Houston, We Have a Problem

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

I’d love to share my story of power-outage problems, but it pales in comparison to many others. I’d much rather share a lapse in judgment that will always stand out in my mind over this mess.

After a treacherous all-night drive in pursuit of a hotel with electricity and a vacancy (as rare as unobtainium on Pandora) — my mind was running from one mission to the next.

I lucked out in finding a hotel, but after getting some sleep, I made my first mistake:

I relaxed

The moment I heard that Walmart was open just 2 miles away, I should have gone. I was preoccupied with other “priorities,” and by the time I arrived around 6:00 PM, they were closing from being short on staff.

That began another quest to find food and other supplies — which eventually led to my last option. As I walked into the gas station, there was a lady with a cane who stopped at the sheet of ice at the entrance.

That my mind was off in another place does not excuse my failure to offer assistance.

I am forever grateful to the person who jarred me from my stupor by lending a hand. I thanked her and profusely apologized for being so thoughtless.

That wasn’t enough to make me feel better about it, and there’s nothing that will. But I stuck around until she was ready to leave — once again apologizing and asking if there was anything I could do.

Miraculously, there was.

Her phone was dead and she needed to call her sister for a place to stay. In a COVID-Kodak moment, I dialed the number and held the phone for her on speaker. I walked her out and when we got to her car, she asked if I could get the cake of ice off her wipers.

I was eager for any task, and much to my delight — this one took some doing.

She said, “You’ve more than redeemed yourself.” I’m glad she thinks so, but I’m not so forgiving of my misstep.

I don’t watch news anymore, but in this situation, local news is critical. I’m not qualified to speak on Texas’ power problems, but I’m pretty good at recognizing systemic issues in any form.

And I have a knack for knowing how blame goes deeper than what people want to see.

In one of the interviews I watched, a guy was talking about how he’s lived here all his life and never seen anything like it. But despite the extended power outage, given the rarity of these events, he’s not willing to pay for what it would take to fix them.

He’s looking at the issue from the perspective of how big of a burden it is on him — just as I was wrapped up in my own little world when I walked into that station.

Someday I might be needing a cane, and how am I gonna feel when someone passes me by with a sheet of ice in front of me?

At the hotel breakfast this morning, pouring milk into my cereal reminded me of one of my all-time favorite lines:

This time around, I know what I’m fightin’ for . . . milk!

I was so happy to have that milk — just as I was thrilled with the package of sausage biscuits they provided. It was the first real food I’d had in a couple days.

With hot coffee and orange juice in the mix, that was the best breakfast ever.

The power was out again within an hour. As I write these words, my hands are cold and my feet are freezing — but Ain’t I the Lucky One still comes to mind. I’ve got some charge in my laptop along with my spirits.

And I’m sure glad I saw that couple on a plane with their 4-port Lenmar charger several years ago.

That powerhouse puppy has saved me so many times.

I was amazed that the station had some soup left. I almost had to laugh when the power went out just when I was about to heat it up last night. It was Coke, chips, and Snickers for sustenance once again — so stocking up on junk the day before wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

I heard that a mother and her 8-year-old daughter died from carbon monoxide poisoning. Would the pocketbook patriotism needed to help solve this power problem really be too big of a sacrifice to prevent such needless loss and suffering?

Even when I realized the history behind this fiasco, I had no desire to cast blame about something I know so little about. Like most complex matters, it’s a multidimensional problem that demands multidimensional answers.

Whatever the right thing is, I’m happy to do my share to help.

Problem solving is the prism through which I see everything.

I don’t care which side a solution serves, I only care about what’s true and what makes the most sense. I got out of this relatively unscathed, but I’m concerned about all those who weren’t so fortunate.

Being kicked out of your comfort zone even for a little while can reset your senses.

I’m glad Walmart was closed and that I ended up at that gas station.

I’ll never forget the shame I felt in not helping that lady — and yet I’m grateful for it. I’ve been compiling a list of lessons learned, which includes my wish list of supplies that sure would have come in handy.

They’re calling for investigations — but they already had a report of lessons learned from the last time the grid miserably failed. They relaxed right along with the public. I’m not outraged, but I won’t relax on acting on those lessons I’m listing.

Next time, I might not be so lucky — and I’m gonna be prepared.

P.S. I returned to my apartment yesterday (with electricity but no water). I finished this story and checked the faucets to find that my water was back on.

How fitting

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