COLUMN: Long ago lesson brought back to use

  • Posted: Friday, March 22, 2013 11:04 a.m.

After 40 years, I haven’t lost the touch.

Of course, I never really wanted to maintain that touch, but sometimes circumstances dictate our actions.

Monday night we had a fierce storm that arrived with strong winds, lots of lightning and a good bit of rain. For us and part of our neighborhood, it also came with a blackout.

Shortly after 9 there was a loud pop, the lights went out and there was the sound of electrical arcing from nearby. We looked out our window and saw a fireworks display in the backyard next door. A power line was down and sparks were flying.

There are three small flashlights on the table next to my bed. I keep them there for just such emergencies. When the lights went dark, I reached over and grasped one of the flashlights, flicked it on and handed it to my wife. I then felt for a second torch and pressed the on switch.

One side of the room was bathed in the warm, yellowish glow from my wife’s light – an incandescent bulb. The other half had the modern bluish tint from the LED bulbs in my light.

Realizing that the blackout was going to last awhile, my wife got out candles and soon the upstairs was illuminated by three candle power. It was enough light for me to work Sudoku and to grade some papers for my communications classes.

By the time we snuffed out the candles and turned in, the storm was just abating, but the power company trucks had not yet arrived. I set the alarm on my watch since the clock-radio that typically awakens us is the plug-in model.

During the night I woke up and saw power company trucks next door. Still no electricity in the house. I woke up later and saw the trucks still there. No electricity yet. And when the alarm sounded at 5:30, we still had no power.

Now it was time to think about getting ready for school – Tuesday is a teaching day for me, and my wife has to get ready to go to her library/media specialist post.

Since the water heater is an electric one, I knew that the only hot water we had would be in the tank. No new water would be heated to replenish any I used for my morning shower.

That’s when I reverted to my life from four decades ago – the Navy.

Sailors are taught to take Navy showers when at sea. They are effective if not totally satisfying. One can get clean that way, but there is no lounging under a hot spray for a long period to soothe aching muscles and to relax at the start of the day.

A Navy shower consists of seven parts:

Turn on the water.

Get wet all over.

Turn off the water.

Soap down the body and lather the hair with shampoo.

Turn on the water.

Quickly rinse soap and shampoo from the body.

Turn off the water.

You may have noticed that through this process the water is not running for very long.

Since I would be the first one to use the shower Tuesday morning, I figured I would take a Navy shower and leave the bulk of the hot water in the tank for my wife.

It is not hard to take a fast shower when one has limited water and a cold bathroom. (You will recall that the power had been out all night, therefore no heat from the furnace.) I estimate that I took the shower using less than two gallons of water. That left plenty for my wife when it was her turn.

Exiting the bathroom, I was pleased with my efficiency and the fact that there would be plenty of warm water for my spouse. Then the lights came on.

Power was restored. The furnace came on to provide warmth, the refrigerator alarm sounded to let us know there had been an outage and electric clocks around the house began blinking the steady 12:00 until someone would set the correct time.

And, of course, water was being heated to replace the two gallons used for my shower. My wife had her normal shower that morning without a concern for the amount of hot water available.

She could not have handled the situation nearly as well as I did, though. After all, she was never in the Navy.

Jeff Wallace is the retired editor of the Aiken Standard and long ago served in the U.S. Navy aboard the U.S.S. Blakely.

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