On Monday night, Hurricane Sandy blew through my social media newstream. First people were cooking and preparing for the somewhat unimaginable and then they were sharing reports of the approaching storm, then signing off because the lights were flickering. And then they were gone.
Behind the silence are the stories, a million pieces of experience, that could be expressed, but which won’t be, or only partially, mostly dammed up or shared with random strangers. You are speaking to the people you see face to face, people in your building who have information to share. I am feeling the actual geographical distance.
We see people from school as we trick or treat. Life here is normal. The voices are local. What do you hear from New York? One pip here: cold in New Jersey; another: bored in the Lower East Side; what was that noise? in Greenwich Village; a lot of stairs to climb and a long walk in the dark in Chelsea.
And when the power is restored, the heat back on, toilets flushing, hot water running, the voices will come running back like water out of tunnels, drained, dry land, conversation again with people who aren’t here.
Before the storm hit, the radio ran interviews with people preparing. A young mother in Brooklyn Heights who was stocking up on DVDs to watch with her child on the 9th floor. Obviously not factoring in the possibility of a power outage. “Oh, we’ll be fine, we live on the 9th floor.” Or water pressure, or elevators. Or the fact that it was going to be more than one night without the subway.
It is hard for all of us to imagine consequences of any kind. It’s a human thing. But then once something happens it’s hard to stop from spinning it out to a worst case scenario with looting and zombies. For a while afterwards, you make sure that you are fully stocked up on cash and pet food and medicine and your radio has batteries, but one day you don’t have time to go to the ATM and you spend the emergency money. You’ll always have something to hand when there is an emergency, but you won’t have everything.
Once you have gotten your life and your apartment back to normal, caught up on work and laundry, I would love to hear what it was like. Because the thing that makes your story interesting is the thing you didn’t plan for, which for most of you might have been all of it.