Thursday, September 14, 2006

How I Became Trailer Trash - Part 2:

The wait.

For a long time we didn't know how our house had fared. Like everyone else we studied the news clips to see if we could find out if our house was damaged or worse flooded. The evidence was ambiguous. We live fairly close the the Lake Ponchartrain Levee. Some pictures showed houses nearby weren't flooded. Because of the location the only access would have been by boat. Other matters seemed more pressing than securing a boat. Finally complete high resolution aerial photos were released. We saw a boat running down our street. We were now officially flooded.

Looking for a Home.

After it became apparent our house was was flooded. We needed to find a place to live. The problem was there was still no power nor any reliable communications. We didn't even know if the Mother in Law in Metairie had escaped flooding. She was in Houston with a house full of relatives. I made a List. The alternatives we came up with;
  1. Mother in Law's.
  2. Mother in Law's Back Room.
  3. A Relatives House.
  4. Rent a Place (hopefully from a friend).
  5. Get our own Trailer.
  6. Get FEMA Trailer.

Investigating and Deciding.

I should explain the Back Room. It is an enclosed carport/party room built by Her Father which had fallen into disuse. It has space and privacy. We had no idea whether it was damaged or not. The same was true of everyone else's house. It turns out the Mother in Law's was not damaged but all of the other relatives either had wind damage or some flooding. Renting a place seemed like an alternate but most of the people we knew of who had rental property had tenants, or had damage. One friend offered to rent her weekend condo in the Warehouse District, but then she decided to sell it. None of these alternatives were certain.

We decided to look at Trailers. We took a trip to the Three Way Campers in Marietta Georgia. The people there were nice and simply let us wander around the lot looking at trailers. Of course I'd done the obligatory Internet Investigation. I had a dangerously limited knowledge of Trailers. I knew the difference between a Fifth Wheel, a Travel Trailer and a Motor Home. Mostly I wanted to see if She thought we could live in one. If so how big did it need to be? I figured because of Catch-22 we could not qualify for a FEMA Trailer.

A Contractor friend changed everything. He told us how to get FEMA trailer real quick, without dealing directly with FEMA.

How we got our Trailer

We got our trailer through the Early Return Program of the State Department of Economic Development, The Governor considered us essential to the recovery. In reality I think anyone who asked would have been considered essential. The Catch (some lower number than 22) was the we had to set up and hook up the trailer ourselves, at our cost. That turned out to be relatively easy to do. We got our Contractor friend to do (it for a small fee).

She undertook getting a trailer as a crusade. She got the forms. There are always forms. She faxed them to a woman at the State who tracked our trailer application and delivery for us. We found out about the program in early October and by the end of the month She was calling every day (sometimes twice) to see where Our Trailer was. It was their own fault. They told Her how quickly they could do things. She held them to it.

We finally got The Call. Our trailer was to be delivered the First of November. Late in the evening, after dark, in a depopulated part of New Orleans. Neither of us were in New Orleans so we asked someone from our office to meet the trailer. It was her first day on the job. The FEMA contractor (Flour) called it a “drag and drop”. They couldn't even drop it in our yard. It had a 6ft high pile of all the stuff we used to have. The trailer was also too tall to fit down our driveway. They had to drop it on my neighbor's driveway.

First Sight.

I returned to New Orleans the day after the trailer was dropped.

I had never visited the house after dark before. I also needed to go pick up the trailer keys. They were left in the furnace compartment of the trailer. Besides I couldn't wait to see the trailer. I also wanted to see what the city looked like after dark. I grabbed my flash light and headed out. Things were not looking good. I drove out from downtown. As I drove through Lakeview and Gentilly it is was dark. There were no lights at all except for an occasion puddle of an occasional street light or a random generator.

Of course the major problem we thought we would have was electricity. Without it we couldn't occupy the trailer. We were investigating generators and getting temporary power from Entergy. Neither looked like good options, although the generator could work. I was thinking about this on the way out to the house.

I was also thinking "I am not lucky". She is. One of the reasons I married Her was to partially counter my own abysmal fortune. I was born under a bad sign. If it wasn't for bad luck. I wouldn't have no luck at all.

As I approached our neighborhood I began to notice a glow in the dark. I arrived at our street. I was elated to see most of the street lights were on. She had worked her magic. There was power on our street. The possibility of power to the trailer had improved considerably.

I drove into our driveway and retrieved the keys. I did a quick check of the trailer. It was pretty much as I had expected. I did a quick inspection and decided to head back, there was still a curfew. First for some reason, I decided to look at electric panel in the house. It had a red tag on it. Another miracle, our electric meter had not been removed. I had a legal connection to power. She is a Goddess.

We determined later in the daylight that, unlike our neighbors who had all had their meters disconnected, our electric meter and panel had been located high enough that even though the house flooded the water never reached the panel.

All we had to do now was hook the trailer up and move in.

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