The pioneers had nothing on this family challenge

By: Tony Overbay, humor columnist
-A +A
A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I sat down to watch a movie. The one-line description on the screen made it sound like a good, suspenseful drama, sure to have plenty of twists and turns. Fifteen minutes later, we turned it off. A woman spun around on a bridge with a disfigured face and then all heck broke loose. We realized that we no longer enjoyed being scared as we had early in our marriage. Now, scary is the idea of what goes on at the checkup I’m scheduled for in a couple of months when I hit the big 4-0. But that’s an entirely different column. Before turning off the movie, little did we know that the movie was foreshadowing our own real-life thriller that would take place just a week later. Imagine the horror of being on vacation with four young children and suddenly the lights in the pool go out well before the 9 p.m. shutoff time! Don’t get me wrong, the hotel generators kicked in, the outside lights came back on and we were able to finish our swim but it got worse! On the way back to our room, we had to take the stairs. And it didn’t stop there. Once in our room, we had to resort to watching movies on a battery-powered DVD player. We had no idea how much battery life we had! Oh the horror! The kids were in mortal terror as they played their portable gaming devices, wondering aloud if power would return in time to charge the devices when they went to bed. And the kids weren’t the only ones in a panic. My iPhone was down to a 42-percent charge and my laptop battery showed only one power bar. This was no time to lose my head. I was quick to assume the role of a calming voice. Luckily, I remembered that my youngest daughter had brought a headlamp in her suitcase. She likes to stay up late and read. I downloaded a “flashlight” application on my phone that provided enough light to locate the headlamp. It was a gamble as downloading the application would suck precious battery life that we might need later to entertain ourselves with some YouTube videos of cats playing the piano. We called a quick family council. “Kids,” I said. “We often read stories about the pioneers and the challenges that they went through many, many years ago. Well, tonight, we’re creating our own stories. Stories that your children, my grandchildren, will someday read and wonder how we ever managed. Yes, it’s true, the refrigerator is quickly losing coolant and, if the power doesn’t return, our bedtime snacks will consist of not entirely frozen M&M’s and not freezing cold water but we can do this.” “Not to fear,” I continued. “Our toothbrushes are battery powered and, in a pinch, we can watch the movies and TV shows that we all have on our iPods.” I knew what I had to promise next: “If the power doesn’t return by morning, I will sacrifice and go sit in the car while my phone charges, using the automobile adapter.” My young son let out a sniffle. “Pa,” he asked. “Will we still be able to swim in the morning?” This was no time to lie; he needed the truth. “I hope so, son, I really hope so. But without power, our key cards might not get us into the pool,” I answered. One of my daughters, or perhaps it was my wife, let out a scream! “Wait, aren’t the hot water heaters dependent on the power? And what about my curling iron?” “Honey,” I said. “I’m going to assume the hot water heaters are gas but we can’t be sure. They might indeed be electric, and, if so, we’ll make the best of it.” I needed to take the kids’ minds off their surroundings. I decided I would tell some scary stories by the light of my illuminated cell phone. Stories about music that needed to be rewound, dinners that took a long time to cook in the oven and popcorn that popped in specially designed machines. I told them of records, days without Velcro and the McRib. I was just starting into an explanation of a “Pet Rock” when we suddenly heard the sound of angels ... the whir of the air conditioning. The lights and TV came on and noises were coming from all sides. I grabbed my family close and held them tight! “We made it,” I said. “For the last 15 minutes, kids, we were indeed just like the pioneers.” As the kids faded off to sleep, I turned the TV on and just had to laugh as we stumbled upon the same movie we had turned off just a couple of short weeks ago. Only this time, it was like watching a comedy after the horror that we had just been through. Tony Overbay is a 16-year Lincoln resident and father of four. You can find more of his writings at