Hurricane hell is other people

August 28, 2006

(In case you can’t tell from the title, this post is going to be bit ranty, so if you know me and you want to preserve your image of me as a nice person and avoid realizing that I can be a major meany head, you can sit this one out.)

There was a sick buzz running across the campus of the university where I work this morning. It started with an E and ended with an -rnesto. In case you don’t live in this little viper’s nest we like to call Florida, it looks like we are definitely going to get our first head-on tropical storm of the season and maybe our first hurricane. I put an emphasis on the maybe, because Ernesto is as yet a tropical storm, and one that has not been able to hold his strength or his projected course very well so far. Two days ago he it (no more anthropomorphizing these suckers… hurricanes are “it”‘s) was supposed to head West and hit somewhere in the Gulf. But now they say it is turning east, and you would think someone had just told all the newscasters that they had free Lamborghinis for life. They are ecstatic, frothing at the mouth and trotting out their windbreakers and their clips of overweight people in shorts filling up their oversize cars full of gas. The Weather Channel is the worst offender, busting out with a commemorative graphic for their continuing coverage of “Florida Prepares for Ernesto.” They don’t even try to hide the glee from their eyes. Also, they are already standing on the coastline letting their hair get all windblown as if something is actually happening. Ernesto news has not even made the homepage of the New York Times yet. You wouldn’t know it to talk to anyone or turn on the local news. You would think Ernesto is the only thing happening IN THE WHOLE WORLD.

My foul mood began when my esteemed co-worker DD informed me, over my lunch mind you, that her husband had just called and told her that like there was no food left in Publix and there were like 52 people in front of him in line for gas. Ohmigod, DD exclaimed, this is going to suck like so much! Of course I keep my mouth shut, except for gently reminding her that Ernesto was still a tropical storm, but meanwhile I’m thinking, so, like how much? More than a flat tire but less than cancer? More than scraping snow off your windshield in subzero temperatures but less than an earthquake? More than living in your average South American country but less than living in say Chechnya? Since when did your life’s general and unoriginal suckage matter to me!!! And if our lives are really going to suck, how exactly are you making it better by telling me? It is obvious that DD has already planned on having a life that sucks for the next couple of days, whether that means a busted windshield due to flying branches (okay, pretty bad suckage by the time you deal with the insurance company) or simply a couple of days of cold showers and cold food.

You know what I really hate? That my place of employment and education has already closed for tomorrow. What am I going to do to distract myself from the storm that isn’t even going to get here until Wednesday if I don’t have work and class? Oh wait, I know what I am going to do. I am going to go mob Publix in my pajamas and claw another woman’s eyes out over the last can of tuna.
The thing that people most lack in the plural is perspective. Here might be a couple of good times to get really really scared. 1) You wake up and find out that you live in Baghdad or Afghanistan or Beirut. 2) You wake up and find out that you live in New Orleans–not just when Katrina came through, now, a year later, with nothing fixed except what the tourists see. If you live in South Florida and have two extra cents to rub together, you need to chill out and look on the bright side. You did realize that you live Florida, didn’t you? Deal.

Seriously though, I think that in most cases what is driving all these people to clear out the shelves at Publix like it was Andrew’s second coming and line up behind fifty-two other cars for a tank of gas isn’t even fear, or the memory of fear. I think it’s the memory of annoyance. It’s the memory of, for just a few days, having to curtail your lifestyle of consumption and mass media entertainment. We think that if we have a little bit of extra food and enough gas to run our generators that we will be able to avoid spending some quality times with ourselves and avoid acknowledging that there are forces in this world that don’t give a damn about you and your air conditioning.

Ranting aside, I don’t want to go too far with this. Genuine disasters have befallen Florida and will again. But how on earth are we supposed to have the fortitude that it takes to keep body and soul together during a real disaster if we are encouraged to panic over ever litle wind that blows our way? Who does this help? And I do have to have some sympathy for guy who they interviewed at the pump who nearly started crying when he remembered not having any gas after Wilma. I’m serious. He was shaking and referred to Wilma as having happened “two months ago” and seemed genuinely afraid. Goddamn you 24 hour news! We all have PTSD already, don’t go setting us off for no reason, because every time you do it takes less and less to seriously freak us out.

In the meantime, here are some things not to do if you have a friend (um, me!) who lives in South Florida in the event of a possible hurricane. Don’t call or email me to ask if I am worried (unless you live in SF too b/c we have hurricane solidarity). Of course I am worried! I am not a bleeding idiot! On the other hand, there are plenty of other things to worry about too, like the Melville response paper that is still due despite the university pre-closing for a day of thumb twiddling. After the hurricane, even if you do live in SF, don’t try to give me a lecture about how I should have bought more batteries and should start paying for a land line I would use about two days a year and should definitely make sure to deduct all the food that spoils in my fridge from next year’s income taxes. These things make me feel hurricane inadequate and I don’t like that. It makes me mad. I’m breathing and I’m not complaining, so let me handle hurricanes my way, and maybe it doesn’t include trying to turn a profit when I lost a grand total of about $3.57 in food because I keep my refrigerator empty on a regular basis. If I do complain about something, please follow the golden rule and nod your head sympathetically, which is exactly what I will do for you when you complain about something whether or not it is something you could have prevented. All forms of I told you so are extremely angry-making, so please feel smug in silence. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should you say anything like “gee, I’m glad I live in ____” or “gee, I would never move to Florida” or “so, when are you moving back to Michigan?” These things make me feel bad too, and they make you look like a big wimp who is denial that, in fact, you are winter weather’s bitch.

Whew, I feel much better now. Was that as good for you as it was for me?

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One Response to “Hurricane hell is other people”

  1. Diego Says:

    I am silently nodding my head. Yes. Yes. Yes.


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