Friday, September 2, 2011

Crisis? What Crisis?

Did you know that when you’re on the beach, an earthquake feels kind of like somebody is shoving your chair in a rhythmic, pulsing sort of way? I didn’t. Of course, being from the east coast I never really had any occasion to learn about how earthquakes felt until last month, when we hit a trifecta of natural disasters.

I don’t think they’re going to let us go east for vacations anymore.

It is a very strange feeling, being on the beach for an earthquake. First you wonder why someone is doing that to your chair. Then – after careful observation and a commendable restraint regarding just yelling randomly for people to stop messing with your chair – you realize that nobody is touching your chair except you. You check – no, you are not messing with your own chair. Because you totally could, you know. But you’re not.

Then you decide that you must have lost your mind, which is something you’d think you’d have noticed before except that losing your mind pretty much implies that you would not notice having done so, since you’d need a mind to figure that out, so it is entirely possible that your little red choochoo has gone chugging around the bend even as you truly believe you are safe and sound in Sanity Station and it is everyone else who has the problem. This explains a great deal of what passes for politics these days.

Having ascertained that you are at least as sane as you were the day before, you then look around and see that everyone around you is going through the same process, and you decide that – there being no screening of Twilight 9: Vampires on Ice! on the beach just right then – the odds of mass psychosis at that very moment are exceedingly slim and Occam’s Razor says you should find another answer.

At that point, your smartphone-enabled relatives announce that yes, indeed, that was an earthquake. And suddenly you’ve got a whole new list of things to think about.

The solution to the problem just changes the problem.

Now you do some quick math and realize that, well, there you are. There is no particular point to trying to evacuate, as there is nowhere you could possibly go in any reasonable amount of time that would provide any safety. Those islands on the Jersey shore are flat – the highest elevation on them is usually the pitcher’s mound at the school playground – and the ways in and out can be counted on the fingers of one hand. And so you reach into the cooler, grab a frosty root beer (alcoholic beverages not being permitted on the beaches of Cape May, NJ) and gaze out to sea on the chance that you might spot any incoming tsunami rising up out of the deeps and thus experience it with full foreknowledge.

What, me worry?

I realize that people on the west coast are shaking their heads at this – though whether for my cavalier attitude toward earthquake and tsunami safety procedures or my thinking that a 5.9 quake is worth writing about at all depends on who is reading – but what can I say? It was a novel experience.

And then the hurricane hit.

I had just dropped Kim off at the Atlantic City airport, since her job required her to cut her vacation short, when I returned back to the house we had rented in Cape May to find everything except my own stuff already packed and waiting to be loaded into the various cars we had converged there within. Apparently everybody’s vacation was required to be cut short. So I threw my stuff together, tetrissed everything into our car, including the children, and sped off for the Philadelphia suburbs to ride out the storm.

The mandatory evacuation order went into effect at 8am the next morning, so it turned out to be a good move for us to leave early.

The storm hit us Saturday, and except for a 14-hour power outage (mostly during sleeping hours anyway) and the toppling of a neighbor’s massive tree, we escaped without any particular impact. Even the neighbor did well – a professional lumberjack couldn’t have put that tree down in a spot that would have caused less damage. So as far as Hurricane Irene was concerned, our war stories were a complete bust – and that is good. I know a lot of people have complained that the hype and particularly the evacuations were overkill, but you know – no. They were exactly proper.

People who don’t live on the coasts don’t really understand hurricanes. They think they’re just big thunderstorms. Do you know what a Category 4 hurricane is? It’s an F-2 tornado that’s a hundred miles wide, that’s what it is. Look it up – the sustained windspeeds match. So even a Category 2 like Irene (an F-1 on the tornado scale) is not something you want to mess with. Be glad we escaped without the catastrophic damage officials were warning us about, and be quiet.

The third leg of the trifecta was actually on the ride out, when we drove into Pittsburgh completely oblivious to the flash flooding that was taking place mere miles from where we were driving. All we saw was a mild downpour.

And that’s just fine.

Aside from all that, though, it was an awesome trip.


beatrice in Paris said...

Ouch! Somebody who knows what Occam's Razor is. Simple, isn't it?

David said...

Ouch indeed. :)