Powerless in a powerless house

Jamie Hill

Two weeks ago, I shaved my legs by flashlight.

Jamie Hill

From around 8 a.m. Sunday until 11 a.m. Thursday, the university owned off-campus house at the address 124 Kimberly Avenue did not have power. “Okay, so what’s the big deal?” you might say. During hurricanes, the power goes out. According to the United Illuminated website (the company that powers our house and much of Quinnipiac), 158,000 customers were without power at its height. My roommates and I were four of them.

While both President Obama and Gov. Dan Malloy declared a state of emergency for Connecticut Saturday morning, our landlord (Quinnipiac, in essence) prepared for the storm by sending out a lot of emails. And MyQ announcements. And text message alerts. To boil down the gist of all the messages: “Be prepared.”

Great. I could have learned that from my best friend who was a Boy Scout. Or anyone who glanced at the Weather Channel.

On the day of the storm, my roommates and I were prepared for the power to go out for a couple of hours, even the whole day. We had battened down the hatches and had plenty of bottled water and canned food.

What we weren’t prepared for was four and a half days without power. What made it worse, is the fact that we live in the shadow of the York Hill campus, meaning we could see very well out of our darkened windows the gleaming fluorescent lights of the parking garage. Beyond frustrating.

Really, I would consider myself more of a Hamden-ite now than a Quinnipiac housing resident. So considering that even though we called Residential Life on the day of the storm, just in case they could give us some useful information (they couldn’t), we called United Illuminating, only to receive a prefabbed voice recording reminding us that there was a hurricane (as if we forgot) and we have to be patient, though they couldn’t give us an estimate on when power would be restored.

So fine, we showered in the dark and made sure to charge our electronics on main campus before returning to our gloomy house each night. But it became even more frustrating when the food in our refrigerator started to spoil and the items in our freezer started to thaw. On top of that, we lost hot water on day two of living without power, so even showering in the dark became impossible unless we wanted to contract hypothermia.

On Monday, the day after the storm, Dennis Lue Yat, interim assistant director of special programs, contacted the residents of Kimberly Avenue (my street) and asked if there were any issues with the house regarding damages or power outages. He also offered temporary housing in open space on York Hill (although according to York Hill residents, power was touch and go there for awhile as well). Lue Yat said that about four seniors took up on this offer. Those seniors came from Kim Ave.

So why didn’t anyone else take up that offer? I can tell you my reason. Think about if you were beginning senior year classes, settling back into a job on campus, planning events and meetings for an organization that I am president of, meanwhile trying to have a social life and see people I haven’t seen since May. Living like a nomad wasn’t exactly going to let all of those things happen.

Quinnipiac’s website has a page dedicated to the “Senior Housing Experience.” On a bulleted list on the page that extols the virtues of living off-campus as a senior, one of the benefits is “no hassle with landlords.”

Frankly, I would have loved to “hassle” my landlord if it meant getting questions answered and resources made available to us. Not being able to question our landlord is not a real-life situation, and I don’t think that languishing for almost five days did anything to prepare us for life-after college.

As seniors living off campus, we had the fewest amount of privileges at this university regarding storm restoration. For example, a MyQ announcement from Aug. 30 said that faculty and staff without power at home could pick up ice at the Rec Center – even bring a cooler to fill. Wow, that would have been nice if we could have done that! Unfortunately, QU seniors don’t count as faculty or staff, so we had to make do on the kindness of friends.

Lue Yat said that he thinks the experience helped seniors living on Kim Ave “be stronger and develop more life-after-college skills.” He also mentioned that “seniors were understanding from a university standpoint,” which is true because frankly, what could we do other than watch UI epically fail at communicating with Hamden? We were powerless in a powerless home.