Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Hurricane Hype

by Ivan Vargas

So here I am sitting in front of my laptop, looking out at my cute lil' street that is now dark and peppered with the warm glow of lights from inside every family home, a tiny sliver of the New York skyline visible for my entertainment as the Woolworth tower.

It's still windy and there is the possibility of a little more rain tonight, but nothing like last night when it came in bands and just as quickly, were gone, only to come back slamming at my walls and windows and shake the house. A house that has seen quite a bit of storms and may still stand to see even more.

You see, the media blew (pun intended) this out of the water and it's the reason I've stopped following much of it when an impending event is about to take place. Anyone who's seen The History Channel or NatGeo has at one point seen their descriptive love letters to destruction porn -- it's not if, it's when, is their catchphrase. Needless to say hurricanes have been covered, the what-ifs of a Cat 5 hurricane into New York City, the images of iconic buildings, streets, parks, subways and overall infrastructure yielding to a water invasion, leaving the city in tatters.

So newscasters decided to stop all external coverage of anything happening in the world and become as self-absorbed as a hardcore narcissist checking out his or her body for imperfections. Nothing could be more important than this hurricane, nothing could be acknowledged, you could rape ten women and get away with it, you could ransack a bank or a series of banks and who would notice? We were too focused on blowing this storm so far out of proportion and into our media-saturated psyches that no one thought, "hey, maybe we should also think of maintaining the populace secure." Not that we weren't... but you get my point.

When you see a guy walking on a boardwalk covered in absolute filth that he himself said was raw sewage, or when you see streakers showing off their goods (and I won't complain, there were two that were kinda hot) you know you have a coverage problem. The Weather Channel and Jim Cantore are guilty of this. They need ratings so they lie in wait for any kind of "weather event" - because it's not just the weather anymore, it's not just snow or rain or fire, it's a "weather event" (please). Once that happens or as it's about to happen, or as it is transpiring, there they go from town to town putting themselves in ridiculous amounts of danger to describe the painfully obvious: that hurricanes, in fact, have winds over 100 miles an hour, that rain, when falling at such a speed, stings.

Once they were in New York - and not just them but every news channel, stationed in Lower Manhattan - I knew we were sunk. It wouldn't be the hurricane that would kill Manhattan, it would be the newscasters and their pornographic account of absolute destruction. I saw people at the supermarket by my place going beserk over loaves of bread, cereal, bottled water; I saw a woman slap her husband on the street as she screamed into his face a flurry of words I can't repeat here (while their baby cried in its carrier); I saw lines and lines and lines of people and every cashier up to her eyeballs, scrambling to get people out of the supermarket so they themselves could go home and wait for it. And the mediarologists kept soldiering on, relentlessly, delivering horrifying accounts of impending doom.

Me? All I had were two bottles of Sutter Home Merlot and some Oreos, but only because I was craving some. If I hadn't gone crazy over the dozens of hurricanes I'd been through over the years... I wasn't about to start now.

When I woke up this morning I expected to see a giant mess of damage reminiscent of the Long Island Express... and saw nary a leaf strewn on the pavement. Houses were intact. Cars were parked. Garbage cans were in their place (and those are the first ones to go rolling away once the winds intensify). Men and women were walking their dogs, and I saw a hunky jogger fly by.

Life was back to normal on Ogden.

So much for the media's depiction of terror. Oh, I'm sure there are other locations that are still under flood watch and have had it worse, but it's no different from what happens when a nor'easter strikes (and stays for like three days pounding the crap out of everything). This was just twelve hours of an underwhelming storm that won't be remembered a year from now, or at least, until the next big one. Moving on.

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