The worst part about being trapped in Manhattan in an emergency situation...is being trapped in Manhattan in an emergency situation.
Okay, so I semi-stole that from an iPhone ad campaign, but the principle totally applies here.
I'm no stranger to Manhattan emergencies. I've survived 9/11, two blackouts, and various incapacitating snowstorms. New Yorkers are a hearty breed--they're not phased by much. But when we're sucker punched with an emergency, panic sets in and one of two things happen--people calmly take stock of the situation at hand and make informed decisions...or they flail about, making bad choices that exacerbate the issue.
I ended up doing both things this weekend. I happened to be in Boston visiting my sister and spent most of Friday entirely convinced that Hurricane Irene would be nothing more than a passing shower. I laughed at the commotion, expecting the whole thing to be like Maryland closing schools because of an inch of snow. I was scheduled to return to NYC on Saturday, but my New York friends' Facebook updates started getting jittery. And the subway closing announcement was made. And Broadway shows were canceled. I did exactly what I planned not to do. I panicked.
At that point, I had no idea what to do. I was too far away to feel the pulse of the city, and without the connection, I felt like my air supply had been cut off. Should I return to Manhattan (which I REALLY wanted to do) and go with my gut feeling that everything would be okay? Or should I take the safe route by staying in Boston and re-wearing the two outfits I brought in my backpack until Megabus was able to safely bring me back home again?
In the end, I chose to stay in Boston, and here's why: The last place I want to be in an emergency is on an island with millions of people and only a couple of exit options. It's a concept that's difficult to understand if you live in the 'burbs and have a car. Cars make you mobile. So even if droves of people descend upon your neighborhood supermarket and buy all the flashlights and batteries, chances are that you can drive around until you find what you need. Similarly, if your area suddenly happens to be in the path of, say, an incredibly destructive hurricane, chances are that you can drive to your aunt's house in Albany or your sister's place in Utica. That's not possible on an island fueled by public transportation. If Irene took a turn for the worse and all of Manhattan was ordered to evacuate, there would be no way for everyone to leave. Especially if the Holland Tunnel and the subways weren't running. It's kind of like in the movies when a submarine floods and the commander decides contain the water by sealing the door, even though his best friend is trapped on the other side. I didn't want to be one of the Manhattanites left to drown after they sealed off the city. So I stayed in Boston.
(And by the time I decided to return, all the buses were canceled anyway.)
Thanks to the hospitality of my sister and her husband, I ended up having a delightful Irene weekend. I went to my first driving range in the pouring rain, explored the marvels and mysteries of Jordan's Furniture, and celebrated the Feast of St. Anthony in the North End. This all seems much more interesting than being confined to my apartment in a rainstorm. But I must say (now that everyone I know is safe and dry) that I feel like I bailed on my city. I ditched my worn old doll for a shiny new Barbie. I feel ashamed for taking the easy way out.
But you know, I'll take lobstahhhh over emergency ration canned goods any day of the week.
My Irene Weekend:
big green monster eating a Yankee
at Jordan's Furniture
AAAAAAAAnd back in New York City:
What to do with all your canned goods?