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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

As of this writing — just after midnight on Tuesday, October 30  — my New York City neighborhood still has electricity despite the Frankenstorm, aka Hurricane Sandy. The lights have blinked ominously, so I keep bracing for total darkness, but for the moment it’s okay. If the electricity stays on, I will see if any of my powerless peeps want to come over once it’s safe for them to go outdoors (if you are one of my real-life peeps and for some strange reason you see this and need help, text or email me). My parents, GeorgeB and BarbaraB, have been without power since 6 PM in New Jersey and lots of trees and branches are down, but they’re okay.

I was in New York for the big blackouts of 1977 and 2003. Both times it was sweltering, there was no running water, and, in 2003, I had to carry two terrified dogs up and down a pitch-black stairwell while they dug their claws into my flesh. But this is going to be so much worse because of the flooding. I’m worried about all the downtown-dwelling folks … and the business owners. So many small-business people have basement spaces.  I hope they’re not wiped out. I’m sending dry thoughts their way.

Even in dire times, though, there can be a random funny moment so I’m reminded of a story from the 2003 blackout. I worked for Lehman Brothers on the 30th floor of a building near Times Square. (We moved there after our downtown building was damaged by the collapse of the World Trade Center in 2001.) When the power went out, a backup generator kicked in immediately and the lights turned back on; our new building was supposedly equipped with all kinds of great emergency options. I wondered if there was a power problem in our building only, but I looked out the window and saw the building across the street was dark. Then I called MrB downtown and said, “Is your power off?” When he said yes, I said, “Okay, we’re having a big blackout!” and hung up. I pondered what to do for a minute. I looked at my colleagues — including my boss — who were milling about, waiting for some kind of corporate direction. Like I did on 9/11, I decided I didn’t care what other people were doing. I was leaving with anyone who reported to me. The problem was that AnneMarie, my only employee in that office that day, was about eleventy-months pregnant. I wasn’t sure that walking down 30 flights of stairs was the best choice for her, especially because I’m not trained in midwifery. With the generator still working, I said, “Let’s press the elevator button and if the elevator opens immediately, we’ll get in it.” I pressed, the door opened, and we got in with quite a few other people. Mostly dudes, because Lehman was heavily dude-oriented in certain departments and jobs, but there was a petite woman in the middle of the car. We went a few floors — and stopped. The lights went out. The petite woman started to panic. The men offered her water and a space to sit down and told her, “It will be okay.” She wailed, “How do you know we’ll be okay?” Hysteria can be contagious and I felt like AnneMarie was breathing a little heavily; I was worried she was going to start hyperventilating. I thought a little black humor might be a good distraction, so I whispered in her ear, “Well, if we’re stuck here for a long time, at least we know who we should kill and eat first.” Unfortunately, it was more of a stage whisper and everyone heard. For months afterward, I was a quasi-celebrity in my elevator bank. I’d bump into guys I didn’t recognize and they would say: “Oh my God! You’re the one who said you were going to eat that woman!”

Anyway, before I could make any additional inappropriate statements, the generator kicked into gear again, the elevator reached the lobby and AnneMarie and I ran/waddled a couple of blocks to the garage where she parked. We walked right up to one of the garage guys, gave him her ticket and caught our breath. Then we looked back and there was a line of people behind us stretching to infinity. Our timing was impeccable! We stopped thinking we were dumbasses (and potential cannibals) for taking the elevator and started thinking we were geniuses. Actually, we were just lucky.   We could have been trapped in that elevator for a long time if the Lehman building wasn’t so sci-fi. That said, I do think I made a well-timed exit. There are times when it’s good to follow your instincts, rather than the crowd.  So, all you New Yorkers, do what you need to do to keep yourself safe. And please beware of falling branches! They’re not only a danger when there is wind and rain. A saturated, rotting branch can reach its breaking point well after a storm. It doesn’t necessarily make a cracking sound to warn you it’s coming down, and you can be hit even if you’re not directly under the tree. I know this because a murderous tree tried to take out me and another woman with a giant branch. One second we were standing, and the next second we were on the ground asking, “What happened?” We literally didn’t know what hit us because it was so fast. (This happened in 2002, a year before the blackout, so, elevator lady, don’t get all, “Serves you right,” with me.) Seriously, y’all, keep an eye out for danger from above, and let me know if you need anything.

NOTE: MrB read this and asked me, “So what are we supposed to do? Walk around staring up at the trees?” I said, “I don’t know. Just BEWARE, okay? BE! WARE!” And definitely don’t go to a park.

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32 Responses to “Frankenstorm Sandy Status in the WendyB Household”

  1. Lynette says:

    I am so glad to hear about your situation and your parents. What about your sister’s family? Sorry, I’m being nosey, but I can’t help myself. Y’all keep safe. I think your advice about trees is stupendous.

    • WendyB
      Twitter: WendyBrandes
      says:

      Thank you for asking about Terri Berry. She is near Chicago, where they are expecting high winds today, so she should definitely beware of trees. But it looks like they won’t get any rain there, which is good.

      • Lynette says:

        Thanks, WendyB. I couldn’t remember where she lives. About the trees, I just read about one official storm-related death and two more probably storm-related deaths in Pennsylvania, all with trees/limbs involved. So sad.

      • WendyB
        Twitter: WendyBrandes
        says:

        It’s really terrible when a tree crashes into a house and kills someone. You think you’re safe but then you’re not. When my sister lived in Florida, in one of the hurricanes, a tree fell on a nearby house and while no one was injured the house was a real disaster. The damage was severe. Damn trees! I don’t have good relationship with them.

  2. Megan Mae says:

    Not to laugh at danger, but this post is funny. I’m glad you all are safe, just remember if you need to get out of there, get out!

    Your story reminds me of the floods that happened in Nashville. The DH and I were down in the worst of it while it was happening. We were staying in a hotel for a convention and of course didn’t think much of the rain/wind. We didn’t have the money to stay another night and took off.

    Somehow our google maps had taken us in the back way to the hotel and so we back tracked the same way we came in without thinking. Turns out anyone trying to leave the front way got their cars flooded out and stranded. Then we managed to take high roads all the way back home, but it was like driving through a post-apocalyptic world until we got out of Nashville.

    Thanks for keeping us updated on the situation. Wishing you and everyone in the affected areas the best. If you have a weather radio, keep that thing on as much as you can.

    • WendyB
      Twitter: WendyBrandes
      says:

      There’s something about the fact that you benefited from literally taking the high road that gives me the laughs. Mom was right! Take the high road! Of course she was referring to mean girls in high school but it seems to work in a variety of circumstances.

  3. Eli says:

    Glad to hear you’re doing okay Wendy and hoping that it stays that way. So strange and unfortunate to see so many people in potential danger.

  4. Louise says:

    Glad to know I’m not the only one who actively plans the fate of those around me. I’m always looking around on public transit and thinking, “I want that beefy guy on my side when the zombies attack, but that beyotch will need some serious slapping.” Now going to add “who to eat first” to my planning, bwa ha ha!!

    In all seriousness, glad to hear you are doing fine now that the bulk of Sandy has passed NYC.

  5. stacy says:

    And sometimes everything is going along as it should, mother nature is behaving and suddenly you fall into a pile of clean garbage ;)

  6. Faux Fuchsia says:

    Dear W

    I hope you will stay safe and retain power.

    Keep us updated!!!

    You have survived a lot of near misses.

    x

  7. Poochie
    Twitter: ShoeDaydreams
    says:

    After growing up in Miami and living in Orlando when we had 4 hurricanes come through in 6 weeks, I’m glad to hear all is okay. During the Orlando storms we were without power for over a week in August and it was sweltering. Our cinder block house had no airflow and got so humid the floorboards warped. Ugh!

    In NC, our house has lots of large old trees right next to it and I fully expect to have one fall into the house or crush my car. I’m a bit paranoid when it gets really windy.

    Love the elevator story. We’ve totally planned who’s got skills and who is going to have to go in our neighborhood if there is ever an apocalypse. I started archery this year, but that or may not have had a little to do with it. ; )

    Stay dry and charged up and be careful walking the pups. I’m sure that will be the pits!

  8. Lisamareedom
    Twitter: Lisamareedom
    says:

    Glad you are safe. Nice to be able to check in with favourite peeps during natural disasters via blogs. I wish everyone was as considerate as you. Tell me, how far up the island was flooded? Xx

  9. samantha
    Twitter: bougtalk
    says:

    Sending you all lots of love, hope you still have power and are doing Ok. Xxxx

  10. sulky kitten says:

    Let’s hope that’s as bad as it gets and you don’t have to stick 2 dogs and a cat under your arm any time soon. Stay safe and take care.

  11. SarahMac says:

    Wendy you sound like you have a cool head in an emergency! I want you on my team when the apocalypse comes. Keep safe.

  12. mystyle says:

    Hi my dear-have been thinking of you at this time and so pleased to read your post-please keep safe and sound and hope your family keep safe and well too xxx

  13. Note to self: Do not get stuck in an elevator with WendyB. If I do, eat her first.

    I am so glad to hear from you. My oldest, The Costume Technician, lives in Brooklyn but works in Manhattan. But not for the next day or so at least. I will be thinking about you and everyone suffering the consequences of Sandy, and hoping you get power back soon.

  14. K-Line says:

    So glad to hear that you and your parents are well.

  15. I know these are dangerous days, but I can’t help laughing at the cannibal story! Do you often say what others are merely thinking? Go Wendy!

  16. Tina says:

    Glad you had/have power. Me too!

  17. Jet aka Punk Glam Queen
    Twitter: PunkGlamQueen
    says:

    Ah yes, I remember the blackouts of ’77 and ’03 well. Dan was in the city for days in ’03 rescuing people from elevators. (Of course I was proud of him for being so diligent, but wanted him home with us! yes I’m a selfish bitch.) Also remember Gloria (when I decided that of course I should walk from my apt on Ave B to Danceteria — 21st and 6th — to see one of my fav bands only NY appearance ever!) Actually that wasn’t too bad from what I recall, but then again I was young and stupid. I also recall the earthquake around the same time as Gloria. My kitty Jezebel would not let me sleep waking me right before it hit. Living in one of those lovely alphabet city tenements, I thought too many trucks went by fast. And I got phone calls every hour from my mother asking why I was sleeping through an earthquake — um because it was like any other day the building would tremble, & I worked nights and needed sleep! Oh goddess remember the Nor’Easter last Halloween? Crazy! I hope your parents get their power back asap. We were lucky, no outages on our side of the street (weather witching comes in handy), opposite side and blocks all around us are out as well as the towns around us. We did have some nasty felled branches that fell into the neighbours driveway, thank goodness they weren’t out walking Oscar the pug, or Doug their newborn baby as it could have been fatal — that sucker was HUGE! At least I won’t have to buy firewood this year! I was super worried about everyone in the city, my friend in a high rise was flipping because the windows kept rattling. Apparently there is no power below 14th st as well. I’m glad you’re all safe, and loved your story! Maybe now everyone will take my zombie apocalypse prep seriously, it comes in handy in any disaster! XXX

  18. The Style Crone
    Twitter: judithstylecrone.com
    says:

    Take care of your precious self!

  19. Valorie Hart says:

    Thanks for the report and update, and the fab stories. AND so happy you are okay. xo xo

  20. Marti says:

    Okay I would have died in that elevator, I’m already claustrophobic so there would have been two panicked women on that elevator with you. So did this experience make AnneMarie go into labor any earlier than she otherwise would have?
    Glad to hear your all okay and that you have power.
    Marti

  21. Jen
    Twitter: 1chicklette
    says:

    Ha! I love the elevator story.

  22. So glad you & yours are safe – thanks for the update, and that priceless elevator story! You kill me.

  23. NYC and I are on some kind of perfectly phased incident warp in which an event of massive proportions occurs there at the same time I face personal heartbreak, e.g., my Dad dying right before 9/11 and our two cats going missing just when #sandy hit NYC and environs.

    I’m glad you and your family and friends are ok.