Blog Your Blessings: Ed at the Diner
We've had catastrophes around here that have left me waxing lyrical about the amazing ways nature heals its wounds and that people bridge the gaps that these catastrophes create with kindness and warmth. And all that.
Not this time. To wax lyrical now would be to paper over the yawning gaps in the story of why so much of Connecticut is shivering in the cold tonight, a week after a freak storm, because Connecticut Light and Power has failed to restore power. To wax lyrical now is to forget that our governor, Dannel Malloy, who has the unfortunate habit of treating public employees as freeloaders and criminals (simultaneously), did not pull it together after Hurricane Irene and come up with a realistic and effective disaster relief plan that would keep the citizens of this state out of harm's way at the next natural turn of events.
When the lights went out last Saturday, they stayed out for countless thousands of us because Connecticut Light and Power (CL&P) had not paid the countless out-of-staters who bailed us out after Irene. Why come back? We ask this question of the governor who is not huddling by the fire, is not preparing meals by the fire, does not sleep by the fire, does not sleep in everything he owns to stave off hypothermia.... And we know the governor cannot answer the question because his own actions have shown that he has no respect for the citizens of Connecticut--and less than none for the citizens of this state who seek to serve the state by working for it at the state or local level. I am talking about prison guards and teachers, basically. I am speaking up for myself as a teacher. If Governor Dannel Malloy thinks we're trash, why should the guy in Chatanooga, Tennessee, who works for the electric company, take the ride? Following the governor's logic, we're not worth it.
There's no waxing lyrical here. But Tuesday's coming, and we who have turned blue in the cold of a neglected Connecticut whose highest elected officials treat us like beasts will feel the difference when polls close and the math is done. For those whose day of reckoning will be another election day, we of the frozen toes will be there to remind you that you do not own us. Quite the other way around.
But enough. I don't want to sound like one of those ultra-conservative AM radio haters. I will now wax lyrical about Storm Alfred and the hell it delivered to Connecticut.
On Monday, when cell service was knocked out and land lines were equally useless, I went to see my parents in Newtown to make sure they were OK. I stopped at the diner to get them some coffee, and there I met a man named Ed H. who used to work with my dad in the phone company (when it was called The Bell System). He mentioned that most of Newtown was out of power and that he was stunned by the lack of presence of the CL&P on the roads because when he worked for the phone company, it wasn't like that. He said, "Guys helped each other out. One guy would always help another guy, and we were visible. What I liked was being a part of that and being a part of something that helped people."
"What I liked was being a part of that and being a part of something that helped people." Feast on this quote for the meal it is. Savor every word.
This gentleman spoke with an old-school Connecticut accent and described a time I could remember, when the phone guys got together to share meals or go for picnics together or to paint houses. I remember as a kid going out with my dad on a Saturday or two and watching him climb telephone poles to restore service to someone or countless someones. Being able to do that required a combination of strength and intelligence and commitment and self-respect. I say self-respect as I type this at 11 p.m. because I think to take your daughter in the truck and have her watch you do what you do is to say what you are doing is so well worth doing.
And here's an aside. It's the bologna story. About the time my dad installed phones in the house of a family whose youngest members fried bologna by dangling it into the toaster from a fork. Dad took those kids to a diner for a meal.
That's what you do. You feed people. You take care of them. Governor Malloy, for whom I voted but now wish I hadn't, this is what you do. You hold yourself accountable, and you take care of people. Hand-wringing does not count. You show up and you feed people and you keep them warm. As a matter of pride and a sense of decency, you do it at every cost.
My dad went on to become a union representative and then to move through the ranks of the union to become its president for his own sake as well as the sake of his colleagues. He believed he deserved to reap the benefits of his labors, and so did his buddies. It was that simple. He worked for people he knew and loved.
Were it only that simple for the governor. He might believe the people of Connecticut deserve to enjoy the fruits of their labors in the form of warm homes and stoves that create warm food. We're not asking for much. We want the homes we work for to be homes we can live in as we pay our bills and our taxes in good faith. Return that faith, governor. Hold the electric company accountable. Serve us that we might again be Connecticut. Be worthy of Ed at the diner. Be worthy of my father.