Monday, August 29, 2011

The End of the World This Year, Part 108 (or: Come On, Irene)

Before this gets flippant, I’d like to extend my best wishes to anyone truly hit hard by Hurricane Irene.

For me, the entire Hurricane Irene experience can be summed up by the large, scowling man I saw standing outside a ShopRite grocery store at around midnight on Friday night.  He was yelling at his significant other about bread, and wearing a black t-shirt that screamed DON’T ASK ME 4 SHIT (typeset exactly that way) in large white lettering on the back.  I’d have grabbed a photo of it for the blog, but I decided that getting my ass kicked then and there would have left me in a really bad mood for the hurricane itself.

It was an impending storm, which is certainly nothing to be taken lightly.  It was not a race to see who can collect the most loaves of bread or packages of batteries before their neighbors could get to them, nor was it a competition to see who could first predict and then revel in the most destruction.  The former is just silliness; it happens all the time when either heavy rain or snow is predicted.  Each time around, I kid myself that at least some of that over-bought bread might end up donated to the needy once the sky doesn’t actually fall, even though I’m certain that’s not the case.  The latter is a good deal more insidious, and more sociologically perplexing to me.

The amount of over-anxious clucking to be heard in the day or two before Irene’s arrival was nothing short of stupefying: “There will be widespread destruction!”  “We’ll be without power for days!”  “Everybody near the shore will drown!”  “Giant frogs will abound!”  Okay, so maybe not the last one, but you get the drift.  If any of this was said as an expression of honest concern, that would have been one thing.  But it wasn’t; it was more along the lines of “It will be so awesome for me when these awful things happen to other people!”

Which leaves me with the obvious question: why?  So you can claim that the superiority of your survival skills has to do with something other than sheer, dumb luck?  So that you can knock the Joneses that you can’t quite keep up with out of the race, like a well-timed shell hit just before the finish line in Mario Kart?  So that you can gloat fitfully without actually having to accomplish something?  Honestly, the mind boggles.

My town, Elmsford, was hit particularly hard.  Being in the middle of a hill, rather than at the bottom of it, me and mine were mostly spared.  There is some debris in the yard, and our internet service remains a bit on the wonky side, but we kept power and suffered no structural damage to our property.  We were lucky, and I am sincerely grateful.  My old friends up at Borders were also lucky, in a way: the resulting power outage spared them a day of having to deal with their increasingly delightful liquidation sale.  I’m sure that, by this point, a day away from it was a good thing for at least some of them, and I’m glad that a bit of good came from the whole mess.

For those who didn’t make it out quite as unscathed, I’m truly sorry.  Not in a condescending, come-check-out-the-misery kind of way, but in a heartfelt one.  Personally, I prefer my people safe and my big old disasters to remain safely at the movies.

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