I moved to Washington, D.C. when I was 22 years old.
I know, I know, that was a long time ago.
I lived in a high-rise apartment building near the Pentagon when there was a gravel parking lot where the Pentagon City Mall now stands.
One winter morning, my roommate looked out the window and said, “Oh good! We don’t have to go to work today.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because of the snow!”
I looked out the window and saw a skiff of snow that barely covered the tips of the grass.
I thought she was kidding.
Then the office manager called to tell us the office was closed for the day because of the snowstorm.
It shocked me that the entire D.C. metropolitan area shut down because of a skiff of snow.
I thought about this last week as we experienced a 5.8 earthquake and it’s apparent 19 aftershocks followed by Hurricane Irene.
When Mother Nature even threatens to sneeze on the DC area, we do three things:
1. Rush to the grocery stores and buy emergency supplies, mostly milk, bread, and batteries.
We can’t help ourselves.
If the refrigerated milk case is empty, we suddenly must have milk no matter what. Forget that we might already have milk in the fridge, be lactose intolerant or never even drink milk. If there’s no milk, bread or batteries, we have to go find it, somewhere –anywhere. In preparation for the hurricane, people ended up shopping at Toys-R-Us for water and batteries because the grocery stores ran out of them.
2. Watch television nonstop.
Again, we can’t help ourselves. How many times do we need to hear that we might lose power and that we’ll have to be patient until the utility companies can get everything up and running again? We watch the same stories over and over until we have them memorized, but we can’t turn the TV off. We get terrible TV and media fatigue, but we cannot get up and turn the TV off unless of course we watch weather reports online or chat about it on Facebook. (I even became a tweeter because I could get information faster if I got tweets from FEMA, Ann Curry, and the local news stations.) I went from looking out the window to staring at the TV, then the computer, and my phone for endless hours. The anticipation of the storm was exhausting and ended up being worse than the storm itself.
3. We get cabin fever.
We miss our hectic lives. We feel like we absolutely must get back to our important duties.
We get anxious.
We can’t stand it anymore.
We have to get out.
We’re restless, bored, trapped, claustrophobic, and tired of schlepping around in our pajamas and sweats.
We want everything back to normal quickly.
It’s all a bit crazy.
Last winter when we had “snowmaggedon,” I went to Costco with the rest of the world and there were no carts.
No shopping carts at Costco.
The store was so packed there were not enough carts for all the shoppers who had to have their milk, bread, and batteries.
So after an earthquake and a hurricane in one short week, I shopped for the essentials, even though I already had them in the house. I watched way too much news. Now, like everybody else, I want things back to normal now.
I am completely consumed about whether I will be able to go to the beach for our planned vacation.
I have family flying into town and we planned on going to Hatteras Island on the Outer Banks.
Hurricane Irene washed out the road that leads to the island, and there is no power.
Nobody is going to the island for vacation.
Still, I visit the Hatteras Realty Facebook page several times a day to see if they have electricity yet, and whether the roads will be repaired in time for our vacation or if we can take a ferry to the island.
Someone posted, “The island has no power, no roads, a huge mess to clean up, and all you people can think about are your stupid vacations?”
And the real pity?
Check out Japan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya or right here at home, look at the damage in Vermont.
My beach vacation is trivial.
Doug had an epiphany one snowy morning while driving to work down the Clara Barton Parkway that runs along the Potomac River and the C&O Canal.
This is what he wrote about it:
“We just had a snowstorm that left an inch or two of snow and it was early enough in the morning that the snow was still sticking to every branch of the leafless trees. I was the only person on the road, and the glow of the morning light was just breaking through. It was beautiful. It was still. I was quiet. Serene was the best word I could come up with at the time.
In the midst of all this beauty I turned the radio on to get an updated weather report. What I heard slapped me out of the serenity of the moment. I heard radio announcers describing a war scene.
They talked about armies of trucks and plows attacking the snow on every street. They talked about emergency plans being activated. They talked about disruptions in flight schedules, and horrific traffic snarls and wreckage. They talked about hoards of people storming stores and cleaning out the shelves.
At that moment, in the midst of one of nature’s most beautiful displays, the war reports seemed so silly and so inappropriate. I wondered, ‘what are we doing? Why are we fighting so hard against something so beautiful? How did we get here?’
It seemed that we had completely cut all ties to the natural rhythms and cycles of nature and that we were actively fighting them – as if our ways were somehow better. In that moment, this was one war I hoped we’d lose. I wondered why we couldn’t just ‘go with it’ and enjoy the unexpected break in our routines. But there were meetings to hold, flights to catch, movies to see, places to go, things to do so, the battle was on.
I made it to my office that day, had a normal day at work, and then drove home. On the way home I drove on plowed and sanded streets and traffic again seemed to be flowing at breakneck speed. Apparently we won the battle.”
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could flow with Mother Nature better?
Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re that evolved or willing to accept that kind of sane living.