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The power to know what’s important

11/8/2012 - West Side Leader
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By Craig Marks

Our Internet went down this summer.

Our landline phone did, too, a couple of times — once for a few hours. Cut off completely from the outside world, except for our smartphones, and they shouldn’t even be included in the conversation, as they’re not always 4G, y’know?

We weren’t going to put up with that kind of hardship, of course. We lit up the customer-service line with a cry for justice that could have come straight out of “Les Misérables.” (In fact, I think there were a few times when we said, “Pardon my French.”)

Fast forward two months and one superstorm.

My in-laws, Len and Thelma, live in a suburban neighborhood in Queens, N.Y. In the late afternoon of Oct. 29, as Hurricane Sandy made its way up the coast, Len and Thelma’s power went off.

And it stayed off. Their house and the rest of their street remained dark for a week, until Con Ed, their electric company, restored power Nov. 5.

One day without power or heat, you may feel like you’re at Hale Farm. Two days, three days, one week — you would feel like you’re in hell.

But Len and Thelma consider themselves lucky.

Their house is still standing, unlike so many homes in New Jersey that felt the full impact of Sandy and unlike the houses destroyed by the storm-related fire in Breezy Point, Queens. They could walk the few blocks to the supermarket and not waste what precious gas was left in their car. And their cell phones still worked, though they kept calls short to preserve battery life.

Len and Thelma were urged by friends to wait out the outage in their warm homes — and we threatened to kidnap them and bring them to Ohio — but like most of their neighbors, they didn’t want to leave their house. At a nearby deli, Len heard a policeman talk about the looting taking place in homes left unattended. And besides, Len said, with a few extra blankets, and if you keep on your winter coat, it’s not that cold.

By Sunday, it was that cold. Kidnapping plans were initiated. My brother-in-law would keep watch over their house, and my in-laws would spend some time at Motel Marks.

Before heading west, Len and Thelma got to enjoy a few hours of electricity in their no-longer-candlelit home. But we couldn’t be sure it wasn’t just a tease. Another storm, not as big as Sandy, but one that promised high winds and heavy rain, was supposed to hit the northeast Wednesday.

So Len and Thelma, welcome to post-election Ohio. If you see us burning political flyers and signs, understand that it’s not to generate heat. It’s just something we feel like doing.

And if you ever — ever — hear me react to a temporary Internet or phone outage as if it is a crime against humanity, feel free to give me a little lesson on putting things in perspective. I’ll see the light, without any assistance from Con Ed.

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