Call me a skeptic, but is it possible that we've all gone over the top with our anxiety over Irene? I'm not saying we don't have a serious storm here. And I'm all for preparedness in the face of disaster, but for heaven's sake, the news and social media hurricane that escorted Irene's arrival has set my anxiety into a tornado spin.
Do I have enough candles? Should I board the windows? Shall I fill all three bathtubs? Will we have enough food to eat?
One gas station in town actually ran out of gas yesterday as panic-stricken people stockpiled for their home generators. When I heard that, I got this fluttery feeling in my stomach -- how quickly people react. And perhaps, over-react. What happens if and when there is a true national emergency?
God help us.
More and more lately Americans seem poised for Armageddon. We all seem braced for the worst possible disaster imaginable. I suppose that's not surprising considering the shadows that have descended. Our world seems so full of danger and destruction and despair. There is terrorism and extremism everywhere. Car bombs are so common we hardly pay attention to them anymore. Economic disaster and political gridlock and dysfunction loom so large that they now seem to be seriously endangering our own democracy (i.e., consider the debt crisis debacle of a few weeks back.) Meanwhile, so many millions of people are losing jobs every day. Millions of homes are already in foreclosure or soon to be.
With all this crazy scary news, Is it any wonder that we are jumpy as electrons? We are a nation living in constant PTSD. And this week, we East Coasters have weathered an earthquake AND a hurricane. No wonder we're enduring what my son Noah is calling "Hurricane Hysteria."
It doesn't help, of course, that we are so finely and furiously wired up. Our social media keep us skittish. Incessant Twitter and Facebook feeds act like steady adrenaline pumps. And the regular media, as always, thrive on our insatiable hunger for drama. We slurp up reality TV... We sit glued to our screens for moment-by-moment updates on anything that constitutes reason for a Wolf Blitzer war room. We are, I'm afraid, addicted to disaster.
A few minutes ago, my son was reading the NY Times on-line, and he called my attention to a photo out of storm-torn Manhattan: a giant tree limb had crashed into an awning at First Ave. near 13th Street. Since my sister Holly lives at First and 14th, I got on the horn and phoned her.
"Are you all right?" I asked.
Holly laughed. "I think the sun is coming out," she yawned. "I hate the sun." (My sister has never been a morning person.) She said she had pots and pans filled with water stored all over her apartment. And plenty of batteries, etc. etc.
Sure, it was raining hard, and the wind was blowing, but she was still waiting for whatever it was that was going to happen.
Meanwhile, she was going back to sleep.
Irene, you Drama Queen. You know we are suckers for pulse-popping reality shows. No wonder you took the stage, and the East Coast, by storm.
Meanwhile, here is the view out my backyard. Yeah, it's raining hard, and the pond is higher at this point in the year than it's ever been in 26 years of living in this old farmhouse. And sure, we will probably lose power today.
But some people might say that was a good thing, because it would shut me up and get me off my computer and doing something useful.