Last week when we first got word of Hurricane Sandy and its terrifying potential, I did the only thing I could - tried to maintain both my perspective and composure. And the way I saw it, if I took care of the first, the second would automatically follow.
Actually, keeping the storm in perspective shouldn't have been a big deal for me, or anyone else here. Sure, we were supposed to get rain and wind, but the worst case scenario for us hurricane bystanders, was nothing compared to what was predicted for people on the coast.
Nonetheless, I didn't ignore the whole issue completely: I made sure I had all the essential food groups orange juice, cheese, chocolate (for me), and kibbles (for my four-legged boarders).
Being the world's lousiest survivalist (maybe the label is instead, "the world's best perish-ist), I didn't have a generator, a huge stock of water, a fire-starting kit, or even an Uzi or two. I figured if the power went out, given National Grid's past record, we'd have it restored pretty quickly. And even if we had to wait a while for power, the weather was warm enough that I could get by if I wore enough layers. Sure, I might look like something the cat drug in, but I'd be comfortable.
However, there was one area I was going to make sure I was not lacking - light.
For decades, I've had candles and a railroad lantern as my emergency lights, but last week I decided enough was enough. Or more exactly, in the case of candles and the lantern, not enough was more than enough. Yeah, I know candles and oil lamps light are the preferred mode of illumination for Don Juans and femme fatales everywhere, but let's get real: When it comes to actually seeing by it, forget it (which, come to think of it, may be why all the romantics love them so much).
If the power goes out and I'm stuck in Chez Deaupe for a whole bunch of time, I'll want to read. And if I had to depend on my lantern, that's all I could do - want to read - because I couldn't actually do it.
And so I decided I was going to get an LED lantern, something far easier said than done. The problem was choice, since it's almost infinite. Given all the different sizes, brightness ratings, battery types, battery lives and costs, I did what I usually do when faced with a whole bunch of options: I just stood there, slackjawed, spaceshot, and as lost as the Phatom Hitchiker.
Finally, after about an hour of living brain death, I snapped out of my fog and made a decision: I got a boffo, fire-engine-red Coleman lantern. It looks just like the original Coleman propane lanterns, but it's not: It's only retro in looks, since it's powered by a rechargeable battery that can hold its charge for over eight hours. And if after eight hours the power's still off, it can be charged with its car cigarette lighter adapter. And best of all, it puts out a whopping 280 lumens.
Forgetting all the technical mumbo-jumbo, what this meant was if the power went out, while the food in my refrigerator might rot, my cellar might flood, and icicles might form on the tip of my fine Semitic nose, I could read to my heart's content.
Since the power never went off, I never had to use my lantern. But of course I tested it in the pitch-black and am delighted to report it worked perfectly.
And now something I'm not delighted to report. One of my serious personality defects is I've got a thing for LED's. A perfect example is my lantern. Yeah, I wanted an emergency lamp I could read by, but I really didn't need to get The Big Kahuna Lantern. Several of the less powerful (and cheaper) models, while providing less light, would have provided enough. So why did I end up with something that'll light up Shea Stadium? Childhood trauma, that's why.
It all goes back to the flashlights of my youth.
A child in the Dark Ages
A flashlight is one those things like a knife, a can opener, a magnifying glass or a cigarette lighter: You may almost never need one, but when you do, there's no substitute for it. And the flashlights we had in The Good Old Days were Stone Age compared to today's.
They were huge and clunky. Their lenses and bulbs broke easily, which often didn't matter because the switches didn't last very long either. Beyond that, in relative terms, they cost at least as much as our modern ones, they went through batteries like grass through a goose, and worst of all - their light was dim, at best. Oh yeah, almost none of them were waterproof, so their innards rusted and rotted at the drop of a drip.
I shlepped those flashlights around as cub scout, boy scout, in college, in the navy and beyond. In short, I spent probably 50 years buying flashlights, buying batteries, throwing out flashlights, throwing out batteries, then repeating the cycle all the while cursing like a sailor and squinting like The Nearsighted Mr. Magoo.
So it was only natural that when LEDs hit the market, I fell for them like a ton of bricks. I couldn't resist them and still can't. I've got one for the car, one for the office, several for the house, and a couple others for a rainy day, and a few more I've stashed somewhere but can't find.
And will I stop buying them? Of course not.
And why is that?
Simple: I can't resist them ... and never could.
You might say I've had an affair with them that was, if you'll not pardon the pun, love at first light.