The idiom refers to the quiet before the storm, but nobody ever mentions the quiet that follows it. Hebrew music lovers of a certain age might remember an old Haim Hefer song, performed by Lior Yaini, entitled “What, All in All, Does a Person Need to Live?” Haim Hefer invoked a loaf of bread, a jug of wine and love, love all the time. But those of us who sat out Sandy in the New York metropolitan area might very well have added telephones and Internet.
Somehow, I managed to get some sleep last night – probably the effect of the alcohol that I consumed in an effort to mitigate the fear of the fierce winds that were raging. And I woke up to a home that was, miraculously, largely intact.
“Wind” doesn’t quite begin to describe it. The first image that came to mind was of Dorothy pedaling furiously on her bicycle, with Toto in tow in the basket. It was thick, palpable, abject terror – and we had no idea where it was going to hit. I imagine that this must be the feeling of the residents of Sderot and the surrounding communities, or of northern Israel during the Second Lebanon war, being bombarded by Hamas or the Hezbollah. Only this was Mother Nature, and we were in dull old New Jersey (Exit 9, to be precise), suddenly finding ourselves the focus of the global drama, in the direct path of landfall.
And here is where my arrogance comes in. The most difficult part of Hurricane Sandy, after the fear has passed and loved ones and home and hearth have been accounted for, is the Total Disconnect.
Now, just to give you an idea – I am one of those insufferable bores who regularly walk around with two BlackBerries, an iPhone (5, of course), an iPad, a hotspot to connect my ever-present laptop, and a litany of business excuses to justify my digital excess. I thought that I was well-prepared, with all of this redundancy, plus a generator to keep my home office up and running – but man plans, and Sandy laughs.
The phones are down, completely. No voice, no data. All of my multiple devices are as laughable as 5 ¼” diskettes (how many readers have never even seen one of those?). I managed to rig up a painfully slow and intermittent ad-hoc hotspot, reminiscent of the plodding dial-up AOL in the early 1990s, so I can respond to client emails, but can’t really do much on the Internet, at all. It is so strange not to have instant access to all of my regular sources of information. The Constant Digital Flow to which I have become accustomed has all but dried up and abated.
Thank God, we are all safe, with relatively minimal damage. Gratitude! Gratitude! Gratitude! Which somehow doesn’t stop me from being enormously frustrated about the iPhone, BlackBerries, iPad and other digital devices that are now little more than glossy paperweights.
One would think that I might take advantage of the downtime to read a book – I have an inviting stack of – paper! – volumes in both Hebrew and English that I keep wishing that I had the time to devour. But my Digital Self keeps searching for a signal that will give me my Facebook Fix, and let me communicate with my clients, and wait for the painfully slow connection that will show me the devastating images of the aftermath of the storm.
I know that I am not alone. Maybe Haim Hefer had it right after all.