In retrospect, the fact that my mother survived the Great Ice Storm of ’98 with her sanity intact is one of the most impressive feats of woman vs nature ever recorded in the state of Maine. She spent nine days without power in a single room with multiple sources of fire accompanied by two children ages 4 and 5. (And a husband who got to leave the house for nine hours every day for a job in electrified Portland.)

The power used to go out a lot at our house growing up, because we lived in an old farmhouse in Buxton. Nine days was the longest we ever went without power, fortunately, but every winter (up until a few years ago, when some lines got upgraded), we knew we would be in for at least a couple of days without the modern convenience of electricity. Fortunately for us, our house was built before the invention of the modern conveniences, which means a calamity for other houses simply returns its bones to their natural state.

Ironically, in the first nor’easter of the season, the house in Buxton didn’t lose power, but my apartment in cosmopolitan Gorham was out for 36 hours. But the things you learn as a kid, like riding a bike or tuning a radio, don’t leave your muscle memory. So when I got home at sundown and the stove clock was dark, I gathered all the candles in the house and put them in a central location. I found the working lighter. I got a pitcher of water to set on the table (just in case the cat knocked something over). I tied my hair back (tightly). And I got out some books.

In our house, for a long time, “CMP” was spoken of in the same tone of voice we used for nurses and the fire department. And the boots-on-the-ground workers who come out in storms and terrible weather on the bucket trucks to fix the lines, they still get plenty of respect from all of us.

But boy, the rest of the company …

The only Maine institution that has seen a similar fall from grace in the past few years has been Susan Collins. Ever since Central Maine Power was bought by Avangrid (which is itself owned by Iberdrola), they’ve seemed to seize every available opportunity to shoot themselves in the foot.

When I went on their outages website to see when my power would be back on, it said 2068. And rather than thinking “that’s weird,” my response was a big sigh and “well, that seems about right.” I suspect I’m not the only one. And the customer service issues! I work in customer service; I have for years, so I take bad customer service personally (probably way too personally). But any company that doesn’t take their customer service very seriously is not a company that has great long-term prospects.

But issues with CMP aside, I was lucky. I had enough warm water in the tank for a good shower, and the toilet continued to flush (the luxury of being on town water. Big-city living!) I don’t have any medical needs that require electricity. So I could just sit back and enjoy the slower pace of the evening that comes by candlelight.

You get sleepy early, without electric lights. It’s amazing how quickly your body readjusts to ancient rhythms. Or maybe I was just feeling particularly relaxed because five out of the seven candles I had lit were scented, so my living room smelled like a tropical orchid pine forest.

My boyfriend was grumpy that the power was out, but that’s because he had just bought milk. Fortunately, all my food was nonperishable, which isn’t very good for my diet but is pretty good for keeping without a cooler.

I hope that the power doesn’t go out again, but this being Maine, I know it will. Next time there will probably be snow involved. It might be out for longer than 36 hours.

CMP might find a new way to help us keep warm by making our blood boil. Next time, the dog might succeed in sticking her nose into the candle flame (as she attempted to do this time around, I assume because scented candles appeal to dogs as well as humans). But as the season opener, this particular outage wasn’t too bad.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: mainemillennial

 


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