Monday, November 5, 2012

The Storm and Bad Decisions

Hurricane Sandy as it hit East Coast Monday, October 29, 2012
This week was a big storm and it created a lot of emotion—excitement, dread, frustration, gratitude,  and loss.  Apparently affection too; my husband works at Walmart and says they ran out of condoms early.  He also says people were buying carts full of frozen food to stock up their supplies, which of course made little sense because chances were we were all going to lose power.  This led to a discussion of how randomly people were preparing for the storm, and how ill-prepared they’d be. 

Including me.  While I did some things right, like shop for cabinet staples on Thursday, gas up my car, get cash, eat through freezer for the weekend, get batteries, water, flashlights ready, empty yard and basement—I made mistakes too.  I realized on Sunday I had no coolers, and little ice.  My Dad brought me a cooler and when I read Jamie Pope’s very humorous blog about how to prepare on Monday morning she slid in something I had forgotten, to freeze containers of water.  Liz and Ava got right on this for me and we had another 14 hours of power after this so we did indeed have some ice for our cooler.  Some good friends who didn't lose power offered us their generator which we used on my mother and stepfather’s freezer next door.   It’s been a long seven days without power but we’re all right.

Justin Forman walks through the surf as tidal surge
from Hurricane Sandy comes ashore at Rehoboth Beach,
Delaware. Photographer: Jim Watson/AFp via Getty Images
This is not true for everyone.  On Tuesday morning as we were coming out into the remarkably calm morning to sweep up I saw that a neighbor had died, apparently from a fall in the dark night.  I also heard that a friend of my son’s had died Sunday in a kayaking accident, with his companion hospitalized for hypothermia.

I don’t know how the conversation went that led to the boys going out onto Silver Sands beach on Sunday to ride the waves but my guess it wasn’t the first risk-taking, thrill-seeking move either of them had ever made, or the only bad decision.  In some ways, their reaction to the storm—let’s go ride some waves—was the same as the customers at Walmart—let’s buy whatever food we can get at Walmart--which was emotional, and lacking in common sense. 

And before you say to yourself that I would never put myself at risk the way those boys did, and I don’t doubt most of us would not do the exact same thing, think about all the ways you do put yourself at risk.  Here is a short list of stupid things that I would guess most of us have done a time or two (or more) that are not only inarguably dumb (there would be tens of thousands of things on that list) but put also lives at risk.  In case you can’t tell by the specificity, I’ve done plenty of these myself: 

·         Walking away from the stove with burners on
·         Emptying ashes from fireplace or cast iron stove into a box
·         Leaving jar candles lit when you fell asleep
·         Overloading the circuits with Christmas light extension cords
·         Climbing onto the roof to hang Christmas lights without someone holding the ladder
·         Climbing a tree to cut down limbs (or just for fun) and leaning on a rotten branch.
·         Taking a ski lift to a trail that’s too hard, and having too much pride to call for ski patrol
·         Taking an unknown pill someone hands you for back pain, or recreation
·         Going on a hike without supplies to cover you if you get lost
·         Going on a hike and getting separated from the person with the supplies
·         Getting into a car when you’re too upset to drive safely
·         Getting into a car when you’re too drunk to drive safely
·         Getting into a car when the driver is possibly too drunk to drive safely
·         Getting distracted when driving by the kids screaming, or the phone ringing
·         Getting distracted at an intersection and jumping your traffic light
·         Trying to beat a light that’s turning red
·         Texting while driving
·         Falling asleep at the wheel for a moment, and hitting the rumble strip
·         Driving too fast in the snow or the rain
·         Driving too fast when you’re late picking up kids at a darkening soccer field
·         Driving yourself to the doctor’s office to see if you are in early labor
·         Driving yourself to the hospital to be checked out for chest pains
·         Driving to work with the baby in the back seat, forgetting the day care stop
·         Leaving the car running when you forgot something inside the house
·         Leaving young kids in the car when you run into the store to pick up milk
·         Leaving young kids home by themselves while you chase your runaway dog
·         Leaving young kids in the tub while you go to check on dinner on top of the stove
·         Letting your kids have unlimited access to the internet
·         Letting your kids walk to the beach in a big storm to take pictures
·         Letting your kids have a sleepover at a house where you don’t know the parent
·         Letting your kids get their license even though they are impulsive, and feel immortal
·         Going home with someone you met at a bar or a party, or bringing them to your home
·         Going out to a bar or party with someone you don’t know well, who leaves you there
·         Going to a big, crowded event with lax security and hoping nothing bad happens

There are likely hundreds of more examples that ER doctors, or firefighters, or police could tell us about; it must be a miracle when they have any faith at all in human intellect and self-protection.  We should all be more careful, and not rely on the faint and irrational hope that because we’ve done a lot of stupid things and something tragic hasn’t happened to us or our loved ones so far, it can’t or won’t.   We are natural thrill-seekers and risk-takers, and all the dire warnings throughout our lives don't always hold us back.

If it’s already happened, you know this to be true. 

And when it does come to pass, and we lose someone or almost lose someone due to a bad decision on someone’s part, all we should express is compassion.  I might not have been Jet Krumwiede, out in the kayak, but I could have been his mother.  When some horrible mistake happens all we can do is feel sorrow for the tragedy because it was preventable, but only if we weren’t human.  


  1. Excellent post ... thanks for sharing, Lisa.

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