Hoffman's Houston
ken's misery index

Here's how Ken Hoffman weathered Houston's historic winter storm

Here's how Ken Hoffman weathered Houston's historic winter storm

Refrigerator open beer fridge
This was the warmest spot in our columnist's house. Photo by Brett Jordan/Unsplash

I went three days without heat and electricity, five days without water, five burst pipes in the attic, and one busted water heater for a total score of 14 on the Misery Index.

How’d you guys do?

My power went out late Valentine's Day night. The temperature inside my house dropped to 41 degrees, so I lit a fire, did some fast furniture rearranging and went to sleep in a recliner in front of the fireplace.

The problem with using a fireplace as your only heating source during a freeze-out is, there’s very uneven personal heat distribution. No matter how you position yourself, you’ll wind up with a runny nose and burnt feet, or bottoms up.

Night Two was even colder inside. I had house plants freeze to death. My dog’s water bowl had a sheet of ice on top. I didn’t have to worry about frozen food spoiling inside the refrigerator, which weirdly was the warmest place in my house. I just put everything outside. (Reminds me of the old trivia question: Why do people in Arctic igloos put their food in refrigerators? Answer: to keep their food warm.)

I went five days without taking a shower. My local recreation center had water and invited residents to take showers there. That’s not me. My aversion to taking group showers is what kept me out of the NFL.

I took a garbage can to a friend whose house had water and used the water to fill my toilet tanks for each flush. That’s one soup pot I’ll never cook with again — it touched a toilet.

I have friends who lost neither power nor water. I heard home generators on my block. I was suffering utilities envy.

This was fun. I went on priceline.com and reserved a hotel on Richmond for two nights. When I went to check in, there was a guard at the front door turning people away, “We have no electricity, we’re not taking guests.” Yeah, it’ll be real easy to contact priceline.com to refund my money. It would help, of course, if they answered my emails or picked up the phone.

On my way home, I drove past a long, long line of cars obviously waiting for something at the end of the rainbow. Gas? Propane? Bottled water? Wait for it … Popeyes fried chicken.

Then I booked an apartment on Airbnb, but when I got there, somebody already had reserved it on another website. At least I got my money back from that ill-fated escape.

I finally found a plumber on Friday, February 19. He went into my attic and like an obstetrician delivering quintuplets, kept coming downstairs to show me, one at a time, five cracked pipes. I had water dripping from a ceiling light in my living room. I have a broken water heater sitting in my driveway like modern sculpture. The plumber is still not done. My toilet still is leaking and my ceilings are moldy

I powered my phone and laptop in my toasty car. I drove to Home Depot to buy a plunger. You know the horror of flushing a toilet and the water keeps rising? Like I needed that, too? Where are my old towels, because they’re going in the garbage with my baling soup pot?

There was a 40-minute wait to get inside Home Depot. Supermarkets were plundered of meat for the outside grill. I saw an open Jack in the Box on 610. I pulled into the drive-thru and ordered one of Jack’s very underrated chocolate shakes.

“Sorry, we can’t serve any drinks.”


“We’ve run out of cups.”

Look, I know fancy: I’ve been to that Ritz-Carlton in Cancun. Heidi Cruz was right: it is luxurious. (I remember the towels were so fluffy, I could barely close my suitcase.) So, I lit a Vanilla Crème Brûlée scented candle because the dirty clutter in the dishwasher was starting to stink. I brushed my teeth with a bottle of Smart Water.

I went to a couple of laundromats but one had no water and the other needed a maître D’ to let guests in when a machine became available.

If these are the times that try men’s souls (Thomas Paine, 1776, but appropriate now), we’ll be fine. We’ve gotten through much worse without running from our inconveniences and leaving our neighbors suffering in a ditch. We’ve dried out before, we’ll thaw out this time. We will be back.

I just can’t wait till I get my plumber’s bill.