“Clouds over New York City.” Photo by Orangeadnan via Flickr

Some men are just naturally handy. It must be genetic. My brothers could always take an engine apart and easily reassemble it. They designed and built their first rustic house on their communal lakefront property in Kentucky with plans for other houses with solar, wind, and water energy. They know how to find water, then drill and install a well. They know how to diagnose and repair any problem in a house, a boat, a car, or a truck, and they understand how to use and manage all computer and electronic equipment.

I never learned how to do these things, because all of the men in my early life knew how to do it all. I know there are many accomplished women who can manage household and equipment emergencies, build a house, and design an aircraft carrier—but I am not one of them. I don’t need these skills most of the time, but serious weather issues or broken sewage pipes that back up into a house are a reminder of my dependence on Men Who Can Fix Things.

I am so grateful that we no longer live in northern Westchester County, New York, where loss of power was as frequent as the chance of contracting Lyme disease from the omnipresent tick population. We lived in a beautiful glass house on five acres sited on top of its own ridge, hidden from the winding road by the trees that gave the house its name, Arbor House. A natural disaster with snowstorms or rainstorms accompanied by wind or hail felled the power lines by toppling the branches of the thousands of trees around them.

A former spouse who was a very handy person once gave us a generator. The Husband was very pleased to own his own generator, but he believed that owning a generator was the same thing as having an installed, fueled, and ready-to-run generator we could use as a back-up when other power sources were gone. We lived in that house for seven years and never had any form of alternative power except the fireplace where we cooked  hot dogs and s’mores and used its sparse heat while sleeping in the living room under faux fur blankets during blizzards.  If I hadn’t had a secret line to John, my general contractor,  I would never have lasted there as long as I did.  “John, he is going for the (a) saw, (b) ax, (c) hammer, (d) screwdriver, (e) plunger . . . nine one one!” John or a member of his team of Men Who Fix Things always prevented a domino-effect disaster.

Give me not just urban life, but life in an apartment building with a live-in super and many Handy Men Who Fix Things. The Husband decided this past Saturday that we needed to prepare for the Storm of the Century. He bought three bottles of Fiji water, eight containers of Fage yogurt, peanut butter, Saltine crackers, and six cans of soup and chili. He covered the windows with the heavy drapes and moved the glass tables into an adjacent hallway.He proudly unearthed the 25-year-old American Red Cross hand-crank  radio with a flashlight attached that his mother had given him, and then announced that we were prepared for any disaster! I reminded him that the mayor had suggested that we fill a bathtub full of water to use to flush the toilets when the electricity goes out. Reluctantly he agreed to take on this responsibility.

Esperanza, who has been part of my life for the last 30 years, had offered to bring the real supplies that we needed for an extended disaster: fruit, milk that does not require refrigeration, dry cereals, loaves of whole wheat bread, tuna and small containers of mayonnaise, and gallons and gallons of water.  I called the pharmacy and had medications that were running low delivered along with bandages, gauze, sterile gloves, and tape.  At 3 p.m. Esperanza rang the doorbell with the supplies.  I came into the foyer from the  bedroom hall and stepped into three inches of water covering the floor. The mayor’s “fill the bathtub with water” recommendation had created an overflowing tub due a defective faucet. The Husband was watching the Jets game.  Esperanza and I quickly used all the towels and linens to start the mopping-up process while The Men Who Fix Things responded with water vacuums, large mops, and then equipment that dried the floor, followed by the placement of dehumidifiers. Esperanza and I took all of the linens to the laundry. The plumber fixed the drain. The Husband returned to the Jets game. Our preparations for the hurricane are now complete.