We are fine, darlings. All is well here in the place formerly known as Roxie’s World. We spent most of yesterday sitting around waiting for the power to go out, because it does “every time a butterfly flaps its wings,” as the Woman Formerly Known as Goose quipped this morning. Incredibly, it did not, despite fierce winds and relentless, driving rains. We had dutifully cleaned out gutters and set out candles and checked flashlight batteries and even cooked up a batch of chili that we were prepared to live on through days of grim, sad darkness. I filled my Facebook feed with jokes about getting ready to start killing neighbors as soon as the lights went out, because that’s what I’ve learned about how to survive a power outage from NBC’s utterly ridiculous Revolution. (Yes, I do hereby declare it ridiculous. I kept watching, hoping the show would get less gory and more political, but the bodies keep piling up and the story, such as it is, isn’t especially compelling. So far, Revolution, you are no Hunger Games and certainly no Homeland. Call me if you ever get past the whole Lord of the Flies thing.)
So, we were lucky. The lights stayed on. The neighbors are all, so far as we know, alive. If the chili gets eaten by candlelight, it will be because we are feeling romantic. We can go back to worrying about the election and the fact that, according to one new poll, our humanity has suffered a setback and may lose next week in Turtle Country. (Our humanity fares better in another poll, but it’s suddenly hard to feel confident that marriage equality will win anywhere, despite recent gains in support.) We can go back to work. The university will reopen tomorrow. Syllabi will be modestly adjusted, deadlines slightly extended. We can laugh lightly in the hallway with colleagues over how rain days are just like snow days, without the shoveling. We can make a quick trip to the store to stock up not on bottled water but on treats for Halloween.
Others, of course, will not have those luxuries, will not return so quickly and easily to anything like their normal, pre-Sandy lives. The news and images coming out of New York and New Jersey are devastating. My Facebook feed today is full of anxious queries and brief reports: How are you? . . . . I’m trying to reach my parents . . . . Lights out in Jersey City . . . . No latte in my neighborhood bodega . . . . Come see us if you need power or a shower . . . . Post-hurricane rainbow, as seen from my balcony in Brooklyn . . . .
You can see that lovely rainbow here, along with Tenured Radical’s eloquent analysis of how helpful Twitter was for those living through the disaster unfolding in New York. TR is right. Twitter can’t be beat for real-time sharing of information in moments of crisis. Facebook, as my string of quotes and paraphrases above suggests, is better for making more personal connections, sharing feelings, carrying on conversations. And so the Hurricane Sandy story is, like all storm stories, a tale of disparate impacts and the vagaries of weather, but it is also, like so many large-scale events of the twenty-first century, a tale of disparate social media — of what we use when, how, and why and how we are used by them; of how having such tools changes our experience of such events by shrinking distances and giving us access to stories traditional media might miss. The cliches of techno-culture are validated in such moments: We are all reporters, producers, and broadcasters, as long as our smart phones don’t get swept away in the flood and we can manage to transmit data.
Really, though, the Sandy story is the oldest story in the book: Humans are social animals. We crave connection and will find it, in raging storms and seas of tranquility, by whatever means are available to us. Including public pay phones, which, apparently, still exist. I know: Who knew?
Wherever you are, I hope you are warm, safe, dry, and connected. Feel free to tell us your storm stories or to weigh in on the whole Twitter v. Facebook debate, unless you don’t use either of them, in which case you are not allowed to have an opinion. (Looking at you, PhysioProffe. Be nice.) Peace out.