Governor Cuomo directed the public transport to shut down, and as I write this, the last train has gone by my window. For how long? Nobody knows.
I’ve thought about disaster preparations, and always been stymied by the thought: what am I preparing for? I’m worried that, in the longer term, the economy will become unglued, with shortages and widespread power failures and civil unrest and God knows what else. How do I prepare for that? If I arm myself to protect my property, isn’t that a lost cause to begin with? (Besides the fact that getting a pistol permit for one’s house in NYC is genuinely difficult.)
But what I’m preparing for this time is much simpler. I expect that my family and I will be stuck in the house until Wednesday. I don’t expect damage to my apartment: I live in a stout concrete building. I don’t expect flooding to affect the building, although there probably will be street flooding nearby. Cable TV is the most likely utility to fail, although it held up when Irene hit last year. A power failure is possible, but unlikely. Water or gas failure is implausible. (New York City’s water is delivered by gravity, and restarting the gas after it had been shut off would be such a major production that it would take something catastrophic to get it shut off in the first place.) The latest weather maps suggest a total of 4″ of rain in the city over two days: nothing the sewers haven’t handled before, so I don’t expect trouble there.
My wife and I went to the supermarket to pick up some final items. The store was busy for a Sunday, but mostly normal. The shelves were being restocked, and we were able to find what we were looking for.
I get ham sandwiches from a local deli for lunch. They have about twice as much meat as usual. Like me, they’re expecting not to do business for a few days.
“We need water,” my wife remarked. We have a case and a half on hand, but I’ll let her exercise her paranoia. The Lowe’s sells cases of water for $4. She also wanted some garden items for her house plants.
Heading back from the Lowe’s, I was buttonholed by Steve the barber. He has a tiny shop on Ninth Street that doesn’t get much business because the subway station nearby has been closed since March. I’ve been running around like a maniac these last few months, and haven’t had time to go for a haircut.
“Do you think it’s the end of the world?” he asked me while clipping.
“If it’s really the end of the world, do you think I’d bother with a haircut?”
No, the world is not a more dangerous place than it was 15 years ago. We’ve just been led to believe that it is. And if this turns out to be the end of the world, or the end of New York City, at least I’m looking sharp for the occasion.
I was going to write about how we’ve wimped out: can we expect now that every storm will come with a state of emergency and a subway shutdown? But after dinner, I find a Web site with an ’emergency preparedness checklist for perfect storm Hurricane Sandy.’ By the standard of the list, I’ve failed miserably. I have nowhere near enough food or water stored; I haven’t boosted my intake of superfoods, immune-boosting herbs and nutritional supplements; and I have no way to defend the house against the marauding hordes that will come if there is an extended power failure.
Well, we shall see….