« Sweet Old Bob recalled | Main | Joke of the week: "The Veteran Accountant" »

Back among you

When last we chatted, I was muttering under my breath those oaths that are so essential an element in the practice of journalism. Then, having succeeded once again in producing a home delivery edition of the paper, I headed out into the storm.

The rain was heavy, though not so heavy as a few downpours in recent weeks, and the wind was stiff but not terrifying. I made only a couple of detours, once to get around an intersection a couple of blocks ahead that I saw blocked by a police cruiser, once to avoid a stretch of street that I thought might be flooded. Then, on my own block of Plymouth Road, I came across a huge limb in the middle of the street, which I had to drag to the curb.

At home, I was congratulating myself to Kathleen on my safe return and thinking longingly of bourbon poured over ice when the lights went out. The rain continued to come down, and I repaired to the basement to gaze on the rising water in the sump. Nothing for it but to begin bailing.

I bailed the sump for the better part of the next seven hours, remarking at several points how heavy water is and suggesting aloud that it would be very thoughtful of Baltimore Gas and Electric to restore the juice. I collapsed and slept for a couple of hours, spelled by Kathleen, and returned to the task, with the back and knees of a much older man, continuing off and on as the water level began to stabilize until noon or one o’clock, when inflow had basically ceased.

A little before five o’clock the lights came back on.

So now, new plans: When the damn cable modem, which appears to have forgotten who is paying for it, makes up its mind to restore the Internet connection,* I can post this entry and approve any comments that have accumulated. Then that bourbon splashed over the ice. And tomorrow, off to buy a battery backup for the sump pump.


*As you can see, this took some time beyond the composition of this post.


Posted by John McIntyre at 9:28 PM | | Comments (12)


Ugh. Welcome back among us, and to the world of electricity!

Blimey, that sounds awful. And I bet the muscles won't let you forget the experience in a hurry. But did you really wait that long before having a conversation with the bourbon bottle? Then you're a better man than I am.


Shades of the twelve(?) tasks of Hercules!

Prof/ McI., sounds like you had quite the eventful, most inclement Sunday, yesterday; what w/ dragging massive fallen tree branches out of harm's way, creatively navigating your neighborhood just to get back to your humble, flooded abode, and then finally, what must have seemed like an eternity, valiantly hand-bailing out your basement sump. Great Zeus!

Ironically, as in your fair city, out here in over-heated L.A. the internet connection over a wide swath of our L.A. county was out of commission for a number of hours Sunday morn for thousands of us Time/ Warner Cable subscribers. (Ugh!)

There customer service/ tech phone support line carried a recorded message addressing the immediate problem, assuring us concerned folk that they were currently handling the issue, and we'd be reconnected w/ the Net in short order. Not so fast, cable breath. Eventually, we got our service back, just before noon.

Prof. McI., I sympathize w/ you and your internet outage, which in light of the havoc wrought by hurricane irene doesn't seem like an unlikely eventuality, but it beats me why we Los Angelenos had been cut off from the internet for much of Sunday morning. Perhaps merely a sympathetic West Coast reaction to all the turmoil transpiring on your eastern seaboard?

I'm not expecting either an apology, explanation, or slight reduction in next month's billing from the Time/ Warner Cable folk. It would just be too much of an inconvenience for them............. Ka-CHING, Ka-CHING $$$$$!

Kudos for delaying 'spiritual' gratification by delaying, as Picky so eloquently put it, your "conversation w/ the bourbon bottle"------- a reward for a dirty job, well done. But as they say about dirty jobs, someone's gotta do it. HA!



From the language point of view, I was surprised by the number of the number of things I had to read twice (I'm originally from southern England, lived in Spain for twenty years). 'A police cruiser': in England the police arrest cruisers, they don't do it themselves; 'a huge limb in the middle of the street': in the end I twigged (as it were) that it was tree branch, but it brought me up short; 'spelled by Kathleen', I assume to mean 'briefly replaced by' as in 'she took a spell', but I had to think for a moment. Sump isn't a word you hear much over here, either, though I can picture it more or less (a hole in the ground acting as a drain?).

A linguistic question occurs to me: as this is a more personal post than usual, did you unconsciously (or consciously) narrow your lexicon, or is it just that you're talking about things that requiring an unusually location-specific vocabulary?

Re-reading this, I suspect it's one of the duller questions you've been asked recently but anyway, as they say, stet.

BTW Eminent medical practitioners insist that iced bourbon is the very best thing for sore muscles, so I hope you recover right speedily.


Surely you didn't suspect that our undaunted Prof. McI. had removed a gargantuan severed human appendage, i.e., "huge limb", from his neighborhood street? (Groan!)

Perhaps 'spelled OFF by Kathleen', rather than "spelled by Kathleen" was our Prof. McI. original intention?

Frankly, I hadn't heard that rather arcane term, "sump pump", used in a full sentence maybe since the 1950's, when I was knee-high-to-a-grasshopper. Growing up in Toronto, we actually had basements, and ergo, that handy emergency bailing device, the sump pump. Even fruit cellars for winter storage, and summer and fall preserves. (Unlike here in L.A. where basements are few and far between.)

I vaguely recall the wooden slated, very sturdy coal chute angled into our basement, as coal furnaces were still the de rigueur mode of keeping our Canadian home fires burning, back in the mid-20th century.

Why, can you believe a milk truck actually came around the neighborhood a few times a week to deliver sundry fresh dairy products at our very doorsteps? (What a concept!) The horse-drawn milk wagon had been sent-to-pasture, so to speak, a few decades earlier, although in more rural parts of Toronto and environs horses were still pulling milk carts, well into the '50s.

Of course, the ascent of the automobile changed the fortunes of the work horse as a reliable beast of burden, forever. Perhaps the transition was a tad slower in the U.K., particularly in the smaller rural towns.

Here in the U.S. we also refer to police cruisers as "black & whites"; pretty much the diagnostic twin colors of most city police vehicles throughout the nation. Do you Brits have a special moniker for police cars? Like Bobbiemobiles, or such? HA!


As an experienced plumber remarked to a friend of mine, "When you can see your reflection in the cellar floor, it's time to call in the experts."

Patricia the T.,

Hate to sound like a petty quibbler, but one could also see one's own reflection in a cellar floor that was tiled in a high-polished linoleum, marble, or granite, or even say a shellac-coated, smooth-surfaced cement. (Mirror, mirror on the floor, who's the fairest, I do implore?)

But your plumber point is well taken, nonetheless.



We used to call them Panda cars back in the 70's, because of the colour and the general look of them, but I haven't heard it for years. I can't think of any term like that in current use.

The lapping of water at the foot of the cellar stairs might give one a hint.

Well, I am also back among you, now that the power company has gotten around to our neighborhood, three and a half days after Irene passed through. I had been meaning to clean out the refrigerator anyway ...


Welcome back to our virtual world. Wondered where you were at for the last little while.

I can totally sympathize w/ your frustration and major personal inconvenience. Three and a half days without electricity must have felt like forever?

I harken back to July of '09 when thousands of us San Fernando Valleyites here in L.A. had to endure almost three days without power. It was basically the result of a three-to-four-day, 100-degree-plus monster heat wave. A number of antiquated main transformers decided to self-destruct, almost in unison, due to the extreme demand of thousands of power guzzling air-conditioners on the local electrical grid.

Ironically, in my particular neighborhood, it was similar to the serendipity of a raging tornado's destructive aftermath, where a string of homes are totally leveled, whilst right next door a few survive, virtually unscathed.

In our scorcher summer of '09's case, our neighbors immediately across the street still had full power, while we cross-streeters were completely powerless......... in more ways than one.

I vividly recall one good samaritan of a neighbor, an amiable Panamanian-American gent, (w/ power, of course), who extended a serpentine line of three of those extra long, heavy-duty orange power chords from his house over to his Egyptian-American neighbor's garage, directly across the street, basically to save his recently fully-stocked jumbo freezer packed w/ frozen meat purchased earlier that week, in bulk, from Costco.

Amazing, in the face of shared adversity, how many folk in our little suburban neighborhood performed so many wonderful individual acts of kindness for one another in those rough, trying days.

My pooch and I chose to spend two nights sleeping outdoors on my backyard cement patio pad under the stars, since it was just too darn hot to overnight indoors w/ the late evening temps hovering in the steamy mid-80s.

What those poor folk dealing w/ the aftermath of Irene in Vermont, New Jersey, the Carolinas have had to endure------ the horrendous flooding, mud damage, loss of life, property, infrastructure, personal belongings, and businesses----- makes our few days of 'inconvenience' pale in comparison.

But still, Danlink, being without power for days-on-end is NO FUN! Period.


Thanks, Alex. I'm in total agreement. This wasn't as bad as Hurricane Floyd for us--I think we waited 4-5 days to get back on the grid that time. And that was made worse by the fact that the people across the street did have power. This time whole vast neighborhoods were in the dark, which gives one a feeling of "We're all in this together."

We did benefit from the loan of a generator when friends around the corner had their power restored. That saved the contents of our freezer and allowed us to pump the water out of the basement.

Hope to hear from friends in Vermont soon--that situation sounds very bad.

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Verification (needed to reduce spam):

About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
Baltimore Sun Facebook page

Most Recent Comments
Sign up for FREE local news alerts
Get free Sun alerts sent to your mobile phone.*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for local news text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
Stay connected