our humor and perspective, plus, of course, a renewed respect for Mother Nature.

    Debby Brown

  4. Nancy Farrell Said:

    Jeanne: I feel rather guilty because I spent the weekend visiting Albany with power and TV and internet access and eating freshly picked raspberries (I know they were fresh because we picked them ourselves on Saturday). The only evidence of a storm was a small branch that landed in the pool. My thoughts are with those who are dealing with major catastrophes and heartache as well as small annoyances.

    Interesting that you chose to write about news coverage. I emailed a local TV station on Monday morning and told them that while I thought the coverage of the storm was great, they weren’t reporting on road conditions and there were a lot of us who were trying to get home from Albany via the NY State Thruway and major portions were closed. I didn’t hear back and they continued to show the same covered bridge in Vermont being washed away. I love covered bridges as much as the next person but I have to assume that closing exits 12-24–100 or so miles?–of a road affected more people directly and deserved a mention.

    Besides having freshly picked raspberries, my silver linings were…My office was closed on Monday so I didn’t have to charge a vacation day (and how many times does this happen on a warm, sunny, glorious day when you are with people you love? By Monday night a good portion of the Thruway was open–not enough to get us home but enough so we could travel about 1/3 of the way. The hotel we stayed at Monday night had power and we were able to continue on after more of the Thruway was opened the next morning.

  5. jeanne Byington Said:


    Reading about your neighbors I think there’s hope for us all. Broken ribs–ouch!

    As for our library, we’d be lost without ours. I have three books currently checked out. That’s where I wrote this post–in fact where I draft most of them! I join you in their praise.

  6. jeanne Byington Said:


    Funny how news people sometimes forget what people want to know–or is it that they lack the staff? So much local news is replaced by syndicated stuff for that reason, a loss to us all.

    Don’t feel guilty! Thank goodness there were spots unaffected by Mother nature, except in a fresh picked raspberry kind of way. Yum!

  7. Nancy Farrell Said:

    You are kind, as usual. If staffing was really an issue, they easily could have found out about the Thruway closure on the internet or signed up for traffic alert e-mails. This is how I got my information. So that is the silver lining–because I wasn’t getting the news I needed, I tore myself away from the television and spent time with my family. My hat’s off to the news station we watched in New Paltz. Because of them, I did not drive onto Interstate 287–my usual route–because parts were washed away.

  8. Carolyn Gatto Said:

    I’m writing this on Thursday evening. My mother (on Long Island) has been without power since Sunday morning. A friend on LI has been in the dark since Saturday night. My sister and brother-in-law (in central Connecticut) also have been without power since Sunday. Their sump pump relies on electricity, so when the water table is high, they have to bail out the sump hole every two hours, otherwise their basement will flood. No power also means no running water or wc’s for them. And my sister is dealing with an apparent case of food poisoning. I’m not kidding when I say she is starting to sound like a post-traumatic-stress victim. The honchos at LIPA and CPL have a lot of explaining to do. They knew this was going to be a bad storm. Why didn’t they bring in every crew they could find before Irene arrived? Apparently they would rather inconvenience and endanger their customers than pay workers whatever is necessary to get power back on in a reasonable period of time. I would encourage everyone who is as outraged as I am to contact their legislators and demand an investigation. On another note, my heart goes out to all those folks in NJ, VT and elsewhere who are dealing with water in their homes and crushed rooftops from falling trees. Quelle nightmare.

  9. Hester Craddock Said:

    I pretty much agree with your observations about what occurred before, after and during the progress of “Irene” up the East Coast.

    Until our power went out, it was gripping watching the progress of the storm, however – and this applies to both radio and television – I regret that there is no coverage on any radio band that is not driven by the need (including NPR)of broadcasters to make money from their news product. (I can still recall listening as a child living in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, to the BBC in 1940 describe the disaster of the German invasion of France and Belgium with under dramatized and consequently utterly believable gravity.) Had there been less drama, less shots of reporters standing up to their knees in water and drenching surf/rain and more sophisticated weather analysis, I think there would have been far fewer “doubting Toms” afterwards. Anyone who paid attention would have surely realized that we came within perhaps three feet of storm surge of a disaster of epic proportions. Christie and Bloomberg were absolutely right in doing what they did in preparing for what fortunately did not happen.

    After the storm, the vast majority of local residents in exurban communities in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts, and especially the power company’s repair crews, were marvelously supportive and friendly. My only complaint was with a certain element of the population, probably summering from New York, who despite the storm, were their young, rich, entitled selves, best symbolized by the far too gussied up young lady in a Cadillac SUV who almost drove us off the road because we were going at the speed limit.

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:


    If you were a television news reporter covering a storm, what would you do but jump into the water to show people how deep it was or lean into a stiff wind to illustrate how it holds you up. It’s a visual medium. Standing there with a pointer on a map would become tiring, much like a talking head going on and on and on…zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

    Bad weather never stops the shortsighted, thoughtless types from causing accidents. How often in winter do drivers in giant vehicles go far beyond the speed limit on ice or slippery snow, oblivious of the possibility of smacking into a tree, pole, pedestrian, child, pet or another driver? Too often.

    I’m reading a book about pro-British Americans in the 1940s. BBC reporters may have delivered the news in calm, modulated, crisp tones as you remember it, but you had to have been very young. According to the author, the BBC was for years a propaganda arm of government and not an objective news source.

  11. Jeanne Byington Said:


    If I were your sister, I’d be going off the deep end.

    As for your Mom and friend, I heard a caller from Long Island ask the radio host this morning [Thursday, also] if he could get someone at the Long Island power company to speak with her. Half the time she couldn’t even get past the busy signals.

    Apart from the frustration and anxiety associated with longterm discomfort, like a terrible headache or cramps or aftermath of an operation, if we have a clue as to how long the pain/horrible situation will last, it would at least help a person make plans. My nephew, who lives about 40 minutes from us, immediately offered us a bed and shower when the lights went out. We were about to take him up on his offer on the fourth day when, late the night of the third, the lights came on.

    There are so many dangers associated with being in the dark and I hope that your mother has found another place to roost for the duration. It’s easy to pop the wrong pill in your mouth with only a flashlight in hand or to trip over an animal that scampers underfoot. I hope she gets her power back soon and your friend and sister as well.

    Looking for a silver lining, at least we aren’t currently suffering a heat wave.

  12. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I don’t know that the station has anyone to check traffic information in an email delivered to them or on the Internet and translate what they learn into script for a news reader–or even to hand the rough info, as-is, to him/her.

    If listeners had been at our house where cell phones don’t work, simultaneously without electricity, having such info on-air would be essential.

    I contacted the business editor of a Pennsylvania-based daily paper to propose an exclusive story involving a local small business that uses technology [my client] to cut costs, increase efficiency and accomodate/impress customers. The editor told me that he uses syndicated material exclusively. Hmmm. [I wonder how long he will have his job.] A colleague who specializes in pharmaceutical PR is finding the same thing. She, too, was trying to interest regional media in local case histories with paltry results.

    Who suffers? Local audiences and talented news crews now unemployed.

  13. Lucille Said:

    We live in Dutchess County where we had no idea how bad it really was by listening to the 3 big news stations. Our street was one of the lucky ones as we lost power for only one day. Our local town supervisor sent informative e-mails way ahead of the storm and included emergency numbers for all the service companies, (electric, water and waste, etc.). He even included his personal cell phone and I understand he left mid-storm to help some taxpayers that were a hair away from losing their shed as the creek rose around their house. The only negative I see is that you needed internet service to access this info.

    I was more upset that coverage seemed to focus on only certain areas of the city. I grew up on a small island on the Long Island Sound in the Bronx and still have relatives there. In most novice NorEasters, the LI Sound tides have risen and flooded straight across to meet the Eastchester Bay. We sat biting our nails wondering how the hurricane affected our family. They were not part of “Zone A”, (the mandatory evacuation zone), nor did they have phone or cell service to reach us. Seems most people now only own cordless phones which work when the power is ON. Makes me thankful that I kept my old-fashioned kitchen wall phone in my house, although, it’s been the subject of many jokes. I guess I had the last laugh that weekend.

    On a brighter note, I heard the most wonderful story in the library yesterday. One of the librarians told us how she had driven her dry ice across town to a street that was simply devastated by rising creek waters and downed power lines. She had only lost power on Sunday and she couldn’t bear the thought of throwing away the dry ice when so many people had it much worse than her. She did not know one single person on the street that was in need but she went over there and jumped right in to help. Mind you this woman is close to 70 years old! Now there’s a silver lining.

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