Outside, there were plenty of people and plenty of cars, but none of the cars were running and almost everyone was walking. The scene was the same - people standing around non-running cars with the hood up looking underneath as if they would find an easy fix to the same problem everyone else had.
It also meant no running taxis or buses either so Patty had no idea how she was going to get across town to her client's office. Further, her phone and the hotel phone weren't working so she couldn't call to let them know her predictament. The only option she had right now was to find a working phone and contact the client, her job and home to check on her daughter.
Across the street from the hotel was a large CVS drugstore which Patty crossed over towards to see if their phones worked. The front doors were blocked open and a clerk was standing behind the counter ringing up a single customer's purchases.
"Pardon me, ma'am, but do you have a payphone here?" Patty asked the clerk.
"Yes, ma'am, but it don't work right now. None of the da phones are working they all broken." the clerk replied.
"Oh, I see." Patty said despondently. She needed to call her client or her boss, but what she really wanted to to was check on Elena and her parents. She knew her daughter was safe with her parents, but she did want the child to worry as she had the night before she left on her trip.
Looking around the store, Patty thought about the power outage and what she would do if she had been at home. Typically, a power outage meant keeping the fridge and freezer closed and possibly getting ice from the local market. It also meant dependancy upon flashlights and portable lighting until the lights came back on.
In 2000, a tornado ripped through Fort Worth and the surrounding area which resulted in power being off at her parents for two days. During that time, she remembered how her father had a working generator to keep the freezer cold and how her parents had numerous lanterns and other supplies on hand just for an emergency.
This same philosophy was subtly ingrained in Patty growing up and as the enormity of the situation in Shreveport dawned on her, she determined it might be wise to pick up some things at the drugstore.
Patty picked up a shopping basket and put inside a flashlight with two packs of batteries, a package of emergency candles and a three pack of Bic lighters. That took care of lighting in her room if the outage lasted into the night.
Next up, snacks and food. The restaurant might not get their lights on for some time and room service was out so it would be wise to have something to eat with her. She picked up two cans of nuts, a dozen protein bars, four tunafish lunch kits, a handful of bananas, a box of crackers, and a dozen bottles of water.
When Patty went to the register, the clerk looked at what she had and rolled her eyes,
"The register don't work and I gots to do this with paper so hold up, honey."
"If the register is not working, how are you taking credit or debit cards?" asked Patty.
"We just be running a print and when the power comes on, we will runs them all. I needs your phone number in case theres a problem." she replied.
"And what if my phone never works again?" thought Patty.
After making her purchases, Patty went back to the hotel and asked the bellman if she could drop her shopping bags and laptop case with him to hold. After he took the things and gave her a claim check, she asked for directions to the nearest Grayhound bus station.
"Sure, it's only a few blocks away. Walk out of the hotel, go left and walk two blocks, then take the first right on Ohio Street. Go another block or so and it's on your left side, can't miss it."
"Are you planning on taking the bus home, ma'am? I thought you flew in to Shreveport?" the bellman asked.
"I did, but if the power is out here it might be at the airport, I might as well see if there is a bus leaving for Dallas/Fort Worth I can take in the meantime. It's good to have options, you know?" Patty replied.
"Sure, I guess. Well, good luck." he answered and turned back to the busy lobby.
Patty left the hotel and with the bellman's instructions, found the Grayhound station. Like most stations in urban areas, there were several homeless looking characters standing (or passed out) around, so she kept her caution up.
Inside, there were fewer people than she thought, but a fair number were standing around the lobby. She made her way to the counter and after a ten minute weight, found herself getting the chance to speak with one of the clerks.
"Are there any buses leaving today for the Dallas/Fort Worth area?"
"No, ma'am. None of the buses are leaving at all. I had my last one leave at 5:30 this morning and nothing has run since."
"Have they been cancelled for a reason?"
"The buses don't start, ma'am and they don't run. We got three buses on site in the garage and all the mechanics can't figure out the problem other than the starters have been fried."
"Fried? As in burned out?"
"Yes, ma'am that's it. Unless you want to buy a ticket and hold on to it for later, we don't have nothing running today and won't tomorrow unless I get some running buses. Next!"
Patty walked away from the counter and sat down in a chair. This was larger than she believed and she quickly ran through her options and possible solutions.
First, get to the airport and see if flights are leaving. That meant a several mile walk carrying most of her stuff and there was no guarantee she would find a flight or if planes were leaving at all.
Second option, find a running car and drive home. From what she had seen on the streets nothing was running so that was out.
Third option, wait for another option to present itself. There was no reason to believe that this problem was larger than the Shreveport area and that meant that some sort of government action would be forthcoming much like New Orleans after Katrina. Therefore, it might be a few days before transportation would be available and the best option was to wait where she was.
Patty stood up and decided to go back to the hotel and find out if there was any news and see what was going on there. Her room was paid up through Sunday and her employer or client would be able to find her if they needed to.
Once outside, a mangy looking man lounging against a nearby wall whistled at her as she walked from the station. Normally, this was an annoyance all women deal with in urban areas, but a thought dawned on Patty as she walked, "If she was attacked or robbed, how would she call 911?"
Patty began to mull on protection and self defense as she hurried back to her hotel and familiar surroundings.
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