Sometimes Working Weekends is Cool

At the risk of provoking my wife, I’m actually going to gloat about having to work weekends.

Usually, my schedule elicits pity, or at least confusion – as if it’s unbelievable that someone my age still has to work weekends. But that’s the nature of the news business. News doesn’t take weekends off, either.

I guess it’s the price I pay for decisions I made long ago and last weekend, I was only too happy to pay it.

I was trying to get some sleep when what we now know was a derecho brought its howling winds through our neighborhood and left us among the millions without power and air conditioning in the middle of a heat wave.

But because I had to work, instead of spending the whole weekend boiling, I got to escape to the climate-controlled comfort of work.

Just a few hours after the storm hit, I was on the road. Sure I had to dodge debris and my usual route was blocked by downed trees. But my iPhone helped me find an alternative route to my building in downtown Washington, D.C. and its precious AC.

My wife, meanwhile, was left at home dealing with cabin fever complicated by the stifling heat, a Blackberry that was having trouble holding a charge even after repeated long drives to replenish its juice, an infuriatingly cheery daughter who was energized by the adventure of it all and a sullen teenage son who wasn’t.

Compared to others, though, we had it easy (especially me). By the time Sunday afternoon rolled along, our power was back on.

When I got home, my wife was cleaning our refrigerator. We had to throw out quite a bit of spoiled food. But on the other hand, our refrigerator is nice and clean now and we’ve gotten rid of the science experiments we were inadvertently cultivating.

With the exception of our technology deprived son, no one was more happy to have the power back on than our big dog, Rodney. As soon as the AC kicked on, he plopped down over a vent and didn’t move for what seemed like hours. Even as I write this, he’s lying there, letting the cool air wash over his wet nose.

I admit to having a touch of survivor’s guilt knowing there are still dogs dragging their tongues on the floor and people sweating it out this weekend. But I suspect it won’t be much longer before they are back on the grid, too. I know this because I saw the cavalry coming.

Several days after the derecho hit, I was driving back to work when I began passing bucket truck after bucket truck on the interstate. These guys were linemen from Michigan and I’m still surprised by my reaction given that our derecho experience didn’t even amount to two full days without power.

I was so glad to see them, I gave each driver in their long convoy an appreciative thumbs up. My eyes even got a little moist at the thought of how far they and others from around the country had come to help.

At the time, my colleagues at NPR were using a stirring Neil Diamond anthem in a story on my car radio. It’s the one in which he belts out that they are “coming to America.”

Indeed, they are.


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