Saturday, September 10, 2011

What we learned, and a different kind of aftermath (post-Irene)

What we learned:
  1. Plan ahead, as much as you can. While there is NO WAY you can plan for everything in life (and yes, I'm saying this, as much as I like to control things), there are things you can do, especially when your area is being threatened by a serious storm.
  2. Watch the weather. This goes with #1.
  3. If you definitely know a storm is coming, start the preparations early. What C did on Thursday and Friday, before Irene, was good because it allowed us time to get last-minute things accomplished. Some things have to be left to the last minute, others just "happen." Doing as much as we could, ahead of time, really worked.
  4. Have water on hand. Especially if you have a well. Or, know where you can get water for free. Besides our cemetery pump, there is a brook/river nearby, and we could have pulled toilet-flushing water from there. We had plenty of drinking water, and sadly you need more to flush a toilet!
  5. Also, if you have a well, the SECOND the power goes out, your water is GONE. There's no "when the tank is empty, you're out of water." I hadn't realized that's what happens. I thought there was a holding tank where the water sat after it got pulled from the well. Not even HOT water was held in the "hot water tank." I was surprised but recovered quickly.
  6. Conserve the water you DO have. Like I mentioned in an earlier post, we had one bathtub filled. We had 2 or 3 buckets filled in another bathroom. That all could be used for toilets, since the buckets had been used in the garden and probably weren't that pristine. But what about washing? We also had a big stock pot filled in the bathroom that had the buckets. Since the stock pot was super clean, that became the hand washing water. After using the bathroom, we rubbed liquid soap onto our hands, and rinsed in the stock pot water. We used that bathroom throughout the 2 days of no power; it was just easier. Toothbrushing was done with bottled water, but we didn't worry if the toothpaste "suds" didn't get washed down the drain. I could clean out the sinks AFTER the power was restored.
  7. It's OK not to be green. We used disposable utensils, cups, and paper plates, since we had no water to do dishes. This didn't bother me that much since 95% of the time, we use reusable things in the kitchen. When we couldn't use disposable things (like the wok, for soup), we wiped food residue off of them with paper towels. This totally goes against how I live, but I didn't want the power to be off for a week (like it was in some places) and wind up with so much mold on dishes, that I needed to use a power washer to get it off.
  8. It's OK to eat junk. Well, not really. We didn't sit around and eat chips and candy all weekend, we let the food in the house (mostly the fridge stuff) dwindle prior to the storm. Who wants to stock up with perishables, then lose power AND all of their purchases? So when C stocked up on Thursday, he bought things that could supplement the non-perishables we already had on hand. We also decided what could go in the cooler on ice. So it meant that we did eat pretzels, crackers, and cookies, but also leftover steak, apples, and tomatoes from the garden.
  9. It's good to clean before storms hit. Then you can relax in your clean house, instead of worrying about the dirty floor and how you can't run the vacuum since there's no power :) Also, if you have a well, clean all of your toilets THOROUGHLY prior to a storm. Especially if you have to "let it mellow" every few trips.
  10. That being said, don't let your house fall into chaos. Try to have a routine. I still cleaned the litter box, still swept the floor if it needed it. We still picked up our stuff after being done with things. It made for a much easier transition back to "real life" as we didn't have to stop everything and clean the house first.

A different kind of aftermath
As I mentioned in earlier posts, I had three days off from work (not counting weekends). I didn't ask my boss if we were being paid or not, and he didn't mention anything. I also spoke to one of the owners by phone and email, and nothing was mentioned. C told me not to be surprised if I wasn't paid for these days, but I said to him "don't be silly, they can't NOT pay us!"

Ha. Wrong. When we got into work on Thursday, nothing was said. Oh, and the power was ON when we got in, so we were full speed ahead. Finally, I asked my boss an indirect question of "what do we put on our timesheets for Monday through Wednesday?" He said he didn't know, that he'd find out, but "I'm SURE you'll be paid."

He was wrong, also. Now, we didn't find out the answer until LATE on Thursday afternoon, which was annoying enough. The answer was: take it unpaid, use PTO, or make it up over the next few weeks.

Wow. I was shocked. We're salaried employees, which means that even if you work 24 hours a day, for 14 days, when you get your paycheck, you're still only being paid for 80 hours. Why isn't it the same for when you work LESS than 80 hours? Especially as most of us work well over 80 as it is right now. My argument has always been, it all balances out eventually. (My boss agreed with me on that point.)

I might remind you that Thursday afternoon was the Thursday before Labor Day weekend. So this was putting a damper on some peoples' weekend plans, as those who wanted to make it up, wanted to do so as soon as possible. I was one of those people: the longer you wait to make up something, the more you're apt to have SOMETHING ELSE pop up. There were other people who had used up all of their vacation time for the year, and had no choice, other than taking it unpaid, and MOST people can't afford to do that.

What did I do? See below:

Monday 8-29: used a vacation day, after I found out that we had to make up the time
Tuesday 8-30: had worked 1 hour from home
Wednesday 8-31: had worked 4 hours from home
Thursday 9-1: worked 11 hours in the office
Friday 9-2: worked 12 hours in the office (at this point, my balance was 36 hours)
Saturday 9-3: off
Sunday 9-4: off
Monday 9-5: Labor Day, went in, worked 8 hours, also got 8 hours for the holiday
Tuesday 9-6: about 9.5 hours
Wednesday 9-7: about 9.5 hours
Thursday 9-8: about 9.5 hours
Friday 9-9: I know I worked 8 hours, 20 minutes. When I left at 5, I had 53 hours on my timesheet, or 45 hours of actual WORK.

Honestly, I don't remember the exact hours worked for Tuesday through Thursday, but I can figure out an average. It was a lot of extra work, even with a "free" 8 hours. In the end, between holiday, vacation and regular work, I had 89 hours for the pay period. And I was exhausted on Friday night. I had hoped to leave early, like around 3 or 4, but had to stay until 5. Sigh.

You might notice I have more than 40 hours of work per week. We're told to have an average of 42.5 hours a week, but no one's ever said what the average's span is, per year? Per pay period? I always assume it's pay period. I hope they're happy now.

Looking back, I feel that this entire things was handled rather poorly. My company should have said something right away when they first closed. I understand that we've never been in this situation before, but it's not THAT hard to say "no pay!" Also, I understand that they didn't know how long we'd be without power for, but I wonder what they would have done if we were closed for a week or longer? Who had THAT much vacation time, especially when we're not allowed to carry over more than a week from year to year?

On the other hand, I'm happy to still have a job. Not just because of economic reasons either. What if the building was damaged or destroyed? What if the owners were killed? (Which reminds me, I don't know if there is a contingency plan God forbid that were to happen!) I hope we are in the clear when it comes to hurricanes for the rest of this year, and now that winter is around the corner (as it's 75* today), I hope that we're spared from crazy winter storms like last year. At least last winter, we didn't lose power and could work from home ;-)

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