*Peeks around corner* -- miss me? I’ve missed you! Sorry for the short sabbatical – as Mama Gump would say, you gotta know when to say when, or something like that. Mama Gump was a wise woman, she was. But I’m back now and better than ever, with a little help from my friends.
I never really liked post-apocalyptic stories. Unless they were written by Issac Asimov, I never found them particularly believable. People wouldn’t really de-evolve into such barbarians, would they? I had too much faith in humanity to think that Mad Max could really happen… and then I lived through Hurricane Sandy.
Now, mind you, the amount of time that I lost power could be counted in hours, not days or weeks or months like some of my neighbors. The kids were thrilled, actually – they got to play board games by candlelight followed by a week and a half vacation while the school recovered from the storm. Some folks are still without heat, or worse – without homes – even as I’m writing this, warm and cozy at Starbucks while the wind-chill outside is twenty below, so I have absolutely nothing to complain about.
The worst part of Sandy for us was the gas crisis. People were so afraid of there not being enough gas that it became a self-fulfilling prophesy. Everyone filled their tanks, even if they didn’t need to, and plenty of red cans to boot. Sure enough, the whole area ran out of gas.
You had to wait in line for hours, and I do mean hours, to get gasoline. The local McDonald’s was doing deliveries to people’s cars while they waited. They could take your order, make your food, and bring it out to you… and your car hadn’t moved. Within days, cars started getting siphoned of gasoline in their own driveways. Facebook was flooded with angry rants that grew angrier by the day – who was price gouging, who was letting friends cut the line, that sort of thing. It was only about a week after Sandy when someone got shot at the pump. I heard the victim had jumped the line, but I don’t know if that was true. Not that he deserved shot, even if it was a rotten thing to do. The police started posting officers at the gas stations to direct traffic and keep the peace, and restrictions were set into place so that you could only get gas on designated days.
It was craziness! I was looking around thinking – “What is wrong with you people?!” It reminded me of that Twilight Zone episode where everyone went insane trying to break into their neighbor’s bomb shelter.
It was also, blessedly, short lived. I stalled getting gas until I was down to 10 miles to E, but by the time I couldn’t put it off any longer, the crisis was over. Good thing, too, because another week or two and I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a Thunderdome being erected in the town square – winner gets a tank of gas!
There was a lot of truly inspiring behavior as well. Everyone in my hometown got together and prepared a Thanksgiving feast for one of the hardest hit areas, for example. People opened their homes to friends and strangers who had no electricity or hot water. Oh, and Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi and The Who threw one helluva benefit concert.
As I writer, I found the great diversity in people’s reactions to the storm and its aftermath fascinating. It definitely provided plenty of inspiration that I'm sure will make its way into my next manuscript. How do you think you would react? Would you rise above it and show the world the best of humanity, or would you shift to a survival of the fittest mentality? And what do you think about post-apocalyptic stories in general? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below!