Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. is a Gynecologist, Director of the New York Menopause Center, Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Assistant Attending Obstetrician and Gynecologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She is a board certified fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Allen is also a member of the Faculty Advisory Board and the Women’s Health Director of The Weill Cornell Community Clinic (WCCC). Dr. Allen was the recipient of the 2014 American Medical Women’s Association Presidential Award.

“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.

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  • Sherry Donovan November 10, 2012 at 11:13 am

    Loved this as I, too, am not married to a MAN WHO CAN FIX THINGS.

  • Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. October 31, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    Easy for you to laugh, Ruth…you are married to a MAN WHO CAN FIX THINGS. Oh, I forgot, you are a Woman Who Can Fix Things too.
    Couldn’t you two have spread the wealth around?

    Thanks for reading and joining in the conversation.

  • Ruth October 31, 2012 at 9:25 am

    Pat, We so enjoyed reading your blog on the storm preparations!! I bet the husband turned on the water & returned to the game!! Your description of the events still have us laughing even though it probably was not funny to you at the time.

  • Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. October 30, 2012 at 9:48 am

    The full force of Sandy has left the leaders and residents of New York City and the tri-state area with Herculean tasks. The surge of sea water into the tunnels, the subway systems and into the electric substations has left millions stranded un shelters or their homes and hundreds of thousands without power. The loss of communication in an ers of immediate access to all news all the time has added to the feeling of disorientation. The economic losses, the loss of homes and the loss of lives to this bizarre act of nature have left most of us without words to describe our “new normal”. However, we are resilient. New York University Hospital was totally evacuated after their back up generators failed and the other medical centers opened their doors to these very ill patients. Just one example of how New Yorkers work together for the good of all our citizens. I send my gratitude to all those who responded to this pre-storm blog that was all about humor. There is no humor now. We here at Women’s Voices for Change send our best to all of you and hope that you remain safe.


    Dr. Pat

  • Elizabeth Turner October 30, 2012 at 6:30 am

    Philip and I laughed hysterically, but this morning are wondering how you and The Husband have fared in the storm? Love you!

  • Ann Buttenwieser October 29, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    Love it!!!!

    We’re just watching the to-be tallest residential tower in the city lose it’s construction crane! Wow!

  • Andrew Mullins October 29, 2012 at 1:24 pm


    Terrific article!! Sandy will be interesting for Cathy and me. She decided to stay on Martha’s Vineyard to shot photos but I needed to be back on Sunday. I think MV will suffer a heavy hit.

    Please give my best to the ‘Overflow Husband’.


  • caren gittleman October 29, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    Love that you shared your humor it helps people cope with this awful event that is coming. Be safe!

  • hillsmom October 29, 2012 at 10:59 am

    LMAO while we still have power here. Too many large oaks overhang the house which is disaster waiting to happen. DH very handy, but unfortunately not good at climbing 100′ trees. After this event, it’s either time to get a generator (preferably one NOT made in China), or move.

  • Kathy Dockry October 29, 2012 at 10:56 am

    My husband also allowed the upstairs tub to overflow in a past hurricane, Pat. He was convinced the fault was the storm emergency advice he was getting from the local TV station. They told him to turn on the water, and never once told him to turn it off. I returned home to find water pouring from the ceiling of our kitchen. One method of getting a new kitchen, I guess. 🙂

    Stay safe up there!

  • dore hammond October 29, 2012 at 10:46 am

    Wind nor rain can stop Pat Allen!

  • Joan Ferraro October 29, 2012 at 7:11 am

    Hilarious, Pat!!