By the time you read this, we will have survived two major storms…. One environmental and the other manmade. We may have even elected a new President but whatever the outcome, one thing is certain… Both storms are alike in that they have taken their toll on us...... especially emotionally. Having come through Hurricane Sandy and anticipating the upcoming political election, this is what I have learned so far:
It’s hard to initially get upset over a hurricane with a nickname of Frankenstorm…. named because of its proximity to Halloween and monster like size. A name like that makes me want to laugh instead of running for cover. It’s so… cute. And how many storms have there been that had a “real name” (Sandy) AND a nickname. It made me think that something really unique was going on with this storm.
Names can be deceiving. Most of us prepared for hurricane Sandy by getting batteries, water, toilet paper, etc in plenty of time but I wonder if giving this particularly powerful hurricane the name of Sandy was such a smart idea. I mean how intimidating does “Sandy” sound? Probably in some areas on the East Coast, people didn’t prepare enough because of such a “nice and gentle” sounding name. Do you think if they had named it Hector, people may have taken the situation a little more seriously and used more precautions? Even the mayor of Atlantic City didn’t urge evacuations. I know that weather reports can panic people too so there is a point to be made for having “softer” sounding hurricane names but on the other hand, can anyone get fearful when they hear, “Hurry! Get ready! Sandy is on her way!”? …. (Although I did hear one news reporter refer to “her” as Sandra.) Still from the amount of “sand” that swept over some of the coastal cities, I guess the name was both appropriate and ironic after all.
Those new weather terms can be confusing. There was a problem initially trying to figure out exactly what this Sandy was. Predicting when and where a hurricane is heading may be difficult but was she going to remain a hurricane or turn into a tornado or a snowstorm? This year there is this new term used by meteorologists called “derecho”. I’m not sure what it is. I only started hearing about it recently. It sounds more like a deli sandwich than a weather event to me…” I’ll have a derecho on rye… with lettuce and tomato. Hold the mayo.” I don’t know why they had to add this new category. Seems every few years there’s a new word to keep things fresh…. “El Nino” “Nor’easter”, etc. Why can’t we just keep the three basic terms that everyone knows? ……winds (tornado), rain (hurricane) and snow (Snow is and always has been snow unless you want to turn it into a blizzard or avalanche).
Size still really does matter. And I’m not just talking about the obvious… the size of the hurricane. What I have learned is that the most popular battery sizes remain sizes C and D. I attempted to show a humorous link between bra sizes and battery sizes in a previous hurricane blog http://belair.patch.com/blog_posts/blog-size-does-matter-bras-batteries-hurricanes-the-connection but the truth is that Size C and size D batteries continue to be the ones in demand. During the last hurricane, stores couldn’t keep enough of them in stock. The logical me knows the reason is because these are the batteries that power the flashlights and lanterns used in power outages but I can’t help thinking that here I am some forty plus years out of high school and still trying to get to a C or a D. You’d think I’d have at least “grown up” (if not “grown “ ) by now.
Batteries are important because they provide power but there’s political power and then there’s just plain old house current power. People are much more concerned with having power in their own houses and not so much in the House of Representatives or even who’s in charge in the White House during a hurricane. Our house was pretty much prepared for the power outages…. We had the recommended radios and lanterns powered by a wide assortment of sources. Some were battery powered, others had a rechargeable internal charging system, some ran on electric house current. The drawbacks were obvious… what happens if you run out of batteries? If the purpose in having these devices is to maintain power, what good are those rechargeable or house current operated ones when there is no electricity? We had one lantern that was different because you could charge it using the current in your car but if your car only charges when its ignition is turned on, you can run out of gas …. a commodity that isn’t so cheap or easy to find in a crisis. This leads to bigger issues of how do you get the gas to run the car to operate the crank lantern or radio if you have no gas in your car to get it. And should you be lucky enough to get the gas, how do you charge the lantern? Do you just let you car idle on the driveway while it’s charging (this in turn burns up more gas which you also may need if you had the money to buy a generator which we did not) or do you try driving around the neighborhood to charge your car even when the government is telling you to stay put and knowing that this also is using up gas? There’s the other option of the windup or crank powered device which is ok but you do have to keep winding and eventually that handle is probably going to snap off or you’ll get carpal tunnel. Solar power is one of the newer options on the market but although they say, “The sun comes out tomorrow, in reality it really doesn’t always come out tomorrow…... sometimes it stays cloudy for days so you can’t count on this type of power either.
Here’s an additional observation…. Am I the only one who finds it amusing that all those weather reports from the media originate from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration http://www.noaa.gov which is commonly referred to by its initials (NOAA) because everyone knows that government agencies names are way too long. (We could save money and time by just shortening their names) The initials, NOAA, are phonetically pronounced as “Noah”….. Remember that guy with the same name in the bible who survived a heck of a big hurricane? He didn’t have any store to buy supplies from… had to build his own boat and live without power for forty days and forty nights and on a boat with not just his family but lots of animals. Think about his cabin fever…. Not to mention the cleanup with all those animals! Of course his power source was a lot more powerful than anything you’d find at Radio Shack these days.
But floating back to the present…… All those wonderful rechargeable devices are no good if you don’t have enough outlets to use to charge them. There are the flashlights and lanterns and radios to charge and each person’s individual cell phones and GPSs. This leads to more cords to trip over than those Christmas tree lights provided you can find an outlet to use.
One important item that needed no charging was a whistle which could be used to locate us in the event of an emergency (like if I opened the closet door and so much stuff fell on me that no one could find me). Whistles really were the first global positioning devices... But I had to get rid of the whistle because after seeing it, I think my of husband’s expanded definition of an emergency included wanting someone to get him a sandwich from the refrigerator …..which we aren’t supposed to open in a power outage anyway.
I did learn that it is important to get familiar with an Item’s shelf life. We had the FDAs recommendations http://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ucm077023.htm on how long food keeps in an refrigerator /freezer in a power outage and knowing that the food in the refrigerator section spoils much faster than food in the freezer, we spent some time eating our way through that part of the refrigerator. We had some interesting snacks while trying to eat up all the perishables before they spoiled. …. I’m not too sure how healthy this was. (And all this was just in anticipation of a power outage) As for the canned food, we did score a few coupons by calling companies and asking how long their food could be safely eaten. (What’s the difference between the ‘best ‘date and the “sell by” date and the “use by” date on all those cans? And what about the cans without any dates but with just a bunch of numbers on the bottom of the can? I’m still not sure about these and neither were some of the companies we called.) We ended up resorting to that tried but true advice….”When in doubt, throw it out”.
Then there was the strangest advice of all… Fill up your bathtub.. I mean I’m an adult and no one has to tell me when to take a bath and I sure am not drinking out of any bathtub even if it’s bathtub gin. Of course later I found out this had to do with conserving water in order to flush the toilet ….. if the water system pumps don’t have electricity to power them we’d have no water in the toilets, at least I think that’s how it goes. So we did go ahead and fill the tub but I couldn’t help thinking about our lucky neighbors with all the water in their swimming pools. They had enough water for a million and one flushes.
It was while filling the bathtub, I learned that something very sinister was going on in my bathroom…. an unknown stranger had sneaked into my house, taken a bath , and then left … taking with him only one sock from a matching pair. I’m sure of this because every time that I filled the bathtub, the next day the water was almost gone. It wasn’t until later I learned that most bathtubs have a slow leak but that still doesn’t explain all those socks missing from the dryer .
While all this hurricane preparation was helpful, there was and still is the much bigger parallel of how hurricanes and politics are related especially when it comes to elections. It’s obvious that hurricanes can prevent people from voting by making it impossible to travel to voting stations or even using voting machines if there’s a power outage. But that would affect all parties equally. Putting politics aside for just this sentence, most reasonable folks would agree that our President does care and wants to help those in distress from Sandy. But there are subtle messages that are being sent to the public as a result of Hurricane Sandy’s destruction. The pictures of him “taking command” by visiting some of the hard hit areas send powerful messages which may cause those still undecided voters to vote for him. On the other hand, the television interviews of hundreds of people still in need and suffering from the hurricane’s aftermath present a picture of a government system that is broken and needs to be fixed perhaps by electing someone new. One view cancels out the other but one or two of these “pictures really is worth a million campaign promises or words.”
As awful as it was, the timing of Hurricane Sandy was right on target at least from a literary sense. Many writers, including Shakespeare, used ominous weather to symbolize a crisis or internal struggle going on in a character's life or that of his country. If there was ever at time that there was a struggle going on in a country (or across dining room tables all over America) it is now. Emotions run high and friendships can be seriously tested. We often accuse politicians of being undecided and going “whichever way the wind blows” (very descriptive considering the comparison) depending on who they are trying to win over , but we the public seem to have formed our own very definite opinions .
And never in my life has my opinion mattered so much. I am so popular…. Everyone is calling me! Some lady named Ellen calls me at least three times a day , Rob Sobhani and his friends, ( think their names are Scott and Liz) call (although now that I think about it, when I try to get a word in edgewise, they don’t listen just keep son talking…. Could it possibly be a recorded message?) Why just a few minutes ago, even Governor Huckabee called me!
Real people call me too and they want to hear what I have to say. Some organization on my caller ID named "Opinion Poll" calls and asks me what I think of the voter questions and who I’m going to vote for and do I trust a particular newspaper (that shall remain nameless) …..which is obviously conducting this poll although not too secretly. I haven’t had anyone this interested in my opinions since my last “first date”…. a very long time ago.
Just like hurricanes, we get stirred up a lot. It’s going to be a very close race. So close that I think that Barack Obama picked a terrible time to quit smoking. In fact I wonder if he really did quit like the news reported several months ago or if he’s become a “secret smoker” like so many. You know the kind…. he knows smoking is bad for himself and anyone who happens to be in the room so he keeps it a secret. If the President does still smoke, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t smoke in the White House…. (It would probably become the “beige house” with all the nicotine stains on the walls.) Since it is not socially acceptable to smoke, I’m guessing that he “cheat smokes” …. says he has quit but hasn’t. You can see evidence of this if you yourself are a smoker and happen to notice that the pack of cigarettes you left on the table holds one or two less cigarettes less than you had thought. The cheat smoker knows what he is doing is wrong and shouldn’t lie about his habit but is ashamed and so goes to extremes to avoid being discovered. He often goes outside to smoke where no one can smell it and resorts to hiding behind a tree out of his neighbor’s view or he may get in his car and ride around with the windows down to keep the smell of smoke off his clothes and out of the car. It remains his secret; however if you are the President of the United States, these little devious plots aren’t so easy to pull off on your own. It becomes a tough secret to keep… tougher than maybe even Watergate or Monicagate.
If the President still smokes, I ‘m betting that the Secret Service is in on it. Being the President, it would be kind of hard to sneak a smoke without them knowing…. And given their name, they should be able to keep his secret. He probably has even bummed a cigarette or two off one of them. It’s pure speculation on my part but with this election looming ahead and throwing in the complications of hurricane Sandy, I’m betting he may even be up to half a pack a day by now. He probably started right after that first debate. …..Notice how he did considerably better at the second debate? Ever wonder why? And with his wife on her obesity kick, there’s no gooey food to substitute for a cigarette.
Picture this…. It’s late and all is quiet in the White House. With collaboration from his protectors, the Secret Service, he announces to Michelle that he has to leave for an important meeting at an undisclosed location. He is whisked off in his limousine and with all the windows down, he lights up. Before returning, he is sprayed generously with Febreze And as always, there is a scented dryer sheet in his pocket for added insurance. "Does he or doesn’t he?” Only his dentist knows for sure.
If there was ever a time for him to take up old habits like smoking, it is now. But someday, the truth will come out. Because … eventually whether it’s in January 2013 or four years from that date, there will be a new President in the White House. And if by chance there is a national emergency and this new President and his staff have to quickly evacuate, they will be whisked away through those mysterious underground secret tunnels that run beneath the White House. While they are being hurriedly escorted out of harm’s way through the corridors leading to the President’s Emergency Operations Center below, they will probably take note of their surroundings. Should they happen to glance down, they may very well stumble onto the secrets of one President’s past……Because along with the legacy of being the first African American president, there is something else he probably forgot all about and left behind. There, scattered on the ground, may be butts….. hundreds of cigarette butts .....long forgotten evidence of having lived through some challenging and difficult times.