I purchase my condo and move in the end of July. Less than six weeks later, on a Tuesday, my a/c stops working and has a weird smell. I turn it off before bed. In the morning, it’s working, but I still call a technician who comes out on Wednesday. The technician claims the actual unit is in good shape, but possibly the thermostat is bad. I decide to wait to see if it happens again. When it does, I place a phone call to my local handyman to see if he’d be available to change it out if necessary. The answer is yes, but not until after he boards up someone’s home. There’s another handyman through a co-worker who could do it some evening after work. Or I could just do it myself.
While, out to sea, Category 5 Hurricane Irma, the largest Atlantic Ocean hurricane in forever, is bearing down on the entire state of Florida. My kids want me to evacuate and even offer to fly me out. It’s a lovely gesture and one that I wish I could accept.
Consider that I work for Hospice, and this week many patients need to be evacuated to inland nursing homes, ALFs, or the special needs shelter with enough medications and oxygen to get them through, plus transportation there and back. In making sure their paperwork is in order, the social worker in charge tries to keep track of each one and where they’re going, while the Patient Care Secretaries hope we don’t miss anything, all the while trying to expedite each one as the clock ticks towards zero hour. By 5:00 o’clock on Friday, we’ve all reached our limit, and we’ve done all we could do.
When I get home, spent, I still have no a/c, I still haven’t figured out if I’m staying at home or going to a friend’s, but for some reason I check my front windows for air leaks. And I find them: glass-meets-glass corner windows that actually push away from each other when I press. I phone a friend who advises me what kind of caulk to get and, after I run to Home Depot, talks me through the caulking process. He even offers to replace my thermostat! (I won’t share his suggestion for barter, so desperate that I actually consider it; suffice it to say it goes to character and lessons learned.)
Meanwhile, throughout the week, whenever possible, I buy bread and water, get cash, make ice, gas up my car, make sure I have batteries for my flashlight, and keep a keen eye on as many weather apps as I can find since I don’t have cable tv.
Saturday morning arrives and I decide that perhaps I can change the thermostat myself. Back to Home Depot, I return with the same brand, check FB and find that wonderful Mike from Michigan has given me the perfect YouTube link for the exact one that I purchased. It really wasn’t hard to do! I cross my fingers and turn it on.
After troubleshooting over the phone with Mike to no avail, I decide to put the old one back on hoping for a better result. Nothing. Another friend offers to help when he’s done with work. I never hear back from him or anyone else.
What is it in people that they feel they can hold out an offer to help and then simply not follow through with said offer? Do they think that the offer of help without actually helping satisfies some moral code they own? It doesn’t. I’d much prefer honesty, hearing that they would if they could but they’re busy with ‘whatever.’ But to offer and ignore? I am far from impressed with these men.
Instead, I leave my mess where it is, leave a message with Arctic Breeze asking them to please call me after the hurricane, mix a stiff drink, then go to bed early. Sunday morning I take a shower, put my thermostat mess away, pack a few necessities, some food, some adult beverages, and eventually I head to Anita’s to wait out Irma while hoping when I return I’m not flooded or worse.
Irma, like the stereotypical female, keeps changing her mind about her direction. Ultimately she decides in our favor and ends up wreaking havoc on the Gulf side instead.
At Anita’s, we watch TV until we lose power around 9:30 p.m. We knit by candlelight, eat snacks, and get sleepy knowing the full wrath of Irma isn’t set to hit until around 2:00 a.m. An attempt at sleep, no power, texts and messages to others in danger, and I’m finally up again in the wee hours only to find my hosts have beat me to it. The wind is howling, branches are banging on the wood covering the windows, and the wish for coffee finds Dean in his rain poncho outside braving the elements, boiling water on his propane grill at 3:00 a.m. Coffee never tasted so good!
Anita and I have done this before (remember Matthew?), and again we’re knitting to pass the time, only looking up when startled by a strong gust of howling wind, then looking at each other with round eyes. When daylight finally arrives, things are calmer, and neighbors begin to emerge to take stock of their surroundings. We all breathe a sigh of relief that it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.
After the noon curfew, I drive home through debris-laden streets where, oddly enough, many signal lights are operating. When I pull into my condo, I have to leave my car and move branches and limbs so I can park, then I clear a path to my door, praying all is well inside.
I know many people will decide they’ve had enough, they’re leaving for safer climates, they’ve given Florida a try, but it’s just not worth it. I understand that. I’m at my wit’s end with this one and currently find myself at the EconoLodge for sanity’s sake. But I’m not ready to bail just yet. I still love it here, and the ensuing months will only bring out the best northeast Florida has to offer. It’s kind of like I’ve paid my dues, and now I’m going to enjoy that payment. I own a little piece of it now; I’m part of it.
I’m staying; good, bad, or otherwise.