December 16, 2002

Mr. Snowy, meet Mr. Blowy. Shake hands, and come out fighting.

This weekend is one of those times where the TV weathermen finally earn their pay. They get to slide by all summer, clueing us in to the subtle differences between “Sunny and 93 on Monday” and “Sunny and 94 on Tuesday”. But when Old Man Winter decides to take a dump in our part of the woods, suddenly it’s all different. Suddenly they’re the star, they’re the Big Story, and the anchorman is bringing them on within the first 30 seconds, instead of squeezing them in between the “America Strikes Back” and “Wacky World of Sports” segments. It is indeed a good time to be a TV weatherman.

And, of course, it’s generally crappy for the rest of us. The wind started on Saturday. It started gently, then ramped up more and more until parts of the area were having hurricane-force gusts. The wooden fence behind our house wasn’t just blown over, it was splintered and blown all over the yard. Good thing I just finished a wire fence to replace it! Two huge trees in our front yard were toppled, landing right in the street. Shingles were flying off our neighbor’s house. In Carson City, the entire roof came off an apartment building.

Plus, that night was the office Christmas party. So, instead of staying safe at home and hoping a chunk of fence didn’t come through the window, we had to venture out into the heart of the beast. I took a nice long hot shower, and afterwards dusk was upon us so I flipped the light switch in the bathroom. Nothing. “Don’t do that,” my wife said, passing by. “The power’s out.” So there we were, getting dressed in the dark, with the winds blowing stronger and stronger outside. I had visions of our car being pushed off the road, driven into a ditch, power lines collapsing on top of us – the typical horrors you see on the news. But the Christmas party waits for no man; we set out into the storm with grim resolve. The first few drops of rain landed on our heads.

There was darkness everywhere. The street lights were out. The stoplights were out. The drizzle had turned into a downpour. Driving through Minden seemed like a journey through a ghost town, darkened buildings passing us on both sides and only a few other cars in the road. Some industrious souls were shining car headlights in store windows. Other buildings seemed absolutely dark and deserted. I wondered, had all hands abandoned ship at the Long John Silver’s? Was everyone at the Pizza Barn huddled in a back room with a solitary candle? Were Baskin Robbin’s employees furiously eating soggy ice cream?

Up ahead, though, we saw the glow of civilization. Minden may have died, but its sister city Gardnerville was alive with electricity. And right there, with neon blazing, was Sharkey’s Casino, our destination for the night. Sharkey’s was hopping, since the only other casino in town, Carson Valley Inn, was running on generators. So we found our way into the banquet room and settled down for some prime rib and good company. As the salads were being served, though, it happened.

Darkness.

Well, Sharkey’s is a casino, so they must have a generator too, right?

We waited. We nervously poked at our Caesar salads under the glow of the emergency lights and continued our small talk. They must have a generator.

Well, I’ll ruin the surprise by telling you that Sharkey’s Casino in Garnderville does not, indeed, have a generator. So we ate our Caesar salad and prime rib by the glow of a few candles and the emergency lights over the exit door. Everyone was able to keep their good spirits, the servers all had flashlights, and apparently the kitchen runs on gas because our food was served piping hot. Some wine was spilled on the tablecloth because people couldn’t see their glasses, and the dinner, for reasons unexplained, came to us on styrofoam plates. But when the power came back on, and we looked down, squinting against the light, at our empty plates, we realized that a good time had been had by all.

When we left, there were two inches of snow on the ground. Actually, after all the rain, it was more like two inches of slush. And the power was still out in Minden. And at our house. And the true geek inside of me could have jumped on the laptop, used the dial-up connection, and written about it right then. But no, that’s not the time for that. That’s the time for lighting a few candles and playing Trivial Pursuit on the couch with your wife. Which is what we did, until the lights came back on in the early morning.

We woke up the next day to find a shattered fence, two dead trees in the street, and a mystery flat tire on our car. But that’s another story.

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