Well, civilization has returned. We saw relatively little of the wrath of the storm. On Monday there were occasional gusts of wind but nothing out of the ordinary. However, here and there, by way of warning, the lights flickered for a second or two. I was madly writing “Misi, the squirrel,” hoping to beat Sandy.
Then around mid-afternoon the flickering was less friendly and actually brought down the computer. At this point I decided it was time to stop and retired to watch television. The TV watching didn’t last long. At exactly 6:08 the power went out, this time for good.
It seems, however, that practice makes perfect. Having gone through Irene last August and the Halloween snowstorm at the end of October we were very well prepared. Every large pot, for instance, was filled with water. In fact, we had more water than we actually needed. The chest freezer was almost full anyway, but we put in four gallon jugs of water days before the storm. We also jacked up the thermostat of the freezer to the highest point a day before.
Since we have a gas stove cooking was not a problem. On the other hand, the cold was really pretty demoralizing. On the first day it wasn’t too bad because we also turned up the thermostats fairly high before the storm, but from the second day on the average temperature in the house was 50-52 (10-12C) F. So, I spent at least half a day in bed under several covers and read.
The other problem was daylight. By five p.m. it was difficult to read without a lamp and in the morning it was pitch dark until 7:00. A lantern with fluorescent lights that works on batteries is excellent but not really good enough for hours of reading. Thus one sleeps and sleeps, and sleeps. And waits and waits for news.
As for news. We did receive daily information from town hall about the progress that was being made in restoring electricity. In the first two days not much happened around here, which is not surprising because first utility companies have to remove hazards (like live wires across roads) and restore important spots like hospitals and supermarkets. Then they move on to the heavily populated areas (not us). Our town’s schools were still closed on Friday.
Around Thursday we started getting better numbers until last night it turned out that we were one of the 250 or so households in town still without power (about 30%). This morning the crews appeared on our road. They came from Kentucky and Ohio. A couple of hours later there was light! People who were walking on the road beamed at each other when one of the crew reported “You have power!”
After having so many devastating storms lately in this part of the world I often think of how well Hungarians would cope with such a disaster. In Hungary local outages often make national news, so I hear that in such and such a town fourteen of forty apartments were without heat because something or other went wrong. These problems seem to be fixed within a reasonable length of time, but the outcry usually is great. There seems to be little tolerance of mechanical failures or acts of God. If there’s a huge snowstorm and a couple of villages are impassable for a day or two, the workers trying to clear the roads meet with little sympathy let alone tolerance of the possible difficulties of the mission.
Of course, there are people here too who don’t cope terribly well. I just had a conversation with a friend from New Jersey, a state that is much worse off than Connecticut, who was telling me that his wife complains from morning till night. He himself was fairly cheerful although they were told that they might not have power for another two weeks. But on the whole there is an attitude of “toughing it out.” For instance, although in our town there was a shelter set up for the night for those without heat, no one showed up.
And finally, since I haven’t had time yet to look at Hungarian news, let me tell you about all the reading I did last week. First, I reread Ignác Romsics’s book on István Bethlen with special attention to his portrayal of Horthy and Bethlen. Then I moved on to Balázs Ablonczy’s biography of Pál Teleki. Here I was especially interested in Ablonczy’s opinion of Teleki’s antisemitism. I finished György Litván’s book on Oszkár Jászi that I had read only halfway through at the time I bought it, and I came to the conclusion that the best representative of the October Revolution of 1918 is not really Károlyi but Jászi. He was one of those men of his generation who never wavered from his democratic convictions and who condemned both Nazism and Communism. And finally, I read with great interest Zoltán Ripp’s excellent book Rendszerváltás Magyarországon, 1987-1990 (Regime Change in Hungary, 1987-1990). It provides a very detailed description of the political events leading up to the establishment of the Third Republic. I learned a lot from it.
I’m hoping that in the next few weeks there will be an opportunity to discuss some topics from these books, and then of course on to the latest developments in Hungary. I understand that the IMF is fairly adamant in saying no to the Orbán government concerning negotiations as long as there are “differences of opinion” with the European Commission.