We’re celebrating a Christmas with a difference this year. A memorable one I might say. A few days ago, it seemed our Christmas wasn’t going to be merry at all, but in the end everything turned out alright. Well, sort of.
Let me recapture the events of the past three days. I kept a journal.
DAY 1 (Sunday, December 22nd)
I don’t know which is worse … no A/C in summer or no hydro in winter.
I always thought that being cold is preferable over being hot, but now I’m not so sure anymore.
Between July 3 and July 18, 2008 the chiller in our condo building malfunctioned. It couldn’t have happened at a worse time. Toronto was in the grip of a heat wave and we were sweltering in our units with a temperature of 44 degrees C (111.2 degrees F).
Now the opposite is true. It’s December 22nd and we have no hydro. That means no electricity, no water and worst of all, no heat.
It started last night around midnight. The power went off and came back after a few minutes. The power went off again and came back and went off and on again. The fourth time it went off it didn’t come back. We sat in the dark for a while, waiting, until we eventually went to bed.
I woke up a few times during the night and checked if my alarm clock screen was lit up … it wasn’t.
When I woke up in the morning I listened for sounds … the humming of the refrigerator, the bubbling of the aquarium … I heard nothing.
As there was no water, I couldn’t shower, wash my face or brush my teeth.
I couldn’t have coffee either.
After dressing, and while Dieter went to the mall to buy bottled water, I looked for something to do, something to keep me busy and warm. Short of making the beds and sweeping the floor there was nothing I could do.
I had a plan though. We could go to the bowling alley. We would be relatively warm, having running water to wash and have coffee, order something to eat and in due time entertainment with a couple of games.
I could take my laptop with me to do some work, charge my phone and my electronic cigarettes.
If the power was still out on Monday, I would do the same. Take my equipment with me and spent the day there.
It didn’t work out that way though as the bowling alley was also affected by the black-out and was closed. Now what?
We were stuck at home no nothing to do. No WiFi, no computer, and a cellphone and electronic smokes on low battery power.
When Dieter came back from the mall with 24 bottles of water, I was able to wash my face and teeth and felt a bit better.
In the afternoon we slept to pass the time and to stay warm. By the time we woke up it was 5:00 p.m. and completely dark. A long evening stretched out in front of us with nothing to do.
I lit five candles and although they spread some light around the living room, it wasn’t enough to read or do anything.
Dieter made a second trip to the mall to get dinner. He came back with Bourbon and two large coffees from Tim Hortons. Coffee never tasted so good and its warmth was more than welcome.
After dinner we took two chairs and in fold in table outside in the corridor and played cards.
Nobody knows how long this black-out is going to last. Some say 72 hours, others say we might not get power until Saturday. That would mean we’re spending Christmas in the dark with no special dinner.
DAY 2 (Monday, December 23rd)
It’s only been 48 hours but it feels like forever.
Now that the electricity outlets in the corridor our working, we’re more or less organized. I can make coffee and goulash is bubbling on a hotplate Dieter bought. He also bought two camping lanterns so we see more than with candles.
What we still don’t have is water and that is a major inconvenience. I miss showering, washing my hair, brushing my teeth and doing the dishes. The sink is piled up with cups, glasses, plates and cutlery.
I miss my computer too of course, but thanks to my phone I can read my emails and stay in touch with my Facebook friends.
The cold is getting to me too. I’m dressed in a t-shirt, long sleeved shirt and fleece jacket. My feet are warm with winter socks and fleece slippers. But my hands, nose and ears are freezing cold.
Living like this makes me wonder how people in the olden days managed. No electricity, no running water … how on earth did they do it?
Just when things were looking up, they’re going down again.
We lost power in the outlets in the corridor. Fortunately the goulash was ready, but nothing else. Do Dieter make a quick trip to the mall to get fries. They were half cold by the time he got home, but they were okay to eat.
When my curiosity got the better of me, I went and checked other floors in the building to see if the outlets there had power.
Floors 10, 9 and 8 didn’t, but floors 7, 6, 5 etc. did. So I came back upstairs, prepared the percolator with water and coffee and took the machine down to the 7th floor.
With my hands wrapped around a steaming mug of coffee, I could feel myself defrosting so to speak.
Earlier in the day I took Holly to the vet for her final set of inoculations.
When the vet heard that Holly had been feeling sick from her second set of inoculations and that our home currently has no heat due to the black-out, she recommended waiting with the final shots. The little one has enough to deal with without having to feel sick in a stone cold condo.
While I had been waiting my turn, a man come in with his dog. The man looked like a hobo … poorly dressed and long grey straggly hair. His dog looked just as scruffy.
From what I overheard of the conversation, the dog was old and sick and would probably be euthanized.
By the time I was finished with the vet, the man was back in the waiting room, minus his dog.
As I left, I called a goodbye to the three receptionists, but they were all busy. And then the man turned to me and said very sincere “Merry Christmas”. I wished him a Merry Christmas too, although under the circumstances how merry could his Christmas be?
It was a profound moment though and one that will remind me never to judge people by their appearance.
DAY 3 (Tuesday, December 24th)
It’s -14 degrees C (6.8 degrees F) but the sun is shining. Behind the glass of the windows we all feel a little warmer.
The cats feel it too and are curled up in sunny patches here and there.
While they don’t want to be covered with anything, they seek out blankets, duvets and pillows for warmth from underneath.
When I woke up this morning I briefly considered staying in bed. After all, what was there to get up for? Eventually I did thought and since we now have running water, washed at the sink.
As task not to be underestimated as brushing my teeth and washing my face with ice cold water was no joke.
Once again I dressed in a t-shirt, long sleeved shirt and fleece jacket.
The power in the electrical outlets in the corridor is back on, so I ran an extension cable to make coffee and to plug in the aquarium. Without hear the tropical fish were hovering near to surface of the water, a clear sign of distress.
Dieter finishes work at 12:00 today and we’re heading to the mall to shop for groceries. The local shops are closed due to lack of power and we’re hoping that Wal-mart has what we need. With Christmas and Boxing Day around the corner everything will be closed.
WE HAVE POWER …. YEAH !
Around 12:45 the A/C suddenly switched on and although it gave no heat, it was a clear sign that the power was back. I checked the lights and yep, everything was working. The fridge was humming, the aquarium was bubbling … we were back in business.
I was so happy I called Dieter to give him the good news.
Relief was short lived though. Suddenly the fire alarm came on and I smelled something burning. Within minutes the fire brigade arrived and we were told that there was a fire on the 7th floor and to stay in our units until further notice.
Even on the 11th floor I could smell the fire and see faint traces of smoke. Not for long though, about ten minutes later the fire brigade gave the all clear.
When I went down to go to the mall, there was pandemonium in the lobby. More than a hundred people were standing around, waiting to use the elevators, while fire brigade men and police were trying to keep everyone calm.
Just how cold it was I saw when I came outside. Mother Nature was dressed more beautiful than I’ve ever seen her.
Trees, shrubs and grass were covered thick with ice. When the sun hit the ice, it looked like everything was covered in sparkling diamonds.
Unfortunately, the weight of the ice took its toll on the branches of the trees. They were either hanging low or had snapped already.
In the mall thousands of people were doing some last minute Christmas shopping and those affected by the black-out (about 300,000) bought everything they could get their hands on. Bottled water was sold out, so were candles, lanterns, bread, cold meat, cheese, etc.
Our Christmas dinner was unlike any other years. Usually we have pot roast with carrots and peas and croquettes or roast potatoes. Tonight we dined on deepfreeze fries, peas and beer battered fish.
Still, I’m not complaining. I’m glad the power is back on or we had to make do with sandwiches.
I also managed to do the dishes. Three days worth of dishes that took me close to an hour to wash, dry and put away.
Still no hot water to shower and no A/C, but we’re confident this will be up and running tomorrow.
This was a Christmas Eve with a difference and one to remember.
It wasn’t all bad though. In times of need the people of the building were united and helped each other. We got to know our neighbors a little better and a woman I’ve never met before offered me coffee.