Friday, August 26, 2011

Me, Myself and Irene

A lot of wild things have happened this week. My work desk shook for 15 seconds Tuesday afternoon from an East Coast earthquake. My Mom got a BlackBerry. Jada Pinkett Smith apparently had sex with Marc Anthony. 

And now, on top of all of that action, Ocean City has had a mandatory evacuation for the first time since 1985, in preparation for Hurricane Irene.

I’m still here, though, in my apartment about 100 yards away from the shoreline. I’m staying to cover the impending natural disaster for the local papers, because covering Ocean City for the local media group is my job. The opportunity to ride out a hurricane on this peninsula was a pretty difficult one to turn down. Just a few weeks ago, my uncle and I were talking about how we’d always wanted to weather a hurricane-level storm. I said that shit was on my bucket list, but you know what? So is making out with a cute Asian girl and high-fiving Ryan Gosling. Can you guess which of those three is the one I am the least adamant about actually experiencing? (It’s the hurricane one.) Serves me right for being that annoying ass dude who always puts up Facebook statuses telling everyone he loves thunderstorms, and for naming my blog “The Calm During the Storm.” We will see how calm I am tomorrow when I’m experiencing floods and wind speeds higher than 100 mph. I’m probably going to piss my pants more than once.

Everyone was supposed to be out of town by 5 p.m., and most were. I woke up from a nap a couple hours after that, and ventured outside to see the sunset and to feel out the vibe of a town that is almost completely deserted. It was the first time since I moved here almost six months ago that I’ve heard crickets. I really wasn’t aware they even inhabited Ocean City, I suppose because they’re typically drowned out by the noise generated by the 250,000 or so people in town during the summer months. Tonight, though, people had gotten the hell out of Dodge, an expression I've heard at least 85 times since Thursday morning. (I had no idea what it meant until I Googled it.) It's kind of a shame, because it was one of the most beautiful evenings of the summer so far.

If you ever want to know what it feels like to be alone, go stand in the middle of a six-lane highway in an evacuated town. I took a few pictures with my phone, then I turned around and walked out to the beach, which looked completely normal except for some waves of the rougher-than-average variety. I took some more pictures, and didn’t know what to do, so I did what I would do on a normal evening: I drank some scotch and I made dinner. A 20 ounce steak my neighbor had given me before she evacuated. She was cleaning out her freezer and hooked me up. Honestly, I don’t really eat red meat that often anymore -- I've got the cholesterol of a 60-year-old fat guy -- but I felt like I needed to amp up my impression of myself as a manly man. Also, my normal dietary principles are out the window until the storm is over and I have electricity back. Last night I bought Vienna Sausages and Cheese Whiz, and I didn't buy those products to look at them.

Now, I wait. That’s the worst part, for sure. This is one of those things you just want to come as quickly as possible, so you can get it over with. I can now empathize with those vapid women who get engaged to Hugh Hefner and have to have sex with him. I’m scared, that’s for sure. I’m not going to deny that, but I think I’m more anxious than anything.

I wonder what it’ll be like when it’s over, what it might look like if I walk outside on Sunday morning when the worst of the storm has passed. It could be the wildest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. I’m also interested in what I’ll hear, though. To my knowledge, crickets can’t really withstand a hurricane. They might get blown away, and then what? What do you say when you walk outside and it’s so quiet you don’t even hear crickets?

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