The snowpocalypse of Austin happened in February 2021. It was, for some people, just another day. If you lived in an area where there was an essential service building – hospital, police station, etc.. you never lost power or heat and your pipes did not freeze. Some Austinites had backup generators and looked on while their neighbors suffered with no power, frozen and burst water pipes, and no communication from the power and city authorities as to when it would all end. And when it did end, plumbers were so swamped, it took months for some houses to get their water restored.
My experience was in the middle. Four days without power. 27ºF (-3ºC) inside the house while it was 7ºF (-14ºC) outside. Four days without water after a pipe burst. Four days of huddling next to a decorative gas fire not even emitting heat to the hearth. Four days wearing three layers of clothing on every body part. Four days of not knowing when the power or water would be restored. Four days of an unexpected and quite unbelievable experience, only to be wished upon your strangest relatives.
In the year that has passed since the snowpocalypse, little has changed with the power authorities. The bureaucracy that promised, but did nothing to change the situation after the winter storms of 2011, has ordered compliance – basically, energy suppliers had a deadline to submit plans for hardening their part of the Texas grid – just plans.
And the annual cedar fever (allergies) adventure began in December, to last us until February. When I look at the web site recording the cedar pollen levels in Austin, 200 is a high number. Many days since the onset have been 1200+ and it is noticeable when we are afflicted with sinus congestion and a sore head. We are warned to stay inside, avoid outside exertion, and generally suffer this pollenpocalypse. A couple of weeks into this other ‘demic, cedar pollen counts were almost 28,000. That day, I spent a couple of hours outside moving river rocks – ostensibly to make room for the plumbers to run gas to the soon-to-be installed generator. After finishing and retreating inside for a shower, I was physically wiped out. This cedar fever is not to be trifled with.
I have noticed how many people are still complaining about living here, with at least these two most outrageous situations. There are constant noises about leaving this place for pastures greener – where the power grid can handle extremes in weather and the air is not full of snot-producing particles.
While I may not be a future permanent resident of Austin, having lived in many cities and towns in my life, my first thought is to find all the things I can enjoy while I am here. There is art and music galore, the Formula 1 track, amazing coffee houses, interesting communities – from speakers, to authors, to actors, to entertainers, and so much more. No matter the difficulties or challenges to be faced, I am thankful I get to have this opportunity to explore and lap up the culture in this city and surrounds.
I struggle only with one thing. How do I respond when people continue to complain about where they live right now? Certainly, some of them will complain no matter their place in life. Accepting of your own current situation can sometimes be overridden by angst, negativity, and the general morbidity of a serial complainer.
My first answer is my own approach – to revel in the place you have found yourself. However, I believe I need to take it to another level and suggest they be thankful for all they do have. Gratitude raises spirits and changes attitudes. With a continued recognition of gratitude, being thankful for all you do have, the inconveniences in your world will no longer be a focus. Your suffering will be overridden with joy and gratitude. When you do get to move on to that greener locale, you will be prepared to accept all the consequences – positive and negative – when that place is no longer as green as you imagined.