As night fell on the eve of the return to Eastern Standard Time, the power was restored in lower Manhattan to thousands of New Yorkers' apartments, including mine. Neighborhood by neighborhood, streetlamp by streetlamp, amid cheers and hallelujahs, a sense of relief began to ensue as the blinding blackness lifted, and the once unseasonably chilly autumnal air that filled our homes these last days would soon be replaced by a familiar warmth and comfort.
Just as quickly as I had become one of the "have nots" -- the unfortunates living below 40th Street post-Sandy -- I was thrust back into my former status as one of the "haves," joining the ranks of the "fortunates," those living with the basics once more: heat, water, flushing toilets, electricity, and so much more.
No longer would I be forced to rely on a flashlight to guide me through the pitch-black hallways, navigating up and down three flights of darkened stairwells, as I carefully made my way to the front door of the lobby of my apartment building.
No longer would I walk nearly 25 blocks each way in search of food, supplies, a restroom, a shower, or a warm hotel lobby with Internet and phone connections.
No longer would I be forced to return home before sunset, adopting a self-imposed curfew, acutely aware of the growing risk and increased danger of being out and about on the pitch-blackened streets of Manhattan after nightfall, sans streetlights and once well-lit store front windows.
No longer would I beg and barter with my neighbor, alluding to possible sexual favors in exchange for the daily heavy jugs of water he carried up many flights in dark stairwells filling my toilet tank for a flush. (Hey! Don't judge! You would do the same for a chance to flush your toilet daily.)
No longer would I sit huddled together with my neighbors playing Scrabble by candlelight while listening to a portable radio for any news of power and life restoration.
Life would now be back to normal once more, or whatever passed for normal around here, just a mere 94 hours, 28 minutes, 39 seconds ago (not that anyone is counting, of course.)
After four nights and five days in the dark, while the temperatures continued to plummet, as the pungent scent of stale urine, amid decaying food and whatever else began to slowly seep into the halls of my apartment building, we could begin the clean-up and resume our lives pre-"Superstorm Sandy."
As I reflect upon the past week, I realize that when one is in survival mode, time can be your best friend or worst enemy, depending upon how you use it.
In a typical 24-hour period, like most people, I spend an inordinate amount of time on the Internet and phone. But during my time spent in the dark, besides my continued sense of utter bewilderment at how bad I am at Scrabble, my mind began to wander as I wondered about many pressing, pertinent post-Hurricane Sandy issues.
Who names "Superstorms," anyway? Is there a committee or do the meteorologists make a unilateral decision on this?
Maybe we could collectively vote like they do on American Idol or Dancing With The Stars the next time there is an impending Superstorm brewing. Because I really don't support calling a monstrous, malevolent, murderous storm like the one that we just experienced something as benign as "Sandy."
Why not name the storm "Hitler?" or "Satan?" Not only are these monikers more fitting, but they also reflect a more realistic prelude of what may follow, as I really didn't believe the unimaginable could have occurred -- hence why I only had a few bottles of water and an extra pack of batteries and nothing much else when the lights powered down.
I also wondered about the media portrayal of catastrophes, collectively adopting terms like "unprecedented," the buzz word du jour used to describe the perfect storm conditions that accompanied this superstorm's arrival; when the moon was full and the tide was high, as Sandy made a beeline for the New York metropolitan area at full throttle.
And I realized that I no longer could ignore the growing elephant that has firmly planted itself in our midst, as Mother Nature continues PMSing while unleashing her relentless wrath. There is no denying that our climate is indeed changing dramatically, as the word "unprecedented" has only a short shelf life, soon to be an outdated, irrelevant term, as these apocalyptic storms seem to be brewing with more regularity and intensity.
And as night fell upon my first night in the Big Apple with power restored, enveloped by my down comforter, sipping chamomile tea, while watching Showtime's Homeland (omg!), my mind wandered even further, to the streets below, once darkened, barren and cold, now bustling with life again.
Yet, I can't help shake this nagging feeling of how utterly unbearable conditions remain for those forced to make choices that surely would have been my fate, as continued falling temperatures, coupled with another brewing significant storm, now forcing those still in the dark to seek warmth and shelter wherever they can find it.
And I remain acutely aware that my fellow weary, walking-wounded post-Sandy survivors, many now homeless, alone, are forced now to feel the horrific conditions many endure daily. And while I have always subscribed to the adage that everything happens for a reason, I am resigned to the sad reality of just how arbitrary and cruel fate can sometimes be.
But my post-hurricane ponderings and proverbial pontifications have now been replaced with pre-Nor' Easter preparations, as an impending storm with heavy rainfall and high winds is expected to hit the same region devastated by "Ms. Sandra," arriving sometime on Wednesday.
As I jump on my elevator and head out the front door of my apartment building, I quickly meld into a sea of people occupying the busy city streets on this crisp, November morning, in search of water, flashlights and peanut butter. This time, I will be prepared. And I also intend to spend considerable time brushing up on Scrabble during the next few days, just in case.