Thursday, November 1, 2012

Power to The...Folks

The author's beloved EtonWorld Band "wireless"
Doesn't it just bug you when people write these stories after a natural disaster like a hurricane/tropical depression trying to point out how these events  can actually be good for us in a strange way, because they reduce life to some essentials: safety, health, kindness?

Well, apologies, but I couldn't help myself.

Our powerful little devices like smartphones, tablets and laptops have given us a certain air of supremacy. Apple has become the world's most highly valued company and we sit on the edge of our seats waiting for their announcement of a new product. Got a homework question or lost on the road? Easy, just Google up the in-depth answer and the detailed map in seconds on your phone. A book you'd like to read? Holy Tolstoy! It's on your tablet at half price.

And, suddenly, life is no longer just a digital click away, it's in our cellars, on our roofs, in our faces. For once, all  the TV storm-hype comes true, and we sit in the dark without electricity, wifi, internet connections. We find out quickly that there is nothing more wired than a wireless system. Where's the serious hurricane-prevention app when you need one?

Before the TV went blank, did you notice how we'd become "folks" overnight instead of "people." Every reporter in the field, every reader at the desk talked about folks doin' this and that. Did you notice how all of these highly educated, highly paid folks all dropped their g's? Folks were hopin' and workin' and drivin' instead of hoping, working and driving. They tried so hard to be just folks that they sounded just a little ridiculous, although we must say that their actual reporting was excellent, far better than with Irene. But, next time, they should call us people and pronounce their -ing's as they were brought up or trained to do. Real folks can spot a phony talkin' at 'em fast. We the people.

Instead of the TV, we listened to the wind in the trees and the clanging of furniture left on porches. We watched while that damned "storm" door we meant to replace anyway came flying off its hinges. The chimney covers flew like maple leaves and fences leaped from their concrete moorings. And nature's marine panzer division, the ocean/sea/sound, demonstrated who's the real Boss, while rumbling over sea-walls and beaches, and across state lines at will.

We sat in the dark room, felt for the flashlights, lit the candles, and re-discovered our own stories, since we could no longer escape by watching someone else's.

Then, some of us without a generator might have remembered that old Eton transistor radio we kept in our beach bag for listening to Yankee games on weekend afternoons at the now torn and battered beach. Miraculously, the batteries were still good. Short Wave, Marine Band, AM, FM in our hands. CBS 880 News. And we remembered the other word for radio. Wireless. Hah!

We've  grown so used to companies, governments, candidates seeming to be in charge of everything. It's startling and, yes, refreshing in a scary way, to have the universe have its say, reminding us just how small we can be despite all of our technology and, let's face it, more than occasional arrogance especially at the highest levels.

Paying closer attention, we begin to think about light, water, shelter. We fall in love with the subway lines , commuter trains, and buses we previously loved to hate We wonder about the magical thing called ice. We think of food, cooking and how our neighbors are doing and what they might need. Human fear wanders in with the rain, but also human kindness, courage, and ingenuity. Out there in the howling wet dark, real people are doing really good, brave things for other real people. Our digitized - pixellized world goes analog. Real hands reach out to hold someone else's hand, instead of a cellphone.

Challenged by the elements we become elemental. Even some politicians look good to us. Holy Red & Blue! And some, maybe not so good. What sounds like good teamwork and planning today may become excuses and finger-pointing in the days ahead.

Let's try to hold on to that essential feeling as we try to bail, dig, pray our way back.

We're in the proverbial dark more often than we'd like to think. While we make repairs and dry our  homes, streets and tears, let's try not to forget that too soon.

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