Here’s Something: Mother Nature is large and in charge

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Welcome to another edition of Boos and Bravos:

BOO to Mother Nature for blowing down our power lines last week.

BRAVO to the utility crews from around the country who came to Maine’s rescue. I’ve yet to have my TV, phone and internet restored, so I have no praise for Spectrum quite yet. It was a tough week. No power equates to no shower, no running water for those on wells, no heat and no light – no nothing except the peace and quiet of prehistoric times.

BRAVO to the decision a couple years ago to chop down a swath of tall trees along Interstate 295 in Freeport. If you remember, that unannounced tree-cutting effort by the Maine Department of Transportation was met with outrage by neighbors of the highway, who were upset about the increase in traffic noise. I appreciate their protests since I, too, live by a highway and can hear roadway noise when the wind is just right. But driving through Freeport on I-295 this week revealed the tree cutters were prescient because the storm blew down many of the first row of trees along that section. If those trees were situated closer to the road, as had been the case, they could have become roadway hazards. This storm seems to have justified the decision, controversial as it was, of removing those trees.

BRAVO to the sense of community togetherness a storm creates in the psyches of those it impacts. I always feel a little closer to my fellow Mainers when storms blow through. Most of the time, I go through life thinking about my own problems, challenges and pursuits. I’m not really thinking of what other people are going through – especially strangers I come across at the store, at a gas station or any other public place. This changes after a storm or other kind of tragedy. It certainly happened after Sept. 11, 2001. A storm like the one we had last week has a tendency to bind people together. Good times make islands of men. Struggle unifies.

BOO to TV news broadcasts. I’ve always been a little skeptical of local and national TV news, but the power outage reinforced my bias. I went to bed Sunday night not expecting to be without power for five days and to go more than a week with no cable or internet. I’m certainly glad I took a shower Sunday night, because the next one would be five nights later. It’s funny how small storms can be blown out of proportion by our local news teams, but the storm that arguably did the most damage to Maine in recent memory hardly spurred any forewarning.

On the other hand, my Portland Press Herald arrived each day, and Maine Public Radio and WGAN were always there to keep me informed. And my smartphone was helpful too, despite the frustrations of having to read tiny type on a small screen. I concede that TV news can serve a purpose, but the storm proved that it is not the go-to source during times of real emergency.

Finally, a confused BRAVO/BOO combo to all these tricked-out Jeeps and pickup trucks I’ve been seeing lately. I agree a 4×4 would have made navigating the fallen branches and tree trunks after the storm much easier, but these macho-man machines otherwise seem to have little purpose. I’m glad these mostly American-made vehicles are in style, but what gives with the imposing appearance? I agree the vehicles look cool, but what are the owners trying to prove? Who are they trying to threaten or impress? Why? I don’t get it.

I’m probably just jealous and wish I could afford one, but I also find it ironic that these same vehicles are usually clean as a whistle, proving they never see a dirt road, much less a muddy trail. My humble, old Honda Accord, which conquers a bumpy, dirt road at least twice daily, is much dirtier than these supposed kings of the off-road. And it gets much better gas mileage, too.

John Balentine, a former managing editor for Sun Media Group, lives in Windham.