I’m an A/C addict… and other Hurricane Reflections

Last week New Orleans endured Hurricane Isaac.

For most of us it meant some wind and rain, several days of power outages, and lots of scrambling around our neighborhood and town to find ice, food, gas, batteries, and other survival supplies.  It meant listening to WWL to find out what roads were closed, who was underwater, what stores were open, how long the wait for gas and ice, and where to find a hot cup of coffee.  It’s like a weird, unexpected, non-volitional camping trip without any fresh mountain breezes.  Anyway, we were fortunate – no real damage or inconveniences, which provided me the opportunity to reflect a bit on what it’s like to sit through a hurricane.  I’d like to share those reflections with you.

First, I noticed that in my neighborhood enduring a hurricane really builds community.  Neighbors worked together to keep everyone informed, meet basic needs, and build morale.  We spent lots of time outside visiting with each other and checking in – much more than we normally do.  We helped each other rake leaves and cook food.  We shared supplies and any small treat or nugget of good fortune.  One of my neighbors brought over a new carton of quickly melting ice cream, and it was delicious!  Storms have a funny way of bringing us together and getting us to share.

Second, I noticed that the storm quickly whittled my life down to the bare necessities.  My complex and crowded routine was abruptly reduced to the friends and family I love, caring for the roof over my head, finding and cooking food, and staying attuned to my faith.  Even the Friday Saint’s game took a back seat to finding propane for the grill.  It was a reminder to me that a lot of the “stuff” in my life is just luxurious lagniappe that I’m fortunate to have but don’t really need.

Third, as the news of harder hit areas rolled in, I’m reminded that someone always has it worse.  My stress, worries, difficulties and sufferings pale in comparison to others’.  It’s not that I shouldn’t acknowledge my suffering, it may actually really suck, but generally someone always has it worse.  I feel for the communities of Braithwaite and LaPlace; I know that they have it much worse this time around.  Next storm, it will probably be a different community.  One night during the storm, on my battery powered laptop I watched a short documentary on the Child Soldiers of Northern Uganda.  Someone always has it worse.  Even now, as I type in the comfort of electricity and A/C, there are thousands of people in New Orleans still without power.

And finally, this storm and subsequent power outage has shown me just how addicted I am to air conditioning.  How did people do it 70 years ago?  How did they sleep in the heat?!!!  People lived for a couple thousand years without A/C, and I struggled to go 4 days.  What a privileged life we lead!  And A/C withdrawal is similar to drug withdrawal: the first day wasn’t so bad, and then I became more irritable and restless.  Soon I was sweating and cursing, maybe even hallucinating.  I couldn’t sleep; I didn’t want to eat. I was losing weight.  Finally I snapped and went to Rouses just to hang out in the A/C.  I had to get my fix and no 45-min wait outside in line was gonna stop me!  Nope, I’m an A/C addict.

How about you?  What did you realize about yourself during the storm?

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