By Hannah Reich Berman

Old habits don’t just die hard; some don’t die at all. Despite the fact that I had no electricity for three weeks, I never once walked into a room without flicking on a light switch! LIPA restored power to my street after two weeks, but my circuit-breaker panel was under water, and it was another full week before I found an electrician to replace it.

I had contacted several electricians without success. I was on everybody’s list and, after a while, I thought that if one more person told me to call her electrician because he was terrific and that he would do the job for me, I might slam my head against a wall. Every electrician was swamped, and I needed to wait my turn. Eventually one responded to my plea. He not only had a new panel, but had the time to install it and do all necessary rewiring.

Now I’m waiting for the plumber to install a new furnace and water heater. There’s another lesson I learned–that having electricity without heat isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. I’m still not living at home.

My super-soaked dead car is still sitting in the same spot it has been in since October 29. According to news reports, somewhere between 250,000 and 300,000 automobiles were lost. And it seems that half of them belong to my family and friends.

As a student, I foolishly took courses in German and Latin. A fat lot of good that did me! I would have been better off learning to read English! It’s amazing what I missed when I reviewed my homeowners’ policy last year. I somehow missed the fact that the list of what is covered is far shorter than the list of what is not. Thank goodness that FEMA covered what my insurance did not–which was just about everything! But no one has stepped forward to cover my therapy. That would be the therapy I will need to deal with my post-traumatic stress. If I continue to kvetch (although, under the circumstances, it is hard not to), I might also need help to deal with the guilt I feel for complaining when others got hit so much harder.

Another lesson that got through to me is that my son-in-law is an absolute genius. My daughter has long been on a campaign to enlarge their house, but he isn’t waxing enthusiastic about the project. No wonder he encouraged my daughter to open their home up to as many people as possible. He knows that when everyone eventually leaves, the house will seem like a palace and she’ll probably never complain about its size again. Like I said, he’s a genius!

The storm that just passed affected many lives. It affected mine in several ways. To begin with, I now spend the bulk of my time with new friends. I still manage an occasional Mah-Jongg or canasta game with my old friends, but the people who are more important to me right now are Carlos, Angel, and Raoul. I see more of them than I do of anyone else, and if it’s a toss-up as to whether I return a call to my cousin Yitz or to my new buddy Carlos, Carlos wins every time.

Another change: yesterday, for the first time in memory, I left my cell phone on when paying a shivah call. Previously, I would turn it off or put it on vibrate. But turning it off is no longer an option and I can’t take the chance of not feeling the vibration, so I kept it with the ringer on. My cell phone has become my lifeline and one doesn’t take chances with a lifeline.

I am currently into week four of living like a gypsy. My bags and I travel from house to house, from one daughter to another. And I do mean bags–plastic bags! I no longer own luggage. My luggage was found floating in the four-plus feet of water that graced my basement until I had it pumped out (the water, not the luggage). The luggage was tossed out when I hired a crew to clear the basement of the soaking-wet debris that was left behind. My terrific-looking suitcases, which were collected by bone-weary sanitation workers, are now probably sitting in a landfill somewhere. Currently, the classiest piece of luggage I own is a beautiful LeSportsac bag that I received as a birthday gift, one week after the storm.

We don’t think of what happened as a hurricane. Since our problems were caused by ocean water, we refer to it as “the storm.” Over the years, I’ve lived through many different hurricanes–who among us has not? But I never before encountered eels or water snakes. Until now!

I spotted the water snakes during the height of the storm, while in my daughter’s house. And I’m not sure who was more frightened, me or the granddaughter who was standing next to me. The only difference was that I couldn’t let her, or any of the children, know that I was scared. So I sucked it up, smiled a decidedly deceptive smile, and said, “It’s nothing to be afraid of, sweetheart.” And I’m here to tell you that it was not easy to say that. But I am here! We all are, and that’s what matters.

It would be nice to take a nap, wake up, and discover that it was all a dream. I would love to have the heat back on in my house, but so far that hasn’t happened. A plumber promised to be at my house today to install a new gas furnace and water heater. Unfortunately, that will not be the end of it. If Hubby had been here he would have taken charge, but as I was the one in charge, I foolishly called National Grid and asked them to cap my gas line, which they did.

The only explanation I offer for having done something so foolish is that I panicked. Hubby never panicked. But I did, and the penalty for panic is patience. I will have to wait to have the gas line uncapped. Hopefully, they will send someone to do that as soon as I provide them with proof of a pressure test by the plumber as well as proof that a licensed electrician replaced my circuit-breaker panel and all wires that got wet. And, as it is not likely that I am first on the list of people that National Grid is dealing with, this could take a few days.

I know exactly what Hubby is doing right now. He is shaking his head and saying, “Hannah, you are your own worst enemy.” I know this because he did so often enough over the years that we were together. He was right then, and he is right now, too. That’s the way it is!

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and is a licensed real-estate broker associated with Marjorie Hausman Realty. She can be reached at or 516-902-3733.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here