This has been a strange week. It began with a 5.9 earthquake which caught me by surprise because I didn’t think they had earthquakes here in Maryland. When our house began to shake, I grabbed the girls and ran outside.
There were waves in our pool. Ella said, “Look, a little tsunami!”
Now we are waiting for Hurricane Irene, who rudely arrives at our house this afternoon and plans to stay overnight whether we want her to, or not.
We were scheduled to leave for our first East Coast beach vacation this weekend. We had chosen Ocean City – which was ordered to evacuate yesterday. I couldn’t believe I managed to schedule our vacation to coincide perfectly, almost down to the hour, with the arrival of Irene.
My husband works
all the time so it was up to me to prepare for the hurricane. I have no idea what this means, so I Googled “how to prepare for a hurricane” and learned that I need to buy:
– flashlights (because naturally, our kids have dismantled ours)
– battery-operated or crank-up radio
– non-perishable foods
We are not the kind of people who would go on Survivor and bring our own Swiss army knives. We are the kind who would book into a hotel and order room service until it was over.
Home Depot was out of flashlights, of course. I stood with a group of last-minute-losers-who-would-be-kicked-off-Survivor-on-the-first-episode. We were all in front of the flashlight display, staring at it. There was a grabby vibe at Home Depot, and it was pretty contagious. One person reached for one of the miniature keychain flashlights, so I grabbed one. Someone picked up one of the ridiculous headlamps, the kind miners wear on their helmets, so I grabbed one of those, too, along with a handful of idiotic flashlights that nobody else would buy because they’re too small and don’t really work.
Then I wandered over to the kitchen display to admire the marble tile and remembered that I was supposed to be preparing for the worst – so I loaded 20 gallons of water and some paper towels into my cart. I’m not really sure what I intend to do with the paper towels but they might come in handy soaking up several feet of water, should the roof blow off or something. I don’t really know.
I went over to the indoor plants area, and thought about buying a potted fern – but then recognized that a fern would be of no help to anyone in the oncoming disaster. I grabbed a “200 Pack” of daffodil bulbs. In the patio area, I made a mental note to myself to take down our patio umbrella, in case it should become airborne and impale my husband, who still hasn’t taken down the Christmas lights, and is probably going to be crouched in a corner, rocking back and forth without his cell phone and Internet connection.
I watched the other people in the store methodically get their supplies. It looked like everybody knew what to get. One man bought a small shovel, so I did too. I had no idea what to get.
On my way out, a man and a woman were demanding to know where the flashlights were – knowing full well they were sold out and that, like me, they were last-minute-losers who should not be taking out their angst on a defenseless clerk.
Clerk: “We’re expecting a shipment of flashlights tomorrow.
Man: “But it’ll be dark, tomorrow!”
At that moment I could imagine how easy it is to start and become part of a mob, even if you live in the suburbs, when there is limited supply of say, Christian Laboutins. The man stormed off. I panicked then. Like everybody else, he seemed to know what to do and what to be pissed off about but I was in my usual fog, wondering.
Once, some years ago, my friend Derval came with me to Safeway to shop for Thanksgiving dinner. Before that I had no idea I was an aimless zig-zagger – going from Aisle 1, produce, over to Aisle 13, cake mixes, then back to Aisle 1 again – until after we had completed our shopping and Derval sat down on a bench, heaving, saying she wanted Xanax.
Her: “Most people go from the first aisle to the last aisle, but you! You are like a Hare Krishna – hopping all over the place.”
After that I began forcing myself to meticulously start at produce and move in an orderly fashion from Aisle 1 to Aisle 23, ending in the deli area.
I left Home Depot (carrying a potted fern, by the way) to go to Safeway. In the car, NPR was doing a story about the famine in Ethiopia – interviewing moms whose children were dying of starvation. Talking about how 30,000 children and babies have died of it in the last 3 months. I thought to myself: That’s a disaster you cannot prepare yourself for. This is just a storm.
In aisle 16 of Safeway (which I got to after aisle 15) there was another group of last-minute-losers demanding to know where the flashlights were. These were suburbanites who you would think ought to know better than to bully a teenaged stocker.
Clerk: “I’m pretty sure they are supposed to be in aisle 17.”
Woman: “They’re not in 17 I’ve just been there! He’s just putting us off – they’re out!”
Her grocery cart was full. I thought of the mothers in the Horn of Africa, the 30,000 kids under 5, and what it must be like to watch your child starve to death. This is why I can’t seem to get through a grocery store like regular people – I’m always analyzing our society and going off on mental and emotional tangents.
I thought once again about how easy it would be for a riot to start up – anywhere, at any time. Even in the suburbs, at Safeway, with full grocery carts.
I bought almost $300 worth of stuff. Here’s a list of some of it:
- fresh salmon to grill (who’s going to use the outdoor grill in the storm??)
– ingredients for making a new recipe, fresh mango-cilantro salsa (WTF?!)
– stuff to make frozen chocolate covered bananas (I forgot popsicle sticks! I forgot that the freezer isn’t going to be working!)
– Windex (how is Windex going to help me in a g.d. hurricane?)
– approximately 2,000 AA batteries, I have no idea why.
– 6 Polly Pockets!
Let me explain about the Polly Pockets. By the time I got to the kids doohickies aisle I was threadbare from wondering what to get and how to behave in a disaster, and then I spotted the Polly Pockets. I had an urge to grab something and there were only six of them left at $2.99 each. My kids love Polly Pockets, and they’re so cute so I stood there for 5 minutes trying to choose between the green one or the orange one for Fiona and the little mermaid or the blonde one for Ella.
This is what I do, in the face of an impending disaster: I drop down into the myopic. Instead of focusing on something I can’t control (a hurricane, for example), I’ll get over-involved in whether to get the pink Polly, or the orange one.
I left the store and got into my car. I turned on NPR, and thanked God I am so lucky. I may have parental ADHD, and get overwhelmed in stores, but at least I have a store to go to. I have a roof over my head, and my children are nourished, healthy, and happy. We will weather this storm – and after I write this, I’m going to make a donation to help the moms in Ethiopia.
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