I'm a Manhattan resident, not in Zones 1, 2, or 3 (the evacuation areas), but in one of those big, dark zones that lost power Monday night and may not have it back anytime soon. Perhaps I'll be lucky.
I can't be in the middle of all this and not write something, but this won't necessarily relate to everything else on the blog. Sorry.
[This was started Tuesday morning and continued Thursday afternoon. It looks like I will have power my Saturday. We'll see.] [Friday morning update: added a few more peppered throughout. And maybe I'll have power back today.]
- Hurricanes always have names, but this one seemed to be personified more than any other. Is it because this has been the worst hurricane to hit the Northeast? Is it because people really like saying "Sandy"? My gut is that this is the first major storm in the States since social media has become mainstream. Sandy becomes just another friend, or ex-friend, or jilted lover, mentioned on a social network.
- It's weird crossing the street without traffic lights or walk signs. It reminds me of Cairo, just with less traffic. In Cairo, I've never been so terrified to be a pedestrian crossing the street. But the cab drivers there are excellent – even if driving cabs that would not be considered road-ready here.
- The scariest thing this morning (Tuesday 10/30) wasn't seeing the blacked out neighborhood. It was going into the hallway at 10am and seeing it totally pitch black, and then the stairwell (we're 8 floors up) lit by glow sticks. Beyond the glow sticks, it felt like a horror movie, or the scene from Jurassic Park where the raptors could leap out of the Visitors Center at any moment.
- I love having Twitter access. I've been able to view updates from New York City officials and various power companies to get the best sense of what's going on. When there were rumors that power would shut off south of 36th St, searching Twitter gave the most complete view. Of course, false rumors spread, but digging through the sources let me come to an informed opinion. And sometimes the opinion was that I had no idea.
- It's odd not being able to make plans. I don't know exactly how I'll shower, or if a meeting will happen in a couple days. All plans are off the table. [This proved especially true with my office closed all week.]
- I have it easy. No car to worry about. My building was nowhere near a flooded area, and it was shocking to see the water rising 3+ feet in parts of Manhattan. I didn't experience anything like it. I have a lot of food at home. Access to bottled drinks is easy, even if they're not cold.
- If this goes on much longer, I might just go and see Cloud Atlas. A 3 hour movie seems like a good idea. If the theaters have power. And are open. If. If. If.
- I was relieved to get vendor pitches Tuesday and take a few calls. So little is back to normal. It felt good to reject a few vendors (half-joking there).
- Amazon said it's shipping Nike+ Training for Xbox Kinect. I'd find it really amusing if it arrived before I had power.
- I love Facebook. I feel so in touch with people – a wide swath of people. In some ways, it really is a community, and the whole notion of community management doesn't feel so silly.
- Hotels.com provided the worst customer service. I tried booking two rooms with them, one for Wednesday night and the other for Thursday night. I was skeptical about the Thursday hotel and called it, and with some effort I found out they were closed. The Wednesday hotel was overbooked, which I didn't find out until I showed up there. Hotels.com proved to be unsympathetic. [UPDATE: Someone from Hotels.com's corporate office called to give me a $100 coupon for a stay there, with some flat apologies and no sense of empathy whatsoever. Why he thinks I'd ever book with them again beyond redeeming my rewards is beyond me.]
- Verizon Wireless could use some work too. Their network is outstanding in NYC, at least for me. I've relied on it a lot to make calls. My iPhone is on AT&T and it rarely gets a strong signal. Yet I got various alerts that I was using a lot of minutes this week. Couldn't Verizon turn these off for customers in the Northeast? I have no work phone, and I'm calling friends and family a lot to make sure people are okay. I called someone there when I found out I used 75% of my minutes for the month. The rep's first response, when I told him it was due to Sandy, was, "I don't know if we have allotments for that." Ouch. Then he gave me 150 more minutes. I hope they last until mid-November.
- Government, by and large, seems to be working. It's a tremendous feeling. Yes, I'm without power and water, and the city's a mess, But trains are coming back faster than I expected, and it's relatively easy to get information if you go online. Thank you Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Cuomo, to Governor Christie for my friends and family living in his state, President Obama, and all the other city, state, and federal officials who have been so responsive and responsible.
- On Twitter, Con Edison, the power company, is providing tremendous support. They constantly respond to people individually. Thank you.
- Manhattan User's Guide, a fantastic reference for New Yorkers, has a great roundup on how to help. They then added More Ways to Help. Thanks, MUG.
- Small flashlights are great. But they disappear easily.
- I was stalked by a woman on Wednesday (10/31). She wore blue pants. I think I accidentally cut her off on foot as I was walking through Herald Square, with my bag possibly even grazing her. I apologized and kept walking. But then she kept showing up behind me, going out of her way to do so even when everyone was spread out at a crosswalk. Then she was following me across streets. I was trying to hold up my phone to see if she was there but couldn't get the right angle, and yet she kept popping up not far back. When I got to the building I was entering a few blocks away, I almost told the doorman not to let in a woman in blue pants who was following me, but I just couldn't get the words out for fear of sounding like a crazy person. I am 100% convinced she was following me though. I've never been tailed before (knowingly). This whole week does feel like a strange movie.
- I won't share too much on my state of personal hygeine, but it's amazing what you can do without.
- I haven't shaved since Monday. I now have a razor on me and can shave in bathrooms where I've been working, but it's almost a badge of honor. I feel like I want to shave when I get water back in my apartment. Then it will really feel like things are coming back to normal.
- It's very strange using toiletries that I stashed for traveling in developing nations – the kinds of places where you can't drink the water, and where you aren't sure if you'll find a bathroom and what state it'll be in.
- Barber shops and beauty parlors will be in high demand as things come back to life. People will want to feel normal again. I once went three months (while in college) without a haircut and came back looking like some kind of mythical and not entirely attractive monster. Yet even then, I didn't crave a good haircut as much as I do now. With any luck, I'll get to hold out a couple more days and visit my regular barber so I can support his business as it comes back.
- I don't quite know why, but I've managed to eat my major meal of the day consistently at Italian restaurants. I haven't had much of an appetite beyond that.
- About 36 hours after I lost power, I checked the freezer. The ice cream wasn't fully melted, nor was the ice. What a great freezer.
- Speaking of major meals, I stopped by a shelter Tuesday night in the 'dark zone' (east side: south of 40th St). They get one major meal at around 4-5pm, plus some pop tarts or cereal for breakfast. There are hundreds of cots spread out in various rooms with little personal space. I'd imagine the lack of privacy is even more daunting for some people than access to food or water. Admittedly I wasn't in any rush to use a bathroom. I volunteered for a bit with plans to go back the next day, but I wasn't needed when I returned. The volunteers there all seemed to incredibly competent and thoughtful, equipped to handle such a wide range of what I'd think were unpredictable situations. If you meet someone who really volunteered (not a brief walk-in like me), thank them heartily. They can't possible year it enough.
- Volunteer coordination needs to be much better. Can't SMS help? First NYC had volunteer signup forms online. Then they directed people to a Facebook page that requested you email them. But the volunteer centers had a hard time contacting people who wanted to help. A shelter volunteer told me flat out that no one was using the email list. As noted above, I tried going but went at the wrong time, and yet the best way to help has been to show up and see if anyone is needed. If city or federal agencies created an SMS-based form in advance, people could get alerts of opportunities using the lowest bandwidth and most widely used communication vehicle. The technology is here, and can be procured cheaply. We need to build this.
- Bottled water is the best thing ever. And it's put to far better use at times like this.
- It's funny to see what's open, especially in the dark zone. Life finds a way. The first open restaurant I saw in the area was a Chinese food spot, with a handful of options available. I got some General Tso's out of pure amazement that I could.
- As I shared on Facebook and Twitter, thanks to Hurricane Sandy, a "power couple" now refers to a couple with electricity.
- I really like this Red Cross donation promo Twitter icon from Picswitch. It says it's by me, even though all I did was share it (via Hunter Walk). I've seen these before but this was really easy to apply and share.
- It's easier to disobey crosswalk signs when they're functioning. One of the funny things walking from the dark zone to the light zone is that there's this revelation that traffic lights and crosswalk signs are functioning. Where the lights don't exist, everyone is really respectful of traffic and crossing guards (when they're around – and they usually have been around where needed). Yet as soon as they're functioning, people enter the routine of looking at traffic and ignoring the lights entirely.
- Crazy situations like this make you reevaluate what matters. Work-wise, getting work done for clients is still really important. Most meetings aren't; people can do their jobs without them. Anything on my calendar where I'm catching up with friends gets prioritized over work things. I still think almost every meeting I had to cancel will be rescheduled, but I can't imagine they'll feel quite so pressing.
I'm sure I'll have more and may update this accordingly. I'm still in a weird place, mentally and physically.