Turns out, I’m a wuss. Also? I’m not one of those people who could go on a digital detox or whatever the kids are calling it these days. I have now confirmed that the internet (particularly social media) is my lifeline to the outside world and the way in which I get 99% of my news and information. What confirmed it? 39 LONG HOURS WITHOUT POWER!
Snowstorm Nemo hit little Rhody hard and left the entire Aquidneck Island (Newport, Middletown and Portsmouth) without power starting Friday evening with some people going as long as four or more days without. Hat’s off to those people, truly.
I’ll break it down for you with a rough timeline:
Approximately 10pm Fri night: Power goes out for 5 minutes, I freak out, power goes back on, I tweet about it.
Approximately 10:20 pm Fri night: Power goes back off…and stays off. I tweet about it…and cry a little.
10:27pm: I text my mom frantically. I check Twitter frantically. I tweet to National Grid.
Sometime between 10:27 and 1am: – I fall asleep dreaming of waking up to the harsh light of my bedside lamp the TV blasting.
Saturday 5am-ish: I wake up…COLD. My boyfriend rolls over and mumbles…”did the power go out?” (he’d slept through the whole thing, bless his soul)
Saturday – timeline hazy due to lack of heat, light, TV, hot coffee, etc: I find out through Facebook that one bar in town is open and serving food and possibly one hotel is serving free coffee. We proceed to bundle up as there is no way in heck we are staying in our apartment where the thermostat has already reached 46 degrees. We head out and head to the Hotel Viking, where they’re serving coffee and a “cold lunch”, there’s no heat. We leave for greener pastures because at this point we are still hopeful there’s some magical oasis of heat, TV, coffee and bacon and eggs. We head to Benjamins which, as per Facebook, IS in fact the only bar open in town at this point. They’re PACKED and getting a table to be served food seems unlikely. We decide to trek on, now hopeful there’s other places around. We arrive at the Newport Marriott with high hopes. Turns out they DID have a generator but it broke. They’ve got bigger problems too because they’re hosting Reebok for some big wig type conference. There’s no heat although it feels warmer than our apartment. We spot some staff cleaning up and ask if their restaurant is open. They say no and we must look pretty defeated because they sneak us behind some curtain and offer us what’s left from their morning buffet. They tell us “everyone’s gotta eat today” and I understand in a miniscule way what it must feel like to be homeless or hungry and have to depend on people’s good will. I appreciate the gesture immensely and accept the coffee while my boyfriend, not one to turn down food, enjoys a sandwich, leftover salad and some sort of soup. I again have an epiphany about myself realizing that I declined the food because I wasn’t really in the mood for questionable looking deli meat, wilted salad greens and mystery soup but realize after the fact what the expression “beggars can’t be choosers” truly means. If this was my reality every day (no warm home, limited food source) I’d have to be grateful for whatever I could get and not chose what I eat on my own freewill.
From here, the day seems like five and we go on to return home to warm up in our car, charge our cell phones, head to the local Stop & Shop (which is open, sorta, and resembles the zombie apocalypse) and add my friend and her pup to our tribe. Eventually we found out that a friend’s parents on the other side of the island has power and another friend has gas heat and some food. We are lucky, and we enjoy a warm meal and a toasty home then head to our friend’s parents for a warm bed. By the time we return to our apartment early Sunday afternoon our power is back and I’ve learned about a hundred life lessons. Here’s the highlights:
1) As the boy scouts said, always be prepared! We were not, at all. We thought that wine, ingredients for chili and homemade pizza, and a flashlight would get us through but we didn’t truly prepare for the reality of no heat, no cooking source or refrigeration, etc.
2) Cell phones (particularly iPhones) really are the greatest invention of our time and were literally my lifeline. If I hadn’t been able to text friends and family, make quick calls and check social media sites for information on what was opened, when and where power would be restored, etc, I really don’t know where we’d have ended up. (I’m sure we would have made it through ONE night sleeping under a ton of blankets but damn, at the time, I really didn’t think I would. It was COLD and we didn’t even have many extra blankets….which brings me back to lesson 1, always be prepared!)
3) Having people you can rely on is important. I had a minor breakdown in which I realized that my closest family member was in Boston, which is pretty close but wasn’t nearly close enough at the time. While I have some friends in town I was really very lucky to have somewhere to go and realized that although I’ve always been the type to move places and make new friends, there’s something to be said for having lots of family and friends and a close-knit support system nearby.
And now to bring it full circle…
When I was first asked to be part of IBM’s Social Influencer Think Tank and told that I’d be sharing my idea of smarter commerce, I had a million things in mind. There are so many times that social media and technology tools have enriched my life, got me jobs, got me on TV, connected me with family and long distance loves, and so much more, but after experiencing the smallest taste of a crisis situation, my belief in the power of social media was reinforced 1000%.
Over the next month I’ll be sharing plenty more stories of how social media and the latest technology has bettered my life, from the big to the small. And now I ask you friends, how has it bettered YOUR life? Please share your stories with me here in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter, and don’t forget to use the hashtag #MYSMARTERCOMMERCE.
PS, Special thanks to Frank, Joanie, Jedi, Heather, Steve, Allie, Kathleen, and the Hunt Family; the Newport Marriott for their hospitality; and What’s Up Newport and The Newport Patch for their great coverage and information for getting me through my first New England Blizzard.