If you told me two weeks ago that I would soon be tramping across a snow-covered apartment complex at midnight, looking for something to burn to keep my wife warm from the sub-freezing temperatures outside in Texas, I would have not believed you.
But that’s where I found myself early Wednesday morning.
I first noticed the power was out at 4 a.m. Monday — I got up to use the bathroom and the lights didn’t work. We were told to expect rolling blackouts lasting roughly 45 minutes at a time, so I was optimistic that the power would soon return. It didn’t. To make matters worse, all the hotels in the area quickly sold out.
All day Monday, we waited for the power to return, huddling in front of the fireplace while the temperature hovered in the single digits. We made tea holding a small pot of water at arm’s length over the fire. But our stack of firewood was running low.
Firewood was sold out virtually everywhere. The customer service desk at Lowe’s told me they had been out since the morning. A half dozen guys in line behind me walked out upon hearing the news — apparently, they’d been waiting to ask the same question. I drove around Fort Worth, looking for firewood. A Spanish-language gas station off the beaten path had a couple of Duraflame logs left; those and the two logs back home would have to last.
Monday evening, we caught a lucky break. A close friend’s older sister, Rachel, lives nearby with her husband and texted us to say they still had power. We spent a few hours charging our laptops and phones before returning home, hoping the power would return any minute. It didn’t.
That night, my wife and I slept with our mattress pulled up to the fireplace in the living room, hoping that we would wake up to a warm apartment.
We woke up Tuesday morning feeling like we lived in a refrigerator. Somehow, our apartment had only gotten colder. We quickly walked over to Rachel’s and spent the day there — the four of us working on laptops in the family room. The temperature there refused to budge above 60 — which was still 20 degrees warmer than our apartment. Our hosts were beyond gracious, but it was a strange feeling to be dependent on the generosity of others for basic necessities like coffee and heat.
In hindsight, we should have accepted Rachel’s offer to sleep on her couch that night, but we hoped our last few logs would keep a fire going until we fell asleep. They didn’t.
As the fire died out a few minutes before midnight, I went out looking for things to burn. It took a few minutes to find a tree with branches low enough to grab, and another couple of minutes to tear off a mid-sized branch, which was more than enough time for the cold to seep through the multiple coats I was wearing. The fire still didn’t last much longer — but it helped.
It wasn’t until Wednesday that a hotel room opened up. We couldn’t check in until 3:00 p.m., but we headed over at noon, hoping that something would open up sooner. Above all, we were dreaming of a hot shower. After three hours of waiting, we had a room — but there was a catch. Half the hotel rooms, including ours, had no water. We took it anyway.
Our apartment still doesn’t have power and the hotel room where we’re staying doesn’t have working water, but we have heat, electricity and Wifi — and right now that’s more than many of our fellow Texans have.