The Power of Sandy

The weather is unpredictable. And yet we are constantly trying to predict it. But this is not news to anyone and I’m certainly not the first to say it.

But I’m sure people living in New York City never thought they’d get power outages and floods due to a hurricane. People further south are prepared for that sort of thing, but the Big Apple? People in Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas- they have buildings built for tropical storms. They have hurricane walls and probably better home insurance plans or something. They have evacuation routes and supplies stored up. No one expected a hurricane like Sandy to hit so far north and cause this much damage to areas that are not prepared.

So what did they do? They told everyone to prepare for the worst storm in history, no matter where you live. They evacuated seaside towns in Delaware and New Jersey. They told Pennsylvanians to stock up on water, toilet paper, non-perishable food–enough for at least three days. They told everyone to freeze bags of ice to help keep food frozen after the power goes out. They cancelled schools and classes. They pushed back practices and games and banquets. They post-poned Halloween! (Who gets to make that executive decision?)

The restaurant where I work was all but deserted the night the storm was supposed to hit the Pittsburgh area the hardest. I had a few tables, but we shut down the kitchen early and sent everyone home before people got stranded. That night, as I plugged in my computer, my phone and my Nook, the lights flickered slightly and I went to bed fearing the worst would happen while I was asleep. I woke up expecting my clock to be wrong. It wasn’t. I thought maybe there’d be some trees down outside. There weren’t any. I didn’t even see a fallen branch. I drove to work prepared to turn the GPS on if my usual route was blocked or flooded. Nothing. It rained the whole day, but other than that, nothing out of the ordinary.

People said that Sandy was over-hyped. They tweeted it and made it their status and complained as socially and publicly as they could. Maybe they were angry that someone told them to prepare for a storm and they actually listened? They wanted to blame someone else-for what? For NOT getting flooded? People find a reason to complain about anything these days. But put it this way– if those people hadn’t prepared for a storm, they would have lost their power for a week. And they would have complained even more.

So all these people sitting at home on Facebook with all their lights on and their computer plugged in, voicing their opinions that Sandy was way over-hyped and the news shouldn’t have made such a big deal about it–well they can take a nice trip to New York City or Atlantic City, New Jersey and see how that works out. They can do some real good and help out those people who DID lose their power. They can see streets that DID get flooded. Then maybe they’ll just thank their lucky stars that they live right in between the blizzards, the winds and the floods. They’ll stop complaining about reporters that are just doing their job, reporting what matters to the people who were affected by the storm.

The death toll in New York City has risen to 30 as of a few hours ago. People all along the east coast have been forced to leave their flooded homes with what little possessions they have left. Millions are still without power. Their lives have changed. To them, this storm was not over-hyped. They could never have prepared enough. They’re not even thinking of Halloween and trick-or-treating. They don’t have houses where they can trick-or-treat and I am one hundred percent positive that they would rather have a home.

So while I sit in my house with power, I’m not going to be the one complaining that the storm was over-hyped. I’m so thankful to be living exactly in between all of the devastation.

The east coast will be rebuilding for a long time, removing feet of sand from houses and pumping water from streets. And in the meantime all we can do is keep trying to predict the unpredictable.

Photo courtesy of http://www.washingtonpost.com

An Eight-hour Megabus Trip

This past weekend, I took a trip to New York City. By myself. Via Megabus. It was my first solo trip to the city (second time there ever) and my first time on a Megabus. Naturally, I was nervous, but I had a plan to meet my friend there and stay the night with her, so not as nervous as I might have been otherwise. So I would like to tell you some things about the Megabus, for those of you who have never been on one, or may be contemplating a trip in the near future.

First of all, I’d like to say that I had some previous (mis)conceptions about Megabuses. I pictured a Megabus as a grimy, single-level bus with a disgusting bathroom, half-full of dirty, crazy people. I thought the bus would be super sketchy and I was prepared to avoid eye contact at all times and hug my purse close for eight hours. Quite the contrary.

In keeping with my fear of being late for anything I lined up under the Convention Center in Pittsburgh forty minutes early. (But I still wasn’t the first one.) And I saw a lot of twenty-something kids–this was expected: the bus is pretty cheap. But they were like me, dressed like me, acting like me, college grads taking a trip to the Big Apple. Definitely not crazy people. Oh, don’t get me wrong, some people were very interesting. But I wouldn’t have called anyone crazy. I was surprised to see some families. Not surprised to see a few foreigners. Surprised at how much luggage some people had with them. Surprised at the length of the line–the bus was completely full.

The big blue bus pulls up–double decker, clean, with wi-fi and electrical outlets, and a moderately clean bathroom. Since I was in the front of the line, I got my pick of the seats. Figuring a window seat is a good thing, I sat on the top level, near the back staircase (in case of bathroom emergency) and was soon joined by a large, twenty-something guy. I didn’t speak to him. The last thing my dad said as he dropped me off was “Don’t talk to strangers.” Oh, parents. But I took his advice just in case. So the only words that passed between us were from me–“Would you mind putting this in the trash bag next to you?” He fell asleep on his lap leaning toward me and his sleeve kept touching my arm. But otherwise, a good seatmate, I suppose. The eight hour trip passed uneventfully with an unexpected rest stop (I thought buses didn’t stop. You’re hungry? Tough luck. But I guess I was wrong about that too.) So I only had to use the restroom on the bus once. I’m not sure if the window seat was the best idea. But at least I could look out the window easily as we pulled into the middle of Manhattan.

Return trip–a little different. This bus left at 4:20pm and wouldn’t get to Pittsburgh until midnight. I got a window seat again. More twenty-somethings this time. My seatmate was a girl about my age. And she promptly fell asleep on my shoulder. I shifted as far to the window as I could to avoid her mass of frizzy hair. She wore her headphones the whole time and I could hear the lyrics of every song she listened to. She took her shoes off and put her bare feet up on the seat in front of her. Needless to say we didn’t speak. The only words that passed between us were hers, asking  “Would you like a piece of gum?” This trip took a half hour longer than expected. But after we dropped some passengers off at State College, my seatmate moved, I put my feet up next to me, and fell into an uneasy sleep for the rest of the trip.

So, note to self (and others) about the Megabus:

1. Bring hand sanitizer. The first bus was out of sanitizer in the bathroom and I was thoroughly disgusted the rest of the trip thinking of  myself and all the other people not sanitizing our hands and touching all the same handrails.

2. Wear pants. Unless you enjoy the itching of raw wool seat cushions feeling like a bazillion bugs and needles digging into the skin of your bare thighs.

3. Bring a sweatshirt. The driver said he could adjust the temperature, but I was freezing for eight hours. And it seemed that no one else was, so why would he adjust it just for me? I pulled out all the extra t-shirts I had brought (one) and laid it on my lap, trying to think warm thoughts.

4. Pack more food than you think you can eat. With not much to do for eight hours, my brain just kept telling me I was hungry. And the rest stop is not something to rely on.

5. If you don’t have headphones, invest in earplugs. On the return trip there were two extremely chatty girls who couldn’t get seats next to each other. They yelled across the aisle instead. The whole bus now knows all about this girl’s interview, her friends who live in the city, her classes she took for jewelry-making, the contents of her portfolio, (which must have at least seven two-dimensional pieces and six three-dimensional pieces. Girl on the Megabus, if you read this, I am very proud of you, keep up the good work and I hope you get the job), etc, etc.

6. Don’t drink too much water. Have water, just in case. But don’t drink it unless absolutely necessary. Better to not even have to use that tiny little bus bathroom, especially while the bus is in motion.

I hope these tips help someone out on their next journey. I will most likely take a Megabus again in the future. It was a cost-effective way to travel without too much hassle. But of course, now I will be better prepared.