Hurricane Sandy swept through
New York yesterday, swept across the Eastern seaboard yesterday. The subway is out until who knows when, flooding in every borough, there’s a crane dangling from a luxury high-rise in the middle of midtown, electricity is out in my apartment and throughout downtown… And yet all these disaster-movie-like scenes are being met with a collective grimace and practical shrug. Here we have the ocular proof: New Yorkers are tough.
Cell phones are being charged in cars, at docking stations and in offices. People are moving in with friends or figuring out how to wash their dishes with as little water as possible. Convenience stores downtown are open. I saw shoppers browsing aisles illuminated by a handful of tea lights. Cops are manning major intersections and elsewhere cars and pedestrians are negotiating the lack of traffic lights with ease. It seems that the interplay of stopping and going along the city’s streets is so ingrained in our bodies we hardly need traffic lights to remind us how to navigate: every few blocks, you stop.
One of the under-appreciated facts about New Yorkers is that we are exceedingly rule-conscious. Non-traditional, for sure, but respectful of regulations. We live too on top of each other to risk pissing each other off. And we know firsthand how wiggy things can get when even one person doesn’t do what they’re supposed to, whether it be biking on the sidewalk, blasting music at 11pm or blocking the box. I have been guilty of that last twice in my life and I still feel the mortification. I suppose another reason we follow the rules is that with all the people in this city you’re basically guaranteed to get caught.
So life goes on here even though the subway is down for up to two weeks. We look, we assess and we adapt. I am sorry for the roughly two dozen people who did die in the storm here in our city, but given the scale of the disaster and our population, I’d say this hurricane has shown me what preparedness can do. Be safe, take care and enjoy the unexpected connections that come your way as we all wait for the city to resume its normal rhythms.