It’s weird living in a neighborhood for the first time in so many years.
In the desert, the nearest neighbor was at least 1/2 mile away. But you knew everybody in a five-mile radius. When I lived in Cabin Sweet Cabin, there were no neighbors in sight, yet I knew everybody who lived on my road.
Here? Although I’ve spotted my next-door neighbor twice in three months, I wouldn’t know her if I ran into her off the block (and I have reasons not to want to know her). I’ve exchanged hellos and compared notes with a couple of dog walkers. And that’s about it. Partly it’s a matter of cultural or language barriers. This is an immigrant neighborhood. Women mostly smile at me shyly as we pass on the street but say nothing; men, especially the young ones, often look away when I say hello, as if that were the polite thing to do.
But mostly, it’s that I’m not going out of my way to make friends in the neighborhood and nobody’s going out of their way to make friends with me. It’s not like in the country, where you need to know each other. I’m acquainted with plenty of people in the town: animal rescue volunteers, local artists, merchants & such. The guys at the hardware store and I got on a quick first-name basis with each other.
Anyhow, I had my first “helpful neighbor” encounter this morning. One of the women I often see pushing a stroller along the street stopped me and asked, “Were you in your car at 5:00 this morning? Because the overhead light was on, and it was off a few minutes later. The windows were so frosted I couldn’t tell if anybody was inside. But I thought I should say something.”
I thanked her for the heads up. Told her I was definitely not in the car then. But the Xterra’s been having weird electrical problems and maybe this is a new manifestation of them. Said I’d check, though, to see if anything had been stolen or damaged. (Nothing had; back to the autoshop next week.)
I was grateful for the lookout from a lady who has up to now been too shy to speak to me. So that’s one point in the good-neighbor column. OTOH, the reason she was on the street at 5:00 a.m. is that she had just noticed she was completely out of baby formula. How on earth would she handle an emergency? So good neighbor or potential liability? You tell me.
Her lack of preparedness goosed me into doing some emergency preps I’ve been lollygagging about. In some ways, I’m starting from scratch after having to leave some of my supplies in the desert. I’m focusing right now on the short term — specifically on preparing the garret room upstairs as an emergency retreat.
I’m figuring that the most likely short-term emergency here (beyond your basic storm-with-power-outage) is a flood — thus the upstairs retreat. But that room also has a large closet with storage shelves, so it’s just a convenient spot for staging many things prep-related. And the room is a good size to be comfortably heated with my backup (propane) heaters if the electric power goes out.
I’m still leaving duplicate stocks of everything downstairs, just in case I can’t get upstairs or the emergency isn’t one that requires a retreat.
During the October canned-food sale one of the local grocery stores, I bought several cases of foods that can either be easily prepared or eaten straight out of the can if need be (refries, canned fruit, milk). I put that up there. Now I’m in the process of moving up things like can openers, spare plates and utensils, paper towels, water, dog food (and dog crates in case I need to crate the dogs for an evacuation), etc. I have cots, a sleeping bag, blankets, flashlights, and other comfort items up there already.
Two important things I still need to get and stash upstairs: an emergency toilet and a fire-escape ladder.
I used to have a little chemical porta-potty that would be good for a few days — the sort of thing you might find in an RV. But it’s one of the left-behind-in-the-desert items. Now I want something cheaper, but still well beyond a mere bucket that would quickly become unendurable in close quarters. I’ll start looking online, but suggestions and links are welcome. Particularly from anybody who has actually had to use an emergency potty and knows from experience what works and what doesn’t.
The fire-escape ladder is another tricky item. Never having had a second story, it’s not something I’ve dealt with. But I’ve always heard that you want an emergency ladder that has short legs attached to the rungs so the legs press against the side of the house. That way the floppy roll-up ladder doesn’t just wave in the air or the rungs don’t press tightly against the wall and try to eject you as you climb down.
But that won’t work here. Those are mostly for climbing out of a window and going straight down a wall.
If I had to exit the upstairs in an emergency, first I’d go out the dormer window. That would put me on a short, but very steep and often rain-slick, section of roof. Then I’d have to drop to the ground from a part of the roof that has such a broad eave that no emergency ladder would have a chance of bracing itself against the side of the house. (Is that making sense?)
Every option I’ve considered that would give me both safe passage across the roof and a not-too-perilous drop to the ground is very expensive and/or difficult to maneuver in an emergency. (E.g. a fancy third-story ladder, regular extension ladder, or one of those multi-folding 12-foot ladders.)
Sure, in a really dire emergency, I could just jump and hope for the best. (Most likely I’ll have to toss dogs and cats off the roof, and if they can handle it, I guess I can.) But really … I’d rather not.
Thoughts? Again, voices of experience or special technical knowledge especially welcome.