8 Ways Suburban Apathy Got Me Through Irene: A Hero's Story

Taking Stock

I awoke Sunday morning to a light rain and moderate wind. Irene was supposed to have struck in the night, but apparently was having too much fun in Jersey to do much damage. (In truth, the Molly Pitcher rest stop on the New Jersey Turnpike does have a kickass Roy Rogers and a machine that crushes your pennies into landmarks!) The tree was standing. I hadn't lost electricity.

"Why are you in my room, Dad?" my son asked.

"In case the tree crashed into your room."

"You said that was impossible before I went to bed."


We watched the news over breakfast. Apparently, the worst hadn't hit us yet. Reporters in slickers were at coastal beachfronts. One woman on Long Beach Island in Jersey was touting the "awesome" power of the hurricane by bragging about 20-foot waves that looked 5 feet high to me. Then she tried to capture the majesty of the storm for us by putting her microphone on the handrail of the boardwalk. It was convincing proof that you can be functionally retarded and still be a news reporter. Also one anchorwoman kept referring to field reporter Wendy Gillette as "Windy" Gillette. More proof.

Oh, and Irene must have not been blowing the right people at the Weather Channel because they downgraded her ass to a tropical storm. What a burn.

Tropical Storm: The meteorological equivalent of erectile dysfunction.

Hunkering Down for the Worst

From 8 to 10 a.m. we were to receive the worst of it, and it did pick up. I watched those trees, picturing crushing blows. I feared the windows and how they might shatter into a thousand knives. Then I watched How to Eat Fried Worms. Did you know Devo did the music for that movie? True story. Then the real horror struck: My 7-year-old daughter said one of the Fried Worms boys was "good-looking" and asked if he could babysit her.

Some big gusts. Some heavy rain. But basically just a housebound Sunday. Microwaved some chicken nuggets and cheese sticks. Made some broccoli. Some board games. Some movies. That night, I finished the manuscript for the full-length novel of Notes from the Internet Apocalypse and sent it off to an interested agent, and then a crushing blow: we lost Internet access, TV and phone. Don't worry, we still had electricity, so we could watch DVDs and no one was forced to declare Gladstone martial law and start eating people.

Oh, and in the world outside my home, New Jersey and lower Manhattan flooded. All subway service was shut down. And I knew I wouldn't be able to get to work Monday. I know. One more day stuck in a house with three children and no Internet. These are the times you must look deep within to find the strength to carry on.

Navigating the Aftermath

It was early Monday morning. The worst was officially over. In fact, it was quite a lovely day. And that's when the electricity went out. Probably shut down while repairs were being done. Even my Droid phone wasn't working. Totally shut off. That's right. I had absolutely no way of seeing how much people hated my last column that also paradoxically performed quite well in terms of page views. I was separated from Internet commenters. Brutal.

I ventured out into the world with my family. Downed power lines. Uprooted trees and limbs. Not one open Starbucks in a 10-mile radius! It was a strange and unfamiliar world.

"Daddy, where will you get your decaf venti latte?"

"I don't know, baby. I. just. don't. know."

And then we went to Dunkin' Donuts. It's incredible what you'll do in an emergency.

Oh, the humanity!

But it wasn't all hardship. No one had bought anything from my local liquor store for days, and due to some shipments that were damaged in the storm, the owner didn't have a .75 liter bottle of Jameson's, so he sold me a 1.75 liter bottle for 20 percent off.

The power came back that night. Our milk hadn't even spoiled. I wasn't sure about the chicken and contemplated feeding some of it to the neighbor's dog as a test, but I just decided to cook it extra long with liberal amounts of barbecue sauce, which I imagine has some curative properties.

Fatalities for this storm were few. I heard one gentleman died windsurfing, exhibiting judgment possibly poorer than mine. But others died for no damned good reason. People lost valued possessions and suffered both sentimental and financial property damage. I'm not sure why some people get lucky and others don't, and I'll never figure that out. I also will never fully grasp our ability to pray for the safety of loved ones and then turn on a dime, praying for the return of Internet access. I got very lucky, and I'm grateful.

Anyone wishing to contribute to relief efforts for the damage done can start here.

Watch the return of HATE BY NUMBERS and find out more about supporting new episodes. Also follow Gladstone on Twitter and stay up to date on the latest regarding Notes from the Internet Apocalypse.

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