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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Generator, The New Status Symbol

The Generator, The New Status Symbol

A common status symbol in the northeast used to be the snow blower.  After a big snow, the dudes with the snow blowers would be out at dawn with that smug grin on their face clearing their driveway. 

“Oh that snow don’t bother me none, I got a snow blower.”

Most of the snow blowers these guys bought were good for about 8” of snow.  Anything more and I could shovel easier and faster than they could blow.  If we went a winter without snow most of these snow blowers wouldn’t start when need for the next storm. 

Keep your $500 snow blower which may or may not start, might be insufficient for a big storm and takes up space in your garage. I’ll call a plow service for $125 every two or three years.  You can have your blower and your smug smile.

With the big storm, Sandy, a new status symbol is born.  The GENERATOR!

I have lived in New Jersey for over 50 years.  This is the first storm where I could have used a generator.  Oh sure there have been storms where I have been without power for 6-8 hours and I guess a generator would come in handy.  Maybe. BUT…$800 for temporary power; for what? 

It will keep your refrigerator running, maybe a few lights and if needed your sump pump.  The sump pump might save you a bundle if you have a nice basement.  I think a backup battery would work just as well for about $125. 

I think I will go for the backup battery, but for now, after Sandy, a bucket and some manpower every 2 hours has worked just fine to empty that sump.

It is now four days since the storm and most people in Jersey still have no power.  Many do have generators.  They run them 24/7 (4) and have the same smug grin as the snow blower people.

Meanwhile six people in the state have died of carbon monoxide poisoning because they can’t read the generator operation directions.  It also turns out that if you set up the generator incorrectly they can cause a dangerous back-draw (something like that) which can kill you or the linesman trying to get your power back.  Do these people die with a smug smile on their face?

We are currently having problems getting gas.  Gas lines are sometimes over a mile long and people are waiting 2-4 hours for gas.  Many people in these lines are waiting to fill up their gas cans to keep their generators running.

Mrs. Cranky and I are without power for 4 days now.  We are warm thanks to a natural gas fireplace keeping the house a comfortable 70 degrees.  We can cook on our gas stove top or our Weber grill.  We are lucky to have water and the water heater also runs on gas.

I can do without the status symbol generator; the status symbol that many people have lost to theft as they are in such demand; the status symbol that requires a four hour wait for gas to keep operating; the garage space eating monster stored next to the giant snow blower which will probably not start the next time it is needed. 

When the power comes back we will throw away $125 worth of food which we could not keep refrigerated.  My neighbors with the generators will watch me discard this spoiled food with a smug smile on their faces as they store that bulky $800 machine which will not start four years from now when they need it next.

I will watch them wheel that monster away and I will try and hide my smug smile.


  1. Sort of like snow tires in Texas, huh? By the time you need them again 9 years later they're rotten.


  2. Snow blowers are a status symbol here in Colorado too....we do not have one. Doc does not like machinery. He likes the telephone and his list of people to call when he needs something done.

  3. Feels like being a pioneer. When we were without power one winter for a week we perked coffee and huddled around the wood stove. The biggest complaint--no electricity, no well. We made do with bottled water, except for the toilet. Flushing occasionally with a bucket of water takes off all the romance.

  4. I hear you Cranky and you are dead right. When we got hit hard by the Santa Ana winds last December we were without power for 4 days and most of the town was without it for over a week.

    We found the nearest grocery store with power and filled up the freezer with ice so we wouldn't lose any frozen stuff, and just waited it out. A generator would have been good but we managed just fine without - we had candles and a gas stove and oven, and Steven has this little thing that you can fix onto your car battery and get a modicum of power from it to charge mobile phones and even plug a lamp into if need be.

    Can't say I am looking forward to the Santa Ana's hitting us again this year, especially with Steven being in AR, but I know we will survive them just fine again without having to spend a fortune on stuff that as you say - costs big bucks and probably won't last a season!

    Keep your chins up!
    Lou :-)