We've all learned a lot over the course of Hurricane Sandy -- how many items in your refrigerator you can consume before you realize that you weren't really hungry in the first place; that a lot of people's stuff got lost and ruined and a lot of people got hurt. Businesses were shut down if not obliterated, and visitors on the Jersey Shore will have to wait a long time before they can go on the Scrambler.
In Washington, the storm also left considerably wreckage, though none compared to areas like Staten Island, which controversially aren't getting the same kind of consideration as other, better-off boroughs. Thousands of New Yorkers are still without power, dubbing lower Manhattan "SoPo," aka South of Power.
As Americans, we are tremendously lucky in the natural disaster category, though of recent, we haven't been. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said we're now having epic storms that used to occur every 100 years, every two years. Bloomberg Businessweek thinks we all have our heads in the sand (some homes are now, literally, in the sand), and really, it's all global warming.
But natural disasters -- from hurricanes to tornadoes to tsunamis to the bitty earthquake in DC two summers ago that rattled everyone more than it did much damage -- bring to light certain things that are easy to forget.
We Are All Teeny Little Ants Under the Planet's Magnifying Glass
Sure, that might have been stolen from Toy Story, where the evil next door neighbor wants to put a hole in Woody's head using a magnifying glass and heat. But when it comes to natural disaster, it is an overwhelming reminder that we are just a little force in the planet, hemisphere, solar system. Who knows what else is out there (except Pluto, which sadly, had its planet status revoked). It's scary and it's sad when Mother Nature throws us a curve ball like this. We create so much disaster among ourselves -- war, more war, nuclear war, hatred. But this has nothing to do with humans. Nature is just going to do what it wants, when it wants, regardless if we settle the national debt or establish a mythical state of world peace. That's pretty harrowing.
We Are Way Too Reliant on Technology
Guilty as charged. And I mean literally charged, because nobody can find an outlet. It's important to remember how reliant we are on computers, cell phones, laptops, iPads, iPods, iPeople. Some generous folks offered up power strips. Starbucks in New York has lines around the block just to charge cell phones. There is a line at what I believe to be the last pay phone on Earth. What did we do before cell phones? What did we do before the Internet? And before pictures of puppies and kittens and GIFs and clips from Jimmy Fallon? Maybe we read. Maybe we talked to each other. But Sandy was a reminder that we need to keep our heads out of our screens enough to realize that at points we won't be able to use the technology we rely on.
Water Is a Force of Destruction
It's amazing that our society, our systems run on increasingly advanced technology -- smaller smartphones with unbelievable capability, computers that have our lives planned and encapsulated -- from Facebook tracking our lives for us to photos to Twitter to remember our thoughts and broadcast them. However, the biggest force against some of the most advanced tools we have today is plain old H2O. Servers were fried at in offices and media, damaging precious information and data. Back your stuff up. Print your stuff out. Keep some physical things that have your memories and your information in them. Because who knows when it will rain on your motherboard.
The Basics Are Crucial
We love the complex and the new, the exciting and the frivolous. We are a nation obsessed with novelty. But the basics -- clean water, electricity, heat, a phone, are things we take for granted. Until we don't have them. We are one a lucky handful of nations that does. And then it's not about the iPad mini (which apparently some New Yorkers found the gusto to wait in line for), but it's about not catching cold. It's about our hospitals being able to deliver babies at NYU. Potable water is a luxury, being able to heat your apartment or house is a luxury. Light is too.
Sometimes, People Will Surprise You
Sandy washed away a lot of New York and New Jersey, but under it was something else -- kindness. In times of tragedy, and in times of need, people step up to the plate. Offered up their homes. Offered up their electricity, open their doors. Ben Stiller is currently handing out pancakes in Staten Island. Let's try to open our doors next time, before the floodgates open them again for us.