Frankenstorm. Stormageddon. Hurricula.
Are you scared enough yet?
You might think there are few silver linings in a "perfect storm" as Hurricane Sandy is being portrayed. But at the Colonia Home Depot, there was a little bit of a party atmosphere, some very nice people, and a store manager who was trying his best to make sure that the folks waiting for generators were comfortable.
It all started about 5:30 am, when a reporter who remembered the last hurricane that turned her basement into an indoor swimming pool with two feet of water, lined up to try and claim one of those generators. This was Day Two for me of Generator Watch. I had gone to the Colonia Home Depot on Friday, again at 5:30 am, and waited. And waited, because pretty much no one knew when they were coming.
Twelve generators arrived on Friday, 45 minutes after I left.
I was prepared to tough it out on Saturday. No matter what happened, I wasn't leaving without a generator.
In case you're wondering, 5:30 was rather late. There were about a dozen people all waiting outside the doors before they even opened.
What's interesting was the mood. People were nice, and by nice, I mean really nice. No one pushed or shoved (well, one person did, but more on the Line Cutter a bit later.)
Preparing for the long haul
I went in with a cup of Dunkin' Donuts coffee, and thought what a shame it was that I didn't take a book with me. I didn't have to worry - the folks in line with me kept up a lively and fun atmosphere.
Lissette Colon of Colonia came in not longer after me. The Home Depot associates were nice, but told us they didn't expect any generators, but we were welcome to wait.
That was a theme we heard again and again from Jai, the store manager who periodically reported on what he wasn't hearing - that a truck with generators was headed to Colonia.
It was about 7 am. Store Manager Jai got up on a stair platform to announce that he hadn't heard about any generators, that it was 'first come, first serve' if they did arrive.
By then, the folks who had beat me to the punch had evaporated. I was actually the first in line for a generator. I felt like I'd won the lottery!
Colon kept in touch via texting with the wife of a friend who worked at Home Depot's corporate headquarter. It was now 9:30 am. "They should've been here already if they're coming," Colon reported.
Sleeping in the car during Generator Watch
Rozina Sohail, an Avenel resident, was third in line after Colon. "My husband is asleep in the car," she smiled; he had just gotten off the night shift and was catching a few winks while Rozina held down the fort inside the store.
People had started to line up with carts, waiting for their turn to grab the elusive generator should it appear.
"We're all being polite. Everyone knows who is first, and we're all OK with that," Colon said.
I'd injured my leg, and I wasn't able to stand for more than a half hour. A chair miraculously appeared for me, while Colon and Sohail comfortaby sat on an orange Home Depot trolley.
Since we were three women, and the first three in line, we were going to pile our generators on the trolley and help one another get them into the car.
"Teamwork," Colon laughed.
The Line Cutter
Behind us was Kevin Thompson and his brother-in-law, who were waiting for their turn at the generator lottery.
"Everyone's nice. Everyone's waiting their turn," he said...well, except for the mysterious Line Cutter. This man appeared out of nowhere and took his place right in front of the contractor cash register. Colon and Sohail, and then Thompson, along with other people who'd been waiting for hours, started to murmur about the man cutting in line.
"Just let him try it. He'll have to hear from me!" Colon said, while giving the Line Cutter the evil eye.
He was oblivious, while his girlfriend brought him an early lunch.
Meanwhile, Store Manager Jai had brought out orange barriers to serve as guides for people waiting in line. We all got into line, and Jai ordered Dunkin' Donuts coffee and cookies for the generator waiters.
No generators for you
"I don't have any notice that we are getting any generators," Jai said to the group; the line had gotten much longer. "If you want to wait, you're welcome to, but I don't have any information that any generators are coming today."
Colon's cell phone was almost out, and Chris, another nice guy waiting in line, went to his car to get a battery-operated charger so she could replenish her phone power.
It was now noon, and our hopes were dimming. Other info was coming in that Shop Rite in Carteret was expecting generators, and that the Home Depot in Linden had gotten a supply around 9 am.
I didn't think I was going to be able to hold out as long as I had planned, partly because of my leg injury, but also because I still hadn't gone to the store to get groceries (or into my basement to try and pack up the things I didn't want to leave to the flood in case the sump pumps were without power.)
So here it was, the first time I think I ever was first in line, and I was giving it up.
My generator friends were all sorry to see me go. I wished them luck.
Sunday will be Day Three. Yep, I'll be back (or I'm sending a surrogate.)
"It's a shame it takes a tragedy to have people act nice," said Thompson, who was rewarded for his kindness: he found a generator elsewhere.
So if you have a spare generator to keep two sump pumps going, give me a call. Otherwise, say hi if you see me in line again at Colonia Home Depot.
You just better be an early riser!