Tuesday, the festive lights went out. In fact all the lights went out. Around nine-thirty in the morning, a few seconds after I had turned on the coffee machine, we were plunged into darkness. I walked out into the corridor, and saw that the whole building had been affected. Suddenly, there was a mass exodus, and most of the occupants left the building and headed for their vehicles. I called the management agency, who said they would report the problem. "I will email you when I find out any information", said the lady at the office. Before I could point out that an email would be irrelevant as I did not have the electricity to power my computer, she had bid me farewell.
Spotting the postman, I walked out to retrieve the mail, and was informed that the power cut stretched from beyond the post office, and then south for about a mile. I thanked him for the information, and returned to the office.
Fortunately, the phones were working. The City of Austin's recorded message gave me several options, none of them relevant. I did not want to report anything, as I assumed it had been reported. I merely wanted to know of any progress. Eventually, I got put through to an operator, who transferred me to the correct department. I said who I was, and where I was calling from, and asked if there was an update on the situation. "I'm not seeing anything", said the young lady, who shall remain nameless to protect the naive! I was quite surprised. "So you are not showing a power outage, or you are not showing any progress?" I asked, wondering how much more information she needed. "No. I am not showing you on my map. Do you have an account number?" I was rather perplexed as to what she meant. "So you are not showing me, or my building?" She could not find the address. My voice rose slightly. "It is a little hard to miss our building, as it has two storeys and takes up about a third of a block. No, she was still not seeing it! She asked again for an account number, perhaps a name, but I told her that she would not find anything to connect me to the building in their system, but as she could not find the building, it would be of little consequence. We went back and forth for a while, with her trying to locate my details, and me explaining that I did not have a direct account for this address. Throughout the conversation I repeated that there was no power, not only in our building, but for about a square mile. It was a massive power cut, and all businesses, including the medical facilities to the north, and fast food venues to the south, were affected. (I knew this from the postman who, in my opinion, was a reliable source!) She was not seeing anything wrong in her system. She appeared not the be seeing anything in her system! In desperation I gave her the zip code. "No...oh wait! There is a huge power outage in that area". Eureka! "It will be restored at 11:04", she informed me, without any indication as to what had happened, and promptly hung up the phone!
I went for a walk to the supermarket. I knew the supermarket was open, as I had received a call from a client who officed behind said store. "Do you have power", I had asked, and she seemed a little perplexed. "I mean, is your electricity on", I said, clumsily. She confirmed it was all good 'across the lights' at the junction, although the traffic lights were 'out'. By the time I returned, the lights were back on, but our computers were not. The power cut had tripped our circuit breakers, and we were now at the mercy of the maintenance man. Our neighbours knocked to see if we had power to our sockets. We shook our heads. "We have the codes to get into the maintenance room", they said, and we nodded as if giving our agreement to use them. "But they are on our computers", they added. We waited.
The power came on a little before midday. We worked furiously until around seven and then came home, where I found my oven clock flashing. I had not exaggerated when I said the outage was a square mile!
I took a variety of scones to Joe on Wednesday morning, and then another small box to my nail technician. After my nails had been decorated in festive fashion, I drove back to the office, with a final batch of scones for 'the guys'. The 'unusual' continued, as it was rather eerily quiet. The phones did not ring, and the emails had subsided. Dana told me to go home, as I had guests for dinner, and it would give me more time to prepare. "Are you ready to go yet?" Samantha kept asking, and I realised that Dana had told her that when I left, she could leave too! I did not tease her too much, and walked out of the door at 4:30pm.
The temperature dropped on Thursday. Samantha and I walked to the supermarket, wearing sweatshirts and jackets. Although it was not meant to drop below freezing, the wind was quite bitter, and we were not sure that the weatherman had been completely accurate. e returned feeling as if we had icicles on our nose and eyelashes! Although the lights were on, it seemed to get very dark, very early, outside. Samantha mentioned this to Dana, who immediately checked his 'weather radar', and told her to, "Go home. Go home now!" The weather cell at which he was looking showed 'freezing precipitation', and lots of it! "In other words, snow", she joyfully replied, and a large smile remained on her face, as she left the building. We did not go home, immediately, but did leave around five thirty, just in time to see the first fall. The two minute ride home took fifteen! "Why is it taking so long", asked Dana. I sighed. "Call me cynical", I started, "But Austinites are not happy when it rains, and the traffic slows to a halt. This is snow! This is alien!"
My neighbour had asked us to 'drop by' on Thursday, when we returned from work, to meet the newest addition to their family. Baby Campbell was born a couple of weeks ago, and I had been itching for a cuddle, but they had been inundated with visitors, and I did not want to intrude. As cold as it was outside, their unit was lovely and warm, and cosy. The baby was gorgeous and I did get my cuddle! Being rather excited at the prospect of snow, because it probably meant a day off for baby's dad, the following day, (everything closes if there is snow, or the prospect of snow,) my neighbour, upon request, led me through the events of the arrival of the newling, and by the time we left to walk next door the ground was beginning to show signs of being covered in a thin layer of white!
By Friday, the snow had stopped, but the trees were white and rather beautiful. We decided that as this is Austin, and as it is December, we can call it a 'White Christmas'. It is probably as near as we are going to get!
The last working day of the week was slightly quiet to begin with. I was starting to think that the 'unusual' was over. However, there was more to come! I received a call which showed the 'ID' as being in New Mexico. "Do you serve papers in Kingsland, Texas?" was the question. I replied that we most certainly did. The response was, "Oh", and my reply was, "And you are not from Kingsland, Texas either". The English accent replied that she was most certainly not! We chatted for about fifteen minutes, discussing how we got to the USA, and both agreed that whilst we were very happy here, homesickness is always present. We exchanged phone numbers and agreed to keep in touch. Dana asked Samantha to whom I was talking, and she simply responded, "Her new best friend. The woman is English, and lives here, so that's it! You have lost her for at least another hour!"
There was no sign of snow on Saturday. Although I needed to wear a jacket when I left the condo, it was discarded during the journey. We watched a demonstration in one of the warehouses, for a set of knives, and I became rather perplexed. The knives that were being shown were all 'unbreakable' stainless steel. The 'old' knife used in the demonstration, had a wooden handle which, apparently, is broken easily. (I have a set of the knives that are, apparently, no good, and I have not experienced the fault but, hey ho!) The demonstrator showed us how this one amazing piece of technology could cut through anything, steel, wood, a tomato! Then, just for watching the demonstration, we were given a free gift. An extra sharp knife, made by the company offering the 'life long' guarantee with their stainless steel unbreakable swords, and the handle on the freebie was made of wood! In fact, I have one in the drawer at work, in two pieces! My knives at home are not made by this particular manufacturer! I took my gift and did not buy the product! I was somewhat wary of the demonstrator, as when he inquired as to the origin of my accent, his changed from 'American' to Australian, and back again. He said that he changes it at will, and could even pass as an Englishman. Admitting that he was a 'good actor' did not endear me to the product he was promoting!
It was time to head out to the birthday party. Samantha's godson had turned 7, and we were going to do the right thing and 'show our face', despite the party being held in the depths of the countryside! This had to be an end to the 'unusual' this week, as we drove further and further into the rural land, and eventually came to our stop. "Is it time to go yet?", I kept asking, aware of how long it would take to drive home, but we stayed for over an hour, and despite myself, I actually had a good time! I hugged the child's grandmother and told her how good it was to see her again, and she smiled sweetly, and with enthusiasm said, "I'm sorry. Who are you?" When I said that I was Samantha's mom, (emphasis on the 'o', for good measure,) she apologised again, and returned the hug! Introductions were made by the child's step-father, whom I have also met several times, and he looked at me and said, "I'm sorry, I'm not gonna lie. I don't remember your name!" I obviously have made a lasting impression upon the family. However, I did not take offence, as the child's mother simply calls me "Mom".
The evening turned a little chilly again, and Dana and I headed out for dinner. The restaurant was surprisingly busy, considering the temperature had dropped so drastically. Normally, anything under 'light jacket' weather, causes Austinites to hibernate! "Is there any room in the bar?" asked Dana, a sentence that always makes me laugh, as my husband is tee-total! We had just been told that the wait would be the better part of an hour, but we knew that the bar area was 'open seating'. "You can look", said the hostess, and we did. Tucked away in the corner was an open booth, which we filled instantly!
Once again, Sunday rolled around, and the end of the weekend is nigh, and will be gone in a flash, as if it never existed. I really must make an effort to appreciate Friday nights, or at least Saturday mornings! Looking out of my window, with the sun shining and the blue sky, it is hard to imagine 'home for the holidays', but that is what I shall look forward to next. I have some 'holiday' baking to take care of this afternoon, and perhaps we shall go later and check on the tree that was decorated last week. Despite enjoying the unusual in a strange sort of way this week, I look forward to normality for the next seven days, especially as the fervor of the holiday season comes to its crescendo. Next week will be ....... another story!