THE OTHER SHUTDOWN
How the Real (Not Trump’s) America Handles a Crisis
About 7,100 homes and businesses had their service cut off after a gas transmission pipeline screw-up somewhere far away forced the National Grid distribution company to shut down much of its system in Newport and a neighboring town on Jan. 21 – which just happened to be the coldest day of the winter, with 5-degree temperatures.
This appeared as a brief blip on the national news – Cat and I heard it mentioned on an early morning NPR roundup. But Big Media probably ignored it because nothing blew up and nobody died, a reasonable news judgement. And there was the distraction of Trump’s deliberate, mean, divisive, selfish, dangerous and politically engineered crisis that imperiled millions, not thousands.
For our little house in Newport, in the country's smallest state, the gas shutoff was huge.
We lost heat and hot water. Cat and I don’t really care about hot water, because we don’t shower. Ever.
And as for the dishes, in a perfect world dishes should be licked, not washed.
Cat and I probably weathered the gas crisis better than Our Humans, because we are essentially our own renewable, self-generating heat machines, curling into tight balls and getting lots of sleep.
That last one – about whether they'd ‘stay here’ – gave me more than a little chill. If the Humans were going to Leave the Building, what would happen to ME (Oh, yeah, and Cat)? But because I’m a dog and a doggone sweet one, I happen to be extremely attuned to human emotions. Like most dogs, I mainline human worry, human cheer, human doubt, nervousness, anger, anxiousness, happiness - the whole gamut.
I don’t even know what “pipes” are, and I could care less about whether they “freeze.” But I worried and fretted right along with Nice-&-Grouchy, wringing my paws about the state of the “pipes.”
But here’s some of the things that happened:
Our Next Door Human, custodian of my great friend, a Yellow Lab who goes by the handle “Truck,” lent us four electric "space heaters." Again, I don’t know what a “heater” is and what “space” has to do with it, since I always think of space as the “Final Frontier.” But apparently “space heaters” are good for “the pipes.”
This loan was fortuitous, because Our Humans owned only two of their own “space heaters,” and early on Day Two, , the Grouchy One thought he would buy some more, and showed up at Home Depot the second after they opened at 7 a.m., thereby getting the jump on everyone else, only to be told that they had sold out of “space heaters” the first day. Grouchy drove to Seekonk, Mass., to get the final two heaters remaining on the shelves of a Home Depot there.
It's safe to say that all of this knowledge was as much news to Grouchy as it was to me and to Cat. But as a result, the house was reasonably safe and almost warm, as were the “pipes.”
Meanwhile, since Nice-and-Grouchy have an electric stove, they were able to cook regular meals and heat water to wash the dishes after that, so that they seemed happy on that front.
And, as I said, anything that makes them happy automatically makes me happy, although cooking has nothing to do with me and Cat, because whatever we eat is at room temperature or worse, and as a dog, I’ll eat anything, dead or alive, although I can’t speak for Cat.
Also, since the "juice" was on, Nice-&-Grouchy were on their computers and smart phones and tablets constantly, and getting invitations from friends as far away as “Providence,” wherever that is, offering them a place to stay until the “crisis” was over. (One person, invited me and Cat, too, and she is, in Cat’s and my view, a friend in deed).
From what Nice-&-Grouchy were saying to each other, we could tell that National Grid was on a roll. They were issuing news "updates" about what was going on. National Grid was working closely with the “Governor,” who was going to declare a “State of Emergency.”
The utility company set up an “Information Center” at a big Newport hotel, where people could find out what was going on and pick up some “space heaters.”
There were shelters opening up for people, and the Potter League animal shelter was taking in pets, which something I was definitely NOT interested in. It's where Our Humans found me six years ago when they “adopted” me, and while I’m grateful to the Potter League for taking me in temporarily, for their match-making and for taking care of the paper work, that was the last place I wanted to go.
There was a lot more going on. The Governor of the State of Emergency and others were holding press conferences. A fancy catering service was offering free box lunches. Two people from the National Guard came to our front door to do a “wellness check” on Nice-&-Grouchy.
Cat and I could overhear the Humans saying that National Grid divided Newport into “zones,” and had people sitting in National Grid trucks all over the city, so you could visit one near you and get the latest information.
Grouchy and I actually walked over to the van said to be nearest us, at the high school that’s across the street from the fire station. A National Grid lady was sitting in a National Grid van, along with a Rhode Island National Guard soldier wearing a camouflage uniform.
The Grid Lady said things were going as scheduled and we'd be seeing restart "crews" soon. She was very glad to meet me, because she had a dog, but couldn’t bring him with her. I can understand the lady being glad to see me, because most Humans are usually are glad to see a sweet dog. But I couldn’t figure out why she couldn’t bring her own dog with her, because she was just sitting in that van all day, which any reasonable dog would be happy to do, too.
JANUARY 27 was a Big Day For America, as most of you know, because on Day 35 of his shutdown, Trump caved in, giving up his demand that Congress give him money for a wall at the Mexican border, or he would keep the longest shutdown going longer.
But even though he says he’s a big Big-Deal maker and tells people “you’re fired” and likes to grab ladies’ crotches, Trump folded like the spineless wet noodle, because one not very sweet little old lady, Nancy Pelosi, told him she couldn’t even discuss a wall unless he first agreed to open the government back up.
As a result, 800,000 federal workers could go back to their jobs, collect their back pay and not be evicted from their homes. Airliners could stop being in danger of crashing, medical research could resume, national parks could operate again, tax refunds could be processed, and the bazillion other things that government does for every one of us could get going again.
And maybe some Republicans could start wondering whether it was such a good idea to be Donald Trump’s toadies.
On Day 5 of our Newport shutdown, National Grid said every “meter” had been shut off, and now main lines could be "re-pressurized," and individual “meters” could be turned on again by the gazillion crews the company had invited from around the country.
At 4:15 p.m., before I could even get off the Humans’ bed that I wasn’t supposed to be sleeping on so I could confuse them by barking furiously while furiously wagging my tail, a "crew" from the State of New Jersey came to our door and a) turned on the outside “meter," and b) restarted the “boiler” in the cellar.
And the radiators were once again hot to the touch. Which made Our Humans extremely happy. And me, too, although Cat slept through that part.
This was America at its best.
National Grid – a regulated utility company – did its job. And it did it really, really well. The Governor of the State of Emergency did her bit. Neighbors helped neighbors. People invited other people into their homes. People smiled. Said nice things. Voices were cheerful. And Newport, R.I., as of this writing, has not become national news, since it hasn't blown up.
This is America, the Real One.