I have to look down every few seconds because I’ve forgotten if I’ve tied my shoes. I can’t remember what I had for breakfast. I can’t remember if Straight Talk is still publishing and if the Beach Club is open for brunch.
Some things I do remember, though, and now I’m gonna write them down before amnesia proves stronger than Hurricane Sandy. I remember there was no electricity after Sandy. I remember that every time I walked into my bathroom I hit the light switch. Must’ve done that for two weeks. I remember it got dark so early and since there was no TV or Internet and well, nothing to do –everybody just said, might as well go to sleep. It could be just 8:30 or 9 p.m. Is this what they did in the old days? It was a great schedule for farmers but for TV addicted beach bums? Is this why there were so many kids born in the old days because, uhm, there was nothing else to do?
The refrigerator was another matter. Maybe you had some milk in there when the power went down. If you kept it closed, the milk might last a day or longer. But that didn’t stop my kids from doing what they always do: opening the door and staring. They’d stare, close it, open it again and stare. Then they said what they always say: there’s never anything to eat around here. Soon, they had a point. How many nutri-grain bars could you eat?
Water and Gatorade, that was it. I don’t remember drinking milk at all. I remember thinking if someone opened a beer tent, they’d make a killing.
The St. Francis relief center was the closest place to get supplies. Nobody will forget the mad house that was for a while. You couldn’t begrudge some poor soul lugging what they could if they could walk home. But professionals arrived with minivans from off the peninsula to fill up their vehicles to the brim and probably resell the supplies somewhere else. It wasn’t a rumor-- I heard some people saying that’s what they’d be doing. Get 10 cases of water for free – sell every bottle for a buck. Disgusting. Cannot forget, though, that so many generous people showed up with the supplies or sent stuff from everywhere. Still, it wasn’t pretty for a few days as looters came disguised as victims. Happily, controls were put in place and most of the supplies again flowed to the needy.
The Buildings Department put red, yellow, or green stickers on your door. Green gave you a boost and yellow just caused confusion. Red was bad, that’s all we knew. Some people said to make sure you put your green sticker inside the house because otherwise they might be stolen.
Dropped cell calls. You’d finally get through to FEMA or an insurance agent and then …nothing. Dropped call. End of service.
Sometimes, you’d find an odd corner to stand on because service seemed to work for a few minutes. You’d sometimes have to lean back or lift one foot in the air to keep the signal.
I remember a guy with a British accent chided me for not being grateful. At the relief center, he gave me a mop that was more like a handkerchief and I told him so. There are people who would love to have that, sir. Yeah, if they have a runny nose.
Cars and pieces of boardwalk strewn about. The gas shortage. If you did have an operable car you’d have to think about using it. I drove three times to New Jersey for gas. One time I went to a gas station on Flatbush Avenue and the pump said No Gas – I pumped anyway and filled up. Bastard probably put up the sign so only his friends would get the gas.
No hot showers. You might heat some water on the stove just to wash your hands. You’d go through footwear like tissues. Boots, shoes, sneakers. Done.
Flat tires. If you didn’t get a flat with all the debris on the ground you weren’t driving or you’re among the luckiest people around.
Bleach. You’d bring back a gallon or two from a relief center, not sure why. You just wanted to feel like you were doing something.
Neighbors were great. On my block, Ricky O’Neill let everyone take turns with a pump to get the water out of their basements. Jimmy McVeigh was around helping so much it was as if his own home hadn’t been flooded. But it had flooded and yet he found the time, he and Jack Gordon, to help in a hundred ways. Bet you have neighbors you appreciate now like never before, too.
Flashlight envy. Some people had really good ones. You wanted them. Generators were like gold. Most people locked them to a fence or something so they didn’t, er, travel.
The darkness. It got sooo dark. And daylight savings time made it worse. By 3:00 you were starting to wrap up work because it’d be dark so soon.
Déjà vu. You’d pump out your basement and wake up like Groundhog Day. Like you’d done nothing. The water was back.
The outrageous prices people wanted to charge. You could’ve hurried and overpaid somebody to gut your basement or you could’ve waited and Mormons or Team Rubicon or Hipsters would’ve done it for free. Lesson for the next time (though there won’t be a next time): slow down.
Insurance companies telling you not to throw anything out....and then they’d never come....That was one reason people were still gutting two months after the storm.
Food vendors just showing up to give out hot meals. They came sooner and did a better job than the Red Cross which came down my block twice in six weeks.
Fallen trees, shattered concrete. Sand hip deep inside houses. Riis Park and the mountains of garbage.
You could go to the DMV at Fort Tilden. The best DMV experience of your life. No lines, nice people. Weird. The Nor’easter that came just a couple of weeks after Sandy. It scared everyone but turned out to be pretty much of a dud in Rockaway.
What did I forget? Don’t say the job Sanitation did – nobody will ever forget that.