The difference between Tuesday’s earthquake and two-hours-from-now’s Hurricane Irene is that the great quake of the East Coast was so surprising. In fact, according to the Telegraph, immediately following the earthquake, Twitter reported a record 5,500 tweets per second. Earthquakes of the geological sort are not very common in Washington, DC. But you know, neither are hurricanes in New York City.
Hurricane Irene RSVPed to the party, like last week. Rarely do disasters give us so much warning. She let us know that she was coming, and that she’s wearing her finest dress. She might be a little tired by the time that she gets here after stopping over for a spell in the Bahamas. But she will get here. I know because I have been obsessively stalking the Hurricane Tracker.
The Hurricane Tracker is for severe-weather enthusiasts what the Santa tracker is for small children. The Hurricane Tracker allows us to adequately prepare (read: panic). Unlike the earthquake, whose sudden arrival and departure left us all with a surge of useless adrenaline, tracking the hurricane is an exercise in building and sustaining the anticipation. Mostly this means that people flock to the store for the “essentials.” In order of importance: water, batteries, bread, milk, flashlights, candles.
In an effort to hone my journalistic skills, I bravely took to a suburban Pennsylvania Target last night to appraise pre-disaster American human behavior.
The first thing that I noticed was that there was nothing but sparkling water. A frustrated Target employee: (ring ring) “We are SOLD OUT of bottled water.” (hang up) (ring ring) “We are SOLD OUT of bottled water.”
Bread – the staple of snowstorms proved that it is very much in vogue pre-hurricane too.
Somewhat puzzling since every government talking head is pretty much telling us that we will lose power. Good luck drinking your gallons of milk before then.
Lucky day – there was still enough peanut butter and Nutella left for me! Overheard in this aisle: “Get me a jar of apocalypse peanut butter!”
You’d have more luck finding a candle than a flashlight. Unless you want the last $39 flashlight.
But good luck powering your flashlights as there were no D-batteries to be found.
What? No one needs fresh breath?
Or extra wind?
Much to the admonishment (“Yeah, Amanda, it’s going to be really fun when you don’t have running water”) of my coworkers, I sort of love Hurricane Irene, even though I’ve experienced the full gamut of emotions that comes when at first you don’t think something is going to be a big deal to the day-later realization that holy shit you don’t have any non-perishable food in your apartment that doesn’t need to be cooked. All the while I had been not-so-quietly rooting for Philadelphia’s destruction (personal grudge) I was seeming to forget that IF all the power went out and IF the water stopped running and IF all the stores shut down, my occupation would change from marketer to LOOTER. My trip to Target somewhat quelled my fears:
As a modern-day city dweller, I am wholly dependent on other people to live – even the people at the corner store who sell me milk when I’m too poor to eat anything other than cereal for dinner. (Note: I am too proud to buy milk the day before a blizzard or hurricane. I’m using the excuse that the power is going to go anyway.) Somewhere between being told to fill up my bathtub with water (see: comment made by my coworker) and to get ready to use my mattress as a shield against high winds, I realized that the Hurricane Tracker is just a count-down clock to a personal survival test. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I have thought that this might be my Tommy Lee Jones in Volcano moment.
Bunkered down in my apartment in this relative calm-before-the-storm with my bounty of crackers and peanut butter, there’s nothing left for me to do but wait and take comfort that there’s nothing I nor anyone else can do to stop it.