Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Hurricane Sandy: The Un-Normalcy

Hurricane Sandy, Superstorm, Frankenstorm. So many names, so many problems.

This was my first hurricane -- actually my first form of severe weather (not counting the many South Dakota blizzards that cause cars to be buried under snow...) and I am pleased to say that it wasn’t that bad --- for me anyways. We lost power for about 22 hours, had use of our gas stove, and didn’t lose hot water (until this weekend, for some reason...). The rest of the tri-state area is a different story. There is devastation everywhere. Uprooted trees, downed power lines, siding-less houses, water damage, gas shortage, families without heat, supermarkets without food. This place is crazy. Nothing seems normal. 

Power outages are no big deal to me - especially when they last for less than 24 hours - since we had them all the time when I spent that summer in Zimbabwe, but I cannot imagine what some families are going through being without power for more than a week. No power, no heat, no hot water, no refrigerator. It is almost like we are back in Zim. 

What really gets me is the gas lines. At first seeing block and block of vehicles stopped on the road in line at gas stations was unbelievable. Then seeing blocks and blocks of people bundled up in line with gas cans --- that was unbelievable. It looked like one of those old newspaper clippings from the Depression of families standing in line at soup kitchens, with frustrated looks on their faces, and the questioning in their eye. Would they be able to get gas for their cars in order to go to work the next day? Would they be able to refill their generators with the ever-dwindling supply of gasoline? How would they ever support their families?

There is a gas ration in New Jersey. The last digit of your license plates determines what day you can fill up your car with gasoline. Odd digits go on odd-numbered days, even digits on even day. Today was that day for me. Before work I wanted to stop at a station, brave the long lines, and fill-up. So I drove to the station down the street - no gas. Went a few more blocks - no gas. Decided to check out the street by work - no gas, no gas, no gas. By this time I was getting REALLY late for work; I’d been driving around for about an hour; so I decided to give up and clock-in. Once I clocked-out at the end of the day, I drove down the street, and there was a station open! And the line was less than 20 cars long! Success! I thought. I waited in line for only about 15 minutes. Pulled up to the pump, the attendant sees my credit card and says “Cash only, ma’am.” WHAT? Suffle through my wallet. $12. great. Twelve dollars buys me 3.334 gallons of gasoline. About a quarter tank. Well I guess that is better than nothing. Better stop by the ATM before the next even-numbered day, so I won’t get stuck in this situation again.
When I think about it --- it is amazing to realize what we can live without. Although it might be inconvenient to be without power for a little while, if we can get beyond that and realize we can survive without cable television, we can survive without  the internet, we can get by playing board games, preparing fresh meals, and not showering everyday - I think we all might be a little happier with the simple life that comes.

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