One Thousand Words on Hurricane Hysteria

I had a discussion with friends last night about preparing for the hurricane that’s working its way up the East coast. One friend said that she doesn’t like people who are too cool to care that we might be deluged with rain and wind. It’s dangerous to deny the storm’s existence and be unprepared.

Although I see her point of view, I think the hype is just as dangerous. It just gets people all upset, sacred and irrational. I’m not too cool to worry about a hurricane. I just think you can’t change it by talking about it constantly. Tell me what’s going to happen so I can prepare and then go away.

Actually, what I think I said was, “If I see ‘batten down the hatches’ on Facebook one more time, I’m going to scream.” My hatches are battened, or my battens are hatched. Whatever. Leave me alone.

This isn’t just about this particular hurricane. I have always hated weather hype. I think that’s because any weather-related hysteria causes conflict between two parts of my personality.

First, there’s the stoic Yankee part of me.

My family has been in New England for generations. In fact, I’ve recently learned that some of my ancestors have been living in Vermont since before it was a state.

So, with New England farmer blood flowing through my veins, I tend to be disdainful of people who get all excited about the weather. True Yankees feel and act about the weather sort of like how the people on the West coast made fun of the East coast’s earthquake. “Yeah, yeah, the ground shook a little bit. Get over it.”

This Yankee snobbery (yes, I admit it is snobbery) is what we use to distinguish ourselves from the “flatlanders.”

(I don’t mean to offend anyone with the term, and I am writing this with my tongue firmly in my cheek, but if your family has survived generations of living in Vermont, what is there to take pride in other than the maple syrup? The snow? The deer hunting? The black flies? The cars up on blocks in the yard? So we call more recent residents flatlanders. You’ll just have to deal with the abuse. It makes us feel better for being so stupid that we’ve stuck around this long.)

This attitude comes into play most often in the winter.

At least twice a winter, we get a nor’easter. Not a Northeaster, but a nor’easter. (Also, for the record… it’s ten below, not minus ten.) When these storms occur, flatlanders expect the whole world to come to a standstill. They want to stay home, make hot chocolate and sit by the fire. But Yankees? It’s just snow. Work still has to be done. The cows have to be milked even if we have two feet of snow.

Although I don’t milk cows for a living, I still have to deal with the weather at my job. If we have a show scheduled for an evening of a snow storm, people expect us to cancel. I’m unsympathetic.

The decision would be easy if the band can’t make it. We cancel and refund. But if the band is there, we have to pay them. We don’t have the financial luxury to pay the band and offer refunds. It would bankrupt us.

But people don’t like that answer. They get angry.

I believe, and again this opinion is definitely of the Yankee persuasion, people just don’t want to take the responsibility to make the decision whether or not to drive in a snowstorm. They want us to make it easy on them by cancelling or at least giving them a refund.

One year, we had a show with Hot Tuna during one of the worst snow storms in my memory. But Hot Tuna was there, so the show went on. One woman called in and yelled and screamed and said that we were encouraging her to put her life in jeopardy. I finally told her that if she lived in New England she needed to get used to snow. And she was going to have to decide what was more important to her: her life or a thirty dollar ticket. It was her choice. I’m not proud of saying it, but it’s true. She hung up on me.

Back to my conflict… even though I have the Yankee “shut up and deal with it” weather attitude, I’m also rather susceptible to hype. Any kind of hype. I want to read the book everyone is talking about, even if the topic doesn’t interest me. I buy football shaped cupcakes for the Superbowl even though I don’t even watch the game. I hear about a deadly hurricane hurtling its way toward my house, and I start wanting to batten everything in sight down, not just the hatches.

For instance, I went shopping on Thursday and thought I’d pick up a gallon of water, just in case. “Better safe than sorry” and all that.

When I got to the water aisle, the shelves were practically bare. The naked shelves completely freaked me out and I ended up buying way more water than I intended. It was mass water buying hysteria and I jumped right on board.

I also get sucked into the weather channel and local news. I’ll sit down just to see where the storm is or when it’s expected to arrive, and the next thing I know I’ve been sitting there for three hours and I’m listening to Jim Cantore tell me for the fiftieth time that Battery Park is going to be flooded by ten to thirteen feet of water.

So when people start talking about extreme weather, my dual personality kicks in. Usually the Yankee wins out, at least on the surface. I grump and complain. But, in secret, I give into my inner “weather wuss” and buy a few extra bottles of water or have a cup of hot chocolate. Don’t tell my ancestors on me.

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