When we had really bad storms in the olden days, all of 20 years ago, neighbors called neighbors to check on each other. Didn’t matter what class or clan. I loved that because I was terrified of my wood stove and didn’t know how to handle winter very well back then.

“D’ya need your driveway plowed? How’s your woodbox? Got power? Everything OK?” This is reassuring, especially to oldsters like myself who live alone. All day, as the winds picked up to 45 mph, I kept the bird feeders filled as famished birds emptied them faster than teenagers swooping down on Fritos. I worried about my neighbors. Don’t care who they vote for or against. Just neighbors riding out a bad storm.

But the old phone chain system is creaky. Between mid-afternoon and mid-evening Saturday, as the storm surged in my village of 1,200 souls and swept huge drifts across the only door that my dogs could dart out for a quick poop or pee, I made exactly 10 calls.

Two to senior women, one a recent widow, living on the coast, each with one precious dog, one of which is not very well. They were OK and appreciative. We caught up a bit.

Another call to a not-well-off single woman, also a dog owner, who lives in Augusta and works night shift at a local supermarket. She complained that her dog detests her iced-up porch but was otherwise OK and thanked me for the call.

Then one call to nearby neighbors, who told me that from here on in, their landline will not be working because they got cellphones and gave me their new numbers. However, in this area, cell reception is so bad that no one ever gets through except on a landline. So much for future checkup calls to them.


Then I called a modern Amazon Prime couple. I reminded them of the olden-days, informal, neighbor-to-neighbor phone chain, to which the lady said, “That’s nice,” but from where she could see the storm was not that bad and anyway they were going to start watching a movie, so …

Then I called an even older friend. He remembered the phone network but said, “Nobody cares anymore because the country is divided and wrecked,” while I pointed out that was exactly why I was calling to check on him, and why wasn’t he calling to check on me if he cared so much about what is happening to the country (doom and gloom and despair)? This stuff goes both ways.

I then made a call to another couple, near Augusta, who were doing OK given the weather and drifts to be taken care of in the morning, and asked them if I was overreacting. “No,” they said.

In the end, I made 10 neighbor-to-neighbor calls and started on call 11, but by that time it was getting too late. And no one ever called me. Let us think about this.

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