Disclaimer: I wrote most of this on Wednesday when local hysteria started to metastasize. Some of this blog is written tongue-in-cheek as I am not trying to offend mother nature nor those who cower before her right now. I do, however, believe the events of the last few days provide ample satirical material, not to mention, have given literary hacks like me a tiny bit more time to vent. Enjoy.
I am not a big worrier.
I mean I worry about the fate of my favorite sports teams and whether my students know how to properly use the semi-colon, but not so much of a worrier in the clinical sense of the word.
Maybe I should be. A little more egg shell walking not to mention healthy distrust might have saved me a lot of agony.
But I live in the world’s largest open-air health spa, the Shangri-La known as Miami, where today it was 88 degrees and sunny, without the normal late summer humidity, low winds and tide, and an unexpected paid day off from work, actually two.
To pervert a famous line from an eighty’s song “The near future is so bright, I gotta wear shades”.
Yet there is an eerie, Armageddon-like feeling in the South Florida, something akin to a combination of the second coming, the buildup to Y2K, and the film Independence Day.
So as all the hullaballoo surrounding Hurricane Irma has picked up the same kind of momentum as Hurricane Harvey approached southern Texas, I have been experiencing the same reaction that I have each of the last twelve years when the mother of all hurricanes has been advertised to hit S. Florida:
“Damn, I sure hope I don’t lose wifi for too long. Oh that, and I hope this doesn’t disrupt my scheduled Saturday morning tennis match.”
Perhaps this is incredibly insensitive and blithe of me to admit, but that is pretty much the extent of my worrying. I have always joked with my students that hurricanes are ” all mental”, and my scientifically challenged mind aside, I’m starting to think that I wasn’t being entirely facetious.
This is not to underestimate mother nature. I’ve read enough to know that nature usually has the upper hand in the existential struggle of man versus nature. Even my own mother wields a lot of power me and her only real force of nature is loud sneezing and chronic gas. But I am taking the attitude that in 99.9% of all circumstances, hurricanes hold as much power over us as we let them.
But I am a seeing is believing kind of guy. So until some local reporter standing on the beach loses his glasses and umbrella telling the locals to entirely stay off the beach, in fact not even say the word beach more than twice, to me my current predicament in South Florida is just another day in paradise. In fact, I am about to go play tennis.
The threats of hurricanes seem to bring out the best and the worst of Miamians. The best is the intrinsic sense of brotherly love and willingness to lend anyone, anywhere, any time, your machete. And yet the worst, and to me this is the biggest paradox of all considering how well-adjusted to hurricane management the locals should be, is that it ignites fear mechanisms that no act of gene splicing seems capable of fixing.
It’s as if Miamians wait the entire year for an opportunity to feel an ounce of bad luck, to feel that somehow they have to live like normal people do who trek through the snow to get to school or work, have their genitals go numb for an entire afternoon while skiing or skating, or have to spend an entire morning shoveling off their driveway and local sidewalk just to be able to walk the dog.
So with the threat of Irma, when the locals finally get an opportunity to feel a little taste of nature’s mood swings, the Miami mantra immediately shifts from “What is time? – Baby Don’t Rush Me, Don’t Rush Me, No More” to “Ready, Set, Panic”.
As I express my blithe attitude towards Irma, I am prepared for the familiar refrain when any hurricane skepticism is expressed: “Bro, you didn’t live through Andrew, did you?”
This is true.
I didn’t. I’m sure I would have moved back to Boston by now if I had. But I was here during Katrina and Wilma which I recall were a pain in the ass, especially as far as restoring power was concerned. But I suppose that even if I did live through Andrew, I would not be boarding up my house, putting all my prized possessions in storage nor planning the cannonball run to Maine this evening.
I just don’t get it. I, like everyone else, have endured power outages, food shortages, no shower water for a few days and flooded streets. But I didn’t feel like I had to teleport myself to another time zone much less buy enough water to bathe Shamu. Nor did I buy six weeks-worth of gas because if the hurricane does make landfall, the last thing I am going to do is drive anywhere.
Besides on the water side, if ever there was a time when water was not in short supply, chances are a hurricane is it.
My wife rightly asks me what is our plan B. The reality is drive to Orlando but my go to response is that since we live on the water, we can always go stay at my office which is right by the Flanigans on Bird Ave.
Today (Thursday) was 86 degrees and narry a cloud to speak of. Despite threats from N. Korea, a likely full rescinding of DACA and the pennant race is heating up along with the opening of football season. But the threat of Irma used up almost all of our socializing lung capacity.
To wrap up this existentially risky rant, I will close with a few generalizations about Miamians and the matrix in which they/we live. One, they love chaos or at least the appearance of it. Two, they need it and three, there is no group which buys into the mass marketing of fear with more zeal than the locals. They buy masses of lumber, chain saws, sandbags and other “survival” supplies with the same unconscious obsession that women flock to Nine West to buy highly discounted shoes during the Christmas holiday.
Tell a native he has to perform open heart surgery in half an hour and he will take a shower, shave, chat with the neighbor and have some coffee first. Tell them that a hurricane for which no one really knows the path, category or actual ability to do damage to hurricane resistant structures in four to five days, and within 7 minutes they will have roused themselves from a long-deserved sleep to wait for three hours on a Home Depot line to buy polyurethane wrap.
Despite my cynicism, I applaud those who sweated out long gas, food and supply lines, not to mention, took the five hours to board up their well landlocked homes. Your patience exceeds mine. I also admire your ability to bear the sun day in and day out.
As for me, I just like to call the fear mongering’s bluff once in awhile, or at least until an urgent need to take it at face value arises. Perhaps the joke is one me here and this is exactly the type of self-righteousness that makes mother nature flex her muscles.
But if this is the case, again I apologize and if you don’t mind bro, could I at least come over on Monday and borrow some of your wifi.