Friday, August 26, 2011

Come on, Irene

Eleven years ago I experienced my first taste of worldwide pandemonium in the days leading up to the anticipated Y2K disaster. Do you guys remember that?  How scientists and analysts and mainly the news media were convinced that our computers would all freak out and the world would revert to chaos, cholera, and covered wagons?  I think even at the time, as 7th grader, I wasn't that worried about it.
The event came and went with a fizzle, and we all entered the new millenium unscathed.

That is, until months later while poking around in the garage for a bike helmet, I pulled back a tarp to reveal two, high density polyethylene tubs.  Peeling back one of the lids, I was floored to find them stocked full of cans of baked beans, space blankets, flares, jugs of water, yards of rope, a first aid-kit, flashlights, batteries... basically all the stuff that we'd been required as children to stuff into 1-gallon Ziplock bags and store at school in event of emergency.  We called them our "earthquake kits" but in retrospect, they might as well have been called, "panic kits" because in order to bust into those things... one would have to be in dire straits.  But right there in my own garage it appeared my dad had assembled one very real "earthquake kit".  As my dad can fairly be diagnosed with Everyday Hero Syndrome, this might not surprise you, but at the time, it surprised me:  this man was the pillar of logical and rational thought in my world.  If he had bought into the Y2K fear mongering to the extent that he'd been forward-thinking enough to be prepared, then who was I to argue that?  It shook me a bit.

Not enough to pay heed to any further doomsayers, however - we've survived multiple predicted raptures by now, and no tidal wave has wiped out the state of Oregon yet, so I really try not to buy into that stuff.  Which brings us to present day, in New York City.

I wake up late with the sun in my face to the alarm on my cell phone and a missed call from my Uncle Bob in Atlanta.  I figure it is his second attempt at trying to get ahold of me to wish me a happy birthday and don't listen to his voicemail until I am out the door on my way to the bus, so I'm a little surprised when his message is, essentially, "there is talk of evacuating the island of Manhattan, let me buy you a plane ticket to come down and stay with us here in Atlanta."

And for the first time in my life, I start to worry about a naturally occurring predicted catastrophe.
It doesn't help that one of my best friends/neighbor/co-worker Katie LOVES The Weather Channel and can pretty much recite to you the ten-day weather forecast at any given moment, which she does on the bus on the way to work. 

Once at the office, there is a sort of low-level murmur about the news - each of us speculating and asking aloud what everyone else is planning to do.  Mason declares the entire news media to be "full of shit" and predicts that this whole storm is going to be a "kittycat meow-fest".  But a growing kernel of intuitive doubt starts to grow inside me as I scan news websites and read the texts and emails that are coming in, all tinged with a bit of lighthearted snarky New York attitude.

One article tells me to"fill my bathtub to the brim with water", in case we need to use it for water pressure in the toilet tank.  Um, sorry: my bathtub is gross.  Who takes baths in New York?  Our tub looks like a slightly tamer version of the one in Buffalo Bill's basement.

A comparative t-chart starts circulating on Facebook:
A co-worker sends a link to an article on the psyches of people who refuse to evacuate impending natural disasters.  I note that there are two categories missing: Stubborn New Yorkers, and Those Of Us Who Are Lazy.
I think I fall somewhere in the middle as I have made no moves to flee to Atlanta... but all of a sudden, I make up my mind:  As a single young woman living in one of the most intense cities in the world, I would rather be prepared than not.  I drop whatever I am doing at my desk and march down to the pharmacy in our building to "buy supplies."

What, exactly, I am preparing for starts to get a little hazy.  From the looks of my rapidly filling basket it could either be
a) a camping trip (deck of cards, beef jerky)  -or-

b) a "let's stay inside and get baked" college party (pack of lighters, scented candles, brownie mix)

I find myself in the canned food aisle with a similarly dressed Midtown Manhattan professional.  We stand, heads cocked, quizzically scanning the labels for anything that doesn't look like dog food.

"I wonder if I even have a can opener in my kitchen...?" she muses.

They are already sold out of flashlights.  I buy batteries anyway for a flashlight I don't have- honestly because I think subconsciously, "hmm. valuable for trade and barter."

$89 later I am back in the office.  I anticipate my arrival will be met with good-natured teasing.  It's not: it invokes an air of fear.
"Were there any candles left?"
"Did you see if they had any coolers?  I think I need a cooler."

I accompany some sellers on a client lunch and at this point, Irene is the only thing I can think about.  My adrenaline is rushing. I am making mental lists in my head.
I totally freak out our clients - 4 young women also living in Manhattan, away from their parents for the first time.
They start to make lists.
We all start to get email alerts on our phones:  "MTA to shut down all public transportation Saturday at noon!"  "No trains will be running!" "Evacuation and anticipated flood zone map"

When we say goodbye after lunch, we all nervously laugh and wish one another a safe weekend. "See you on the other side! Ha ha."

On the way back to the office, I stop by an ATM to withdraw some cash- it's out of service.  I immediately assume that means it's already out of cash, and walk a block to the next one, quickening my pace.  I withdraw a large wad of $20s and surreptitiously stuff them into my wallet and return to work where I find it very hard to concentrate.
I keep humming the few bars I know of  that one song that goes, "Here I am!/ ROCK ME LIKE A HURRICANE" and am embarrassed that it is literally all I can think about.

So okay, let's be logical about this: what's the worst thing that can happen?  We lose power and have to read and play games and sleep and generally unplug for a while?  Totally fine. Fun, even.

Winds get crazy and knock out one of our windows?  Unfortunate, sure, but, not life threatening.

But you want to know what really scares me, though?  What's really got me worried?

The people.
Specifically, the neurotic, power-hungry, narcissistic people among whom I currently live everyday on this island, except now, IN PANIC MODE.

The post-Katrina looting in New Orleans, a bastion of Southern Hospitality, was bad?  Lets see what happens when an 86 year old Jewish woman and a cab driver from Calcutta go head to head over a can of beans at the Fairway on 86th street.

Dennis Hopper in Waterworld will look like a "kittycat meow-fest" compared to the characters who are going to come out of the woodwork here when Irene unleashes her PMS all over this city (hint: probably closer to Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet).  She's going to bring the bitchslap, but New Yorkers are going to get their claws out and it is not going to be pretty.

All we can do now is sit, and wait, and hope to God that come Monday, this was another Y2K.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go home to clean the bathtub.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Rash of Untimely Male Deaths Make Women Feel Better About Themselves

(New York) In an unsettling turn of events, young men in New York City are disappearing.

"They're dropping like flies, out there!" Laura H., Assistant Technical Designer, lamented with a hint a panic in her voice.  Laura moved to Manhattan about a year ago, and lives on the Upper East Side with two other young women in their twenties, whose attentions are similarly held rapt by these bewildering disappearances.

According to the 2010 Census, there are 8,175,133 people living in the city of New York.  Of that, 1,585,873 live in Manhattan, so this publication is confident in assuming that about 50% of that number, 793,000 are male.
But the figure is rapidly decreasing.  Mayor Bloomberg was not available for comment, but it's clear that city officials are mystified by this development, and have no clues as to where these men have gone.

But ask any young woman, and she will tell you with no reservations where their counterparts are:
they're dead.

"Oh, he died. Absolutely. No question," Jessica S., Assistant Merchandiser at Saks 5th Avenue, says, with no trace of irony.  "I mean, it's really the only logical explanation.  I met Michael a few weeks ago, and we really hit it off.  We went to a Yankees game, he paid for everything - he texted me during the work week, said he wanted to see me over the weekend... things were really clicking.  He said-" she pauses, a glimmer in her eye.  "He said he 'really likes' me...and then... it was like, he vanished into thin air.  Nothing.  He was gone."

Jessica hasn't heard from Michael in eight days.  She assured us she enlisted her friends and roommates to patrol the internet to check on all lifelines.  There has been no movement on his Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, LinkedIn, or GooglePlus accounts. 

"He died." Jessica says resolutely. When questioned about proof, in the form of say, an obituary, she dismisses it with a shake of her head. "Of course we checked.  Did we find anything?  No.  It's because they can't keep up with all the... disappearances.  It's happening all over the city.  I don't know a girl who HASN'T lost someone."

Amanda P., Assistant Media Planner, has been living in Murray Hill for a little over a year, and confirms the startling trend.  She met Chris O'Shaunnesey last month at a pub crawl in the East Village, and the two started dating. "We had this really great connection," she says wistfully. "Like, he checked all the boxes, you know?  We both don't like mushrooms, his dad works in real estate just like my dad...we both LOVE Bon Iver... you know. Like, the real stuff.  Anyway, we were hanging out like, once a week - getting a drink after work, meeting up on the weekends with our friends, and he was so sweet."

Then, tragedy struck.

"We made plans - like, actual SET plans - to go to Long Beach one Saturday.  He texted me the Thursday before saying how excited he was to get to spend time with me, and that 'work had been crazy' and so he was looking forward to it... by Friday night I hadn't heard from him and he hadn't responded to my last text, so I called him, and..nothing. I got his voicemail.  Still no word from him by Saturday, so I went to the train station anyway, thinking maybe he'd like, lost his phone. Or something."
Amanda sat at the station until 1:45 PM when she finally realized that something was wrong.
"And then it hit me.  He totally died.  That was really the only explanation."

Respected Manhattan institution of research on dating and relationships, HBO Series Sex and the City, brought this issue to the forefront with the episode "Frenemies" (2000) wherein Miranda is stood up on a date.  She calls his home number to give him what-for and finds out that he has, in fact, died.
In what should have been cited as the singular most damaging influence on young women possibly ever, ahead of beef hormones and Bratz dolls, this episode has come to life, in the minds of the maidens of Manhattan.

"This phenomenon has really opened  my eyes, and given me some perspective," says Kate M. who works as a Jr. Financial Analyst. "I mean, I now believe in ghosts.  This guy Kyle I was seeing... I was pretty sure he was The One, you know?  And after like, our fourth date, he just dropped off the face of the earth.  I took his passing pretty hard, but, found comfort a few weeks later knowing he was still here," she says, hand pressed emphatically to her heart.  "It was the craziest thing, but I could have sworn I saw him at a Cafe Metro on Lexington the other day, near where his office was.  This tall blonde guy came in alone around lunch time, and I was like, 'Ohmigosh! It's him!' but then I remembered, obvi, that it COULDN'T be.  So, it's just nice to know that like, he's okay, and-" with a sad smile, she says, " And I'm gonna be okay."

With that kind of self-confidence, we have no doubt that she will, in fact, be okay.