The rather dull story of one man and a dog on the fringes of Sandy — Part 1 of 2!

November 28, 2012

Note: This is the first entry in a two-part post about, well, the rather dull story of one man and a dog on the fringes of Sandy. The not-so-exciting conclusion of this rather mundane tale will appear on this blog tomorrow!

***

It didn’t occur to me when I went to New York on Oct. 22, 2012, that my stay there might be extended by a week.

The trip had been on my calendar for a while. I had volunteered to dog-sit for a personal I’ll refer to as R, who was flying out to the West to visit family for a few days. Happily, my journey to New York would not only enable me to see old friends, it would also allow me to obtain a well-maintained used car at a good price.

R was set to fly out on Thursday, Oct. 25, and return the following Monday. As R’s departure approached, R and I were both aware of Sandy, the large storm that was moving north. As it happens, my schedule is flexible, so I was happy to ride out the storm if need be. I figured my return drive would only be delayed by two or three days at worst.

The dog I was caring for is a four-year-old, 70-pound yellow Labrador named Lucky, a very friendly and good-natured dog who is precious to R. As well behaved as Lucky has been, in my experience, I had no wish to bring her to a shelter unless it was absolutely necessary. I also wanted to minimize whatever hardship the storm might impose.

So as Sandy’s chances of affecting the greater New York metropolitan area grew from highly likely to a dead certainty, I made plenty of preparations. I stocked up on groceries. I filled my car’s gas tank. I bought a 15-pound bag of dog food and left it in my trunk in case Lucky and I did need to evacuate.

I paid a lot of attention to liquid supplies. I filled several containers with drinking water and stowed them in the refrigerator. I took a huge cooking pot, meant for boiling lobsters, into one bathroom and filled it with water to be used to clean myself or flush the toilet, if necessary. I moved a waist-high plastic hamper, about the size and shape of a 44-quart kitchen garbage can, into a second bathroom and filled that too.

And as the storm edged ever closer, I filled various containers and cooking vessels with water and froze them. Having extra ice on hand might help keep food from spoiling should the house lose power, I had read.

***

Sandy made landfall on Monday, Oct. 29. But when Lucky and I went out for her morning walk, it hadn’t even started to rain. A very light drizzle began around 9:30 a.m., but the rains never poured down furiously that I saw.

There was no wind that morning. That changed, of course.

Lucky and I stepped out at an unfortunate moment in the early afternoon, when the rain was fairly heavy and the wind had increased. We were pretty wet when we got back. Every hour or two, I would notice that the winds were blowing harder than before.

Still, I wasn’t particularly impressed with Sandy’s local impact. Or at least, I wasn’t impressed until after 6 o’clock, when I realized that the gusts of air had become much faster and longer-lasting, too.

should have been frightened of a tree or large tree limb falling onto the house and crushing Lucky or me. (At least one person near R’s house died that way, I later learned.) Instead, irrationally, I feared the wind shattering a window, blowing rain and glass into my face.

My preparations had included reading some hurricane survival tips. One was that the safest place to be in a multiple-story house during a storm was in a fully enclosed first-floor room or closet without windows. At R’s home, that meant the first-floor bathroom (the only one in the house, incidentally, that I hadn’t stocked with extra water).

So I knew where to go when the winds got fierce. But as the gusts rattled the house for longer and longer periods, with shorter and less frequent lulls, I was reluctant to retreat. It seemed — well, unbecoming, if not actually unmanly.

(Much later, it occurred to me that the laundry room, a small space connected to the garage, would also have been suitable — although it would almost surely have been less comfortable than the bathroom.)

As the storm intensified, I kept on considering different places to settle. Upstairs was a non-starter, of course, because that contradicted the advice I’d read: Stay on the first floor. The dining room was separated from the back deck by a huge sliding glass door, meaning that was out. So was the kitchen, which had several large windows. There were big windows in the office and in the parlor, too.

There were windows in the front hallway, but they were the smallest windows in the house. I nervously huddled in the hallway for a few minutes before deciding that it just was not a comfortable place to wait out the storm. And yet I still didn’t want to retreat to the first-floor bathroom…

Indecisive, and increasingly edgy, I settled upon a muddle-headed compromise. I sat down in the TV room. It had a large bay window — perfect for shattering — and looked upon several large nearby trees. Still, it was a normal place for me to read and relax, so that was where I sat. Lucky lay down by the couch, which is near the bay window.

We didn’t stay long. At roughly a quarter to seven, we heard a crack and a loud THUMP. Lucky and I jumped up and bolted to the hallway, even as it dimly registered in my mind that if something was to crash into the room, we would have known it by now…

The TV room was in fact intact, but there was no way I would stay there any longer. Flat out frightened at this point, yet still unwilling to hide in the bathroom, I went and sat at the top of the staircase. All the second-floor doors were closed, so Lucky and I weren’t in any danger of being hit by glass.

***

Yet the top of the staircase wasn’t a normal place to sit, either, especially in the dark. I went into the master bedroom. At first glance, it seemed normal and comforting. Yet looks could be deceiving: R habitually keeps the bedroom’s windows covered with blackout curtains, so I knew that here, too, were large panes just waiting to be shattered by the wind.

Still, there was a large wardrobe in the room, and I figured that if I sat with my back to it, I would be unlikely to be slashed by glass.

My miserable self and an unperturbed Lucky had only been stationed there for a few minutes when R called.

R was upset — very upset. R originally had been due back around the time R called me. Foolishly, R had booked a new flight, attempting to return ahead of the storm, but that flight had been canceled. Then R’s second rebooked flight, set to arrive Wednesday evening, had been canceled as well. That was why R was calling.

Although R was staying comfortable with family, R is unnerved by travel. Being subjected to yet another change in flight plans had temporarily driven R over the edge. Completely unwilling to discuss my immediate fear for my own personal safety, lest I upset R further, I spent a few minutes comforting R.

I was relieved when the conversation ended so I could set R’s concerns aside and focus on my own worries.

Not long after that, the lights went out.

***

Note: This rather dull story of one man and a dog on the fringes of Sandy will continue tomorrow! Thanks for reading.

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