Making the best of a powerless situation

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It was cold when I woke this morning; cold, and dark.

I instinctively flipped on the light switch in the bathroom, forgetting that we lost power yesterday afternoon, and remembering that the restoration estimates didn’t sound too rosy for what’s being called the “worst DTE weather-related event” ever. (Note: If you haven’t downloaded the WHMI-93.5 FM app for your smartphone yet, you should — it’s a great way to keep up on the news, especially when you have no power.)

So out we went this morning, in search of caffeine, candles, batteries, and electrical outlets to recharge our phones.

The farther east we got from our downtown Howell home, the more lights we saw.

We landed at Panera in Genoa Township, the most tech- and power-friendly restaurant around. As I plugged in my phone, my husband got us coffee and breakfast, and we recharged.

Here’s the thing I’ve realized about when the power goes out or some other tragedy occurs: People reach out. They’re nicer, friendlier, it seems, and far more patient. I thought about that while enjoying my coffee. Everyone this morning — I exaggerate not — is offering up smiles, sharing electrical plugs, trading bits of power news, and connecting with each other.

How nice people can be.

We shared an electrical outlet with a young father from the west side of the state, conducting his business via Panera’s internet service. His power went out early Wednesday and he and his wife, with their 2-year-old and 2-month-old in tow, headed east to stay with grandma and grandpa in Howell.

A Marion Township woman, who wished her husband had bought her a generator for her birthday, was enjoying breakfast with her two young daughters while their iPhones charged up.

Business people shoved together tables for meetings.

Everyone was making the best of a challenging situation.

My kid listens as Quiz Bowl Coach Brian Riordan talks about his Rookie of the Year award.

Such was the case last night at the Howell High School Quiz Bowl Team’s end-of-the-season banquet. We showed up, despite having no power at home, and we were treated to an event that had to change to accommodate power outages at the school.

We sat in the high school commons area and while there was still daylight, quickly celebrated the hard work of the Quiz Bowl kids, whose teams were “always a bridesmaid and never the bride” this season, according to coach Brian Riordan.

My kid won Rookie of the Year, and his proud parents took him to dinner at All-Star Coney Island on Michigan Avenue, the first place we found with power.

It wasn’t the evening we had anticipated. (We had been promised cake at the school, but there was no power when Coach Riordan went to pick it up.) In spite of that, the event was all the more memorable because of the power outage, and because of everyone making the best of it.

It was that “we’re all in this together, so let’s make the best of it” attitude that made for such a pleasant morning at Panera.

When our phones finally reached a respectable level of charge, we grabbed a breakfast sandwich for our son, who was still sleeping at home, and headed out, discussing what we could do with the food in the freezer should the power outage extend the predicted few more days.

When we got home it was still cold, but at least there was sunlight.

My son came downstairs as my husband replaced flashlight batteries.

“No showers today,” I told the kid. “And if you open the refrigerator door, take what you want and close it fast. And don’t open the freezer for any reason at all.”

“OK,” he said, standing in the living room, eating his egg-and-cheese sandwich.

I looked up at him and heard a beep.

A beep.

An electronic beep.

“Our power is back on!” I shouted.

Not all of my Livingston County friends and neighbors are as fortunate. Here is information for them or anyone else who might need to get warm as the weather turns cold:

Warming shelters available:

• Red Cross Building, 1372 W. Grand River Ave. in Howell, is open noon to 5 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.
• 2/42 Church in Brighton, 7526 Grand River Ave. in Brighton, is open until 10 p.m. Thursday, and 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday and Friday, with a family friendly atmosphere and cafeteria available.

About Maria Stuart 81 Articles
Journalist Maria Stuart lives in Howell. She worked at The Livingston County Press/Livingston County Daily Press & Argus as reporter, editor and managing editor from 1990-2009. She is often spotted holding court at Uptown Coffeehouse.