A Tale of a Fallen Tree

The storm was coming, so the weather guy said. The biggest storm in a decade (they say that a few times every year). Our family was getting used to downplaying the weatherman’s predictions, as they always seemed to sensationalize the weather forecast with severe storm warnings, tales of tornadoes past, and tips on how to stay safe out in the country “where help could be hours away.”

We live an hour outside of Atlanta.

While the family knew to head into the basement to watch the news and microwave our dinners whenever a funnel cloud was spotted, we had luckily dodged any serious damage or harm to our family after over a century of generations on the family farm. So had our neighbors.

So when the siren went off that evening, we were stocked with microwave dinners, beverages and blankets for an evening in the basement.

We were a few minutes into cooking the third mac n’ cheese meal when the power went out. My wife had her Party Light candles all ready and our snacks were distributed as we portioned out the cooked mac n’ cheese fairly with Doritos on the side.

“Mom, will my iPad still work if the power’s out?” My son had his priorities straight.

“Only if you don’t need the Internet,” said my wife.

Meanwhile I headed upstairs to see if the neighbor’s lights were still on or if a power line was down. “Honey, please don’t go outside,” my wife said as she rehearsed the line that was always queued by me heading upstairs to investigate a storm.

There were power lines down right in front of our house. Our neighbors’ homes were dark. The thunder and lightning crashed, and as soon as I headed back downstairs I heard a large crash. Our massive pecan tree had just been struck and I was pretty sure it had landed on our front porch.

My eyes teared up as I flashed back to being five and watching my dad build that beautiful porch with his brother. Then I realized it was more than just our front porch that had been hit by the tree. Our front room wall was also punctured, it seemed.

Good thing we had a basement. And my kids had made sure to charge up their phones so they could play games if the cable went out. I headed downstairs to get on the phone with my brother-in-law’s tree service (“Trunk Masters” – I know, it’s a ridiculous name) so I could get them out here as soon as possible. They were supposedly open until 7pm and it was only 6:15.

“Oh, honey. Your dad will be devastated.” my wife said as I updated the family. “Be sure to call my brother so they can get you in soon. I’m sure they’ll be booked solid.”

As my wife tried to calm the kids (who were trying to go upstairs to check it out), the number for Trunk Masters told me “the number you are trying to reach is out of service. Please check the number and dial again.”

What in the world?

“Are you sure you called the right number? He just called me from there yesterday,” my wife said.

“Yep, it’s right from their Google listing.” I tried again. No luck. I tried his cell phone and it was dead. “I’m going to call the guys in town, babe. I don’t have time to wait for your brother to get his act together.”

Fortunately, Joe’s Bulldoze, the tree service I ended up calling next (Trunk Masters’ biggest competitor), was reachable. The line was a little fuzzy because the guy who answered was on his cell on the way to another service call, but he said he’d be out first thing the next morning.

My wife wasn’t happy that I called him, but I wasn’t going to wait another day – or another couple of days, which is how long it took to reach Trunk Masters since their power was out and their phones were down – to get someone out here. I needed to get the tree out of the way and start working on closing up my house before the coyotes and raccoons took over my kitchen.

The storm calmed soon after the call, but we ended up (barely) sleeping in the basement since the front of our house was wide open to the wild.

When Joe showed up at 7am the next day, he was equipped and ready to take care of business. My wife at that point was grateful (she’s not a huge raccoon fan either) and let her frustrations fly when she told Joe that her brother would have done it for free but seemed to have fallen off the face of the earth.

“Yeah, you’re probably the tenth person who’s mentioned that. I’m surprised, to tell you the truth. He has a good reputation as a solid competitor most of the time, but this is the third time a storm has stopped his business in its tracks.”

“Really? He’s never mentioned that.”

“Yeah, when a storm takes out a power line or his office loses power he’s basically out of reach. He has an old-fashioned phone system, so even though his calls apparently transfer to voicemail if his receptionist isn’t able to answer, his whole system is on his property. So if the building is without power the calls just don’t go through. Not even to voicemail.”

My wife rolled her eyes.

“I’m not going out of my way to tell him this, of course, but we’ve set up our main line to be routed to one of our cells whether the physical phones are working or not. Our telecom guys installed a disaster recovery setting when we signed on that makes sure people can reach us anytime or anywhere, even if our power is down. We’re backed up by off-site call routing even when a bad storm hits, which is a no-brainer since that’s when we get a huge chunk of our business. But you don’t need to tell your brother that,” he smiled.

“Well thanks for sharing your secret with us, Joe. My ‘no-brainer’ brother should have thought of this a long time ago.” I thought my wife’s eyes were going to roll out of her head.

“Hey, no problem. It’s not a secret, really, but it’s been a huge help for our business. The only problem we have is that we’re apparently the only tree service between here and Atlanta that is reachable any time, so we’re swamped with more business than we can handle on a regular basis,” said Joe with a wink.

“Well you should give my brother a call if you need help. I’m sure he’ll be looking for work,” my wife responded.