Full Disclosure: The Coronacoaster


Last month, Mother Nature confirmed that she has one sick sense of humor and doubled down on making 2020 almost unbearable. 

Sending an extreme weather event in the midst of our endless pandammit, I mean pandemic, was plain cruel. Tropical Storm Isaias was the ultimate pile-on. The five-day power and communication outage was kind of like driving home after an awful day and having an 18-wheeler swerve into your lane out of nowhere, cutting you off with its “How’s My Driving?” sign in your face. 

Not great. Your driving’s not great, 2020.

I imagine the recent storm was especially unnerving for the droves of New York City transplants who have sought safe refuge in our quaint town. Well, surprise! You can’t jump off of the 2020 Coronacoaster that easily. We have trees (lots of them) and they like to fall down in extreme weather and take the electricity with them. It’s as if the trees have a pact that if one goes down, it must shred as many power lines as possible. 

What’s truly ironic is that New Canaan’s town logo is that of a girthy tree—one with an extensive, stabilizing root system. Though, I have always thought a downed or split tree, entangled with live wires, would be a more accurate visual. Or perhaps the image of a gas-guzzling generator would be more fitting—and then we could get a corporate sponsor to chip in and help subsidize the cost of purchasing generators for every household. 

Those new to town must now be painfully aware that owning a generator is an absolute must. Regardless of whether you live in a heavily wooded area or close to town, no one is immune to the blackout woes. Growing up in the ‘South of the Y’ area, I vividly remember dealing with one inexplicable power outage after another. Someone would seemingly blow out a birthday candle and the whole neighborhood would go down. Power loss was so frequent and unwarranted that spontaneously living in darkness was a way of life. 

In recent years, we have experienced some grueling outages and they only seem to get worse by the decade (most notably, Hurricane Sandy and that freakish Sno’tober Storm of 2011). So, to avoid being left in the literal dark, I lobbied hard, and relentlessly, to install an automatic, standby generator for our home. I felt deserving of this extravagant piece of machinery, after repeatedly paying my dues and weathering countless storms, while my husband was conveniently sent away on business and unaware of the chaos unfolding at home. 

As luck would have it, his departure would somehow magically coincide with major weather events and subsequent multi-day blackouts. 

As a result, I would have to suit-up in foul weather gear, like a Storm Chaser, and wheel our clunky portable generator out into the elements (normally, fighting gale force winds and dodging lightning strikes while getting pummeled by sheets of sideways rain). Taking my life into my own hands to keep the fridge running and one lamp lit, I would connect wet extension cords to the generator and pray that I had enough strength (or anger) to rev it up like a testy lawnmower of yesteryear, and not become the recipient of 3,800 unwanted watts of juice. In these moments, I was reminded that I am clearly not a trophy wife, but a dispensable human lightning rod and a potential electrical conduit. 

During last month’s power loss, our automatic generator (and new love of my life) worked like a charm, so I cannot be too dramatic about enduring a five-day outage. However, the lack of Internet, landline, cable and cell service was crippling for the humans under my roof. Having become pandemic shut-ins and totally reliant on technology, we were not psychologically prepared to be entirely cut off from Fortnite, Instagram, TikTok, and more importantly, work communications. Thus, my husband was forced to leave his at-home command center and venture back to his pre-COVID office, leaving the rest of us to fend for ourselves with puzzles, bored games (oh right, board games), a deck of cards and books. Imagine the horror. 

The one silver lining in having my husband temporarily back in the workplace was removing him from his watchpost at the front of the house, where he could track my constant stream of inbound deliveries. Having honed my online shopping skills during quarantine, “we” have been the recipient of almost daily shipments from Amazon, superstores and apparel companies. In my defense, I should not be vilified for doing my darndest to prop up the economy and stock my closet with new duds for = imaginary future social gatherings. Ah, I enjoyed those blissful few days of surveillance-free living when packages could be received without shame and scrutiny. 

Due to the outage that was sponsored by Neversource, NotOptimum and Verizoff, my online shopping rampage was unceremoniously curbed. And since we were at a communications impasse, there was no way to access restoration updates from home. So, like a heat-seeking missile, I jogged to the high school and tapped into its guest WiFi services from the periphery of the building—rubbing up against the concrete walls looking for a signal like a weirdo. However, I was in good company as there were scores of people camping out at the school desperate for news from the outside world. Some of my fellow WiFi bandits hunkered down to conduct serious business. I simply received my depressing restoration updates via email and sealed the deal on a pair of sandals. So, I guess it was a win-win.

A ‘Welcome to New Canaan” sign at South Avenue and Gerdes Road.

Once everything finally came back online later that week (well after everyone’s breaking point), I was extremely happy to surf the Web again and immensely proud of my generator for not quitting on us. While I may have partial hearing loss from the constant humming of the electricity-maker, I am just so thankful for its dependable service. I know that many residents were without power for much longer and my heart goes out to them—2020 doesn’t seem to know when to quit. And, if you’re new to town and Tropical Storm Isaias was your first major weather event: Welcome to New Canaan. You will find that, between storms, this can be a pretty amazing place to live. 

However, The Coronacoaster seemingly refuses to slow down and let anyone off, even here in the ‘burbs. Let’s hope it doesn’t go completely off the rails.

18 thoughts on “Full Disclosure: The Coronacoaster

  1. Oh this made my day! The amazon surveillance is real! And I’ll never forget 12 days of no power after Irene , or was it sandy!? Since then CLP has ceremoniously spent millions mutilating trees that are near power lines in a vain effort to be proactive against Mother Nature, clearly that was not money well spent. Score one for Mother Nature, she is the queen bee.
    And with just 4 months left of this wretched year, what else does 2020 have to offer ??

  2. I will say it again, as I have in the past- your articles make my day as they do for friends in NY, South Carolina, North Carolina and other states because I share them with so many people. You truly have a talent. Thank you!!! ⭐️

  3. I didn’t want your article to end! So hilarious and so true! Thank you for keeping us laughing through all of this. Is it Christmas yet?

  4. Suzie, you are unstoppable!!! Can’t choose which is my favorite column because I love them all so much. Brilliant and made me giggle as usual. Thank you!!!

  5. The line about you rubbing against the high school cement wall trying to get WiFi made me laugh out loud…in bed…at midnight…w erik sound asleep next to me. U are so damn funny. Thank you for being so real and downright hilarious Susan. Keep them coming.

  6. Brilliant. And for those who are looking for a quiet generator with sufficient power but low noise, check out the top end of Honda inverter generators. They will not make you deaf like Susan and the inverter tech produces clean current that will not damage sensitive electronics and most importantly, water pumps that seem to fail often with regular generators.

  7. OK Susan THIS one is MY all-time favorite!! How lucky the Newcanaanite and the Town of New Canaan is to have had you grow up here and still live here. Of course, ‘some’ of us have been lucky enough to know this for yrs!!
    Eleanor Lisher

  8. New Canaan’s human lightening rod and potential electrical conduit has done it again! National Lampoon’s Blackout Vacation! Susan Gelvin should head to Hollywood to write this generation’s series of Vacation movies. Speaking of which, where’s the quarantine vacation column??

  9. Now that I have just been connected to a new Apple computer after many years of struggling with technology in general, I am determined to join in and learn to engage in computer conversation. Yes, I can email and text, but this is my first attempt at replying to an article you have written. You possess a certain charm in your writing, as well as humor, while your words accurately bring to life a particular situation. Love your style.

    Sarah Seelert

  10. Generators running on natural gas are said to be quieter than those running on gasoline; they don’t require trips to gasoline dispensers, either.

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