Power Struggle

The time is never quite right to take the plunge and buy that generator until, suddenly, they are all sold



Illustration by Brad Fitzpatrick

My wife and I go camping at least once a year. We don't mean to, but we live in New Hampshire and the power goes out every year. In 2006 my wife insisted we move back from Los Angeles. I argued that I needed to stay in LA because of my profession. So we compromised and moved back to NH. And due to my impeccable bad timing we bought at the absolute peak of the real estate market.

We could flip our house right now and move into a Ford Focus.

Since we've moved back we have been welcomed home by consistent and oh-so-convenient power outages. After each one I would contemplate buying a generator.

I remember the outage in December of 2008. While my wife, 1-year-old son and I huddled together trying to stay warm in the dark, I could hear the sound of my neighbor's generator, and through my window I could see his Christmas lights and mechanical Santa Claus mocking me. But I said to my wife, "We probably won't have another power outage for five years."

"After our power was restored I went to the local hardware store and bought the biggest one they had."

I, of course, was wrong and every year seemed more memorable than the last. Like when my second child was born during an outage in February of 2010. To think that he went from the comforts of a warm womb to a cold bassinette. Welcome to NH, little guy. My wife and I would take turns - one would change the diaper and the other would hold the flashlight. Surely this would make me break down and finally get a generator. But after each power outage I felt like I timed it wrong and couldn't pull the trigger.

I said to my wife, "You know what will happen. If I buy one the power will never go out."

But then came fall of 2011. Now I don't think many people would argue about the beauty of a white Christmas in New Hampshire. But a white Halloween? I remembered laying in bed and hearing the sound of all the generators in the neighborhood. A part of me wished the neighborhood kids, instead of toilet papering this year, would unplug my neighbor's generators. But why be mad at them? I should be mad at myself for putting this off. I realized that after this I had to do it. I have been beaten down. You've won, NH.

So after our power was restored I went to the local hardware store and bought the biggest one they had. Bought a giant gas can and had a transfer switch wired into my electrical panel. I am ready. So this year when Hurricane Sandy was on its way, the Superstorm, the Frankenstorm, unlike any storm we've ever seen, I was ready! Well, every street in the neighborhood lost power, except mine! So it's been over a year and I have yet to use it. It's the longest stretch without a power outage since we moved back. It's made me wonder if I had bought a generator in 2006 whether we would have had any outages at all.

I guess on the bright side, at least I haven't bought the gas yet. But then again, why would I? It was under $3 a gallon then.

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