I don’t know what chord the wind was playing, I only know it wasn’t that “shoosh’ sound that a breeze, even a strong one, makes. The haunting drone of 75+mph winds was punctuated by the snapping sounds of tree trunks and shuddering thuds as 30 foot tree segments slammed onto, or rather, bounced off the roof and then landed in front of the window. The lake, usually filled with whitecaps during storms, instead was flattened and swirling, looking as if it were going to part. Given the apocalyptic combination of noise and wind, it wouldn’t have surprised us to see ghost’s of Pharoah’s army riding on chariots through the waters.
The onslaught lasted only minutes while we frantically grabbed cats, flashlights, phones and water and tunneled into the closet in the center of the house.
Winds subsided and water started dripping through the bedroom ceiling…
As if the entire block was cued by an off-stage director, people walked out of their homes and into the street, drizzle falling and cracks of lightning still flashing in the distance. One by one we evaluated each other’s property and looked at the damage. Maple trees that have faced battles for over 50 years lost this one. Trunks over a foot in diameter snapped and splintered. Our fascia was ripped off in one place, a tree branch pierced into the attic in another, and a dent in a ridge turned out to be a broken beam. Small holes randomly pocked the shingles. Shattered trunk lay on top of bushes and small trees. Their forced bends seem to be screaming, “Get off my back!”
The lack of power and the holes in the roof are main concerns. Those will get patched by roofers that were kind enough to end their gruellingly long day with a trip to our house to seal them off. The power? We had that covered with a generator, albeit 24 hours after the power was lost.
I prepared the generator for its run. I took a quart of oil and tried to verify how much oil would be needed. The instructions said .6 liters. I looked on the side of the plastic bottle to see if I could gauge how much to pour.
Sweaty, with a headlamp on my head and mosquitoes beginning their evening feast, I looked in disbelief. The bottle is filled with 1.419 liters of oil.
Seriously – four significant digits? (This is actually 48 ounces but I’m not about to convert .6 liters to ounces)
The markings on the container start with 1.3 and go down in 0.1 liter increments. So, as if the situation isn’t bad enough, I now have to actually think. I subtract .6 from 1.417, that’s 0.817. I begin pouring. Nope, not enough…pour more…I’m close…pour again…too much…augh, oil is dripping out of the fill port. I pour some oil out and recheck…I add more again….perfect.
Add gasoline, flip switches, pull cable, it starts. We have power to fridge, freezer and a fan.
I look at the oil slick on the concrete and do damage control to keep it out of the grass and flower bed.
I look again at the bottle.
As I listen to the generator humming in the darkness and mosquitoes in my ears, it strikes me how the simplest products can be made so much more helpful with a minimum amount of effort. All it takes is a little empathy and understanding. The manufacturer provided a clear stripe of plastic and gradation marks so that the contents could be measured as it was dispensed. It wouldn’t have been any more difficult to reverse the sequence of the numbers so that they could actually be useful to the pourer.
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