A Port in the Storm: The Cooper-Lermans Prepare for Sandy

Those of you who remember my detailed and exhaustive preparations for Irene last year--or who've just come to get a sense of my general personality ;-) --know that when I say I like to prepare for a major storm, what I really mean is I like to over-prepare.  Well, I lived through Andrew back in '92 and September 11th back in 2001, so I've learned to appreciate what the Boy Scouts have been saying all along.


It was Thursday night when the local news stations first started talking about a Sandy strike as a distinct possibility for the New York area.  Under normal circumstances, Friday morning would have found me at the corner grocery store stocking up on enough water, cat food, and canned goods to carry us through at least a week without electricity, if it comes to that.  (When you live in a Manhattan apartment building, your water is tied to your electricity--which means that when you lose power, you lose water, too).  I'm still stocked up on flashlights, batteries, first-aid equipment, etc. from last year's hurricane, so food and water were the main priorities.

However, as it happened, Friday morning Laurence and I left at 6:00am to fly to Midland, MI, where I was the keynote speaker at the Ties & Tails fundraising gala for the Humane Society of Midland County on Saturday night.  So, on Thursday night, I had the bright idea of placing a large order with a service called FreshDirect, which delivers groceries right to your door at a pre-determined time.  Our plane home was scheduled to land at noon on Sunday, and the storm wasn't set to strike until Monday, so I scheduled a delivery slot of between 2:00 and 4:00 Sunday afternoon and boarded the plane Friday morning concerned, but not overly so.

Friday evening we met most of the Board of Directors for HSoMC, and Saturday afternoon I spent several happy hours knee-deep in rescue kitties--most of whom were super-friendly and in a great mood.  Perhaps because HSoMC has such a phenomenally high adoption rate.  While enjoying some cuddle time with a big lovable lug named Montague (who was SUCH a lover!), one of the volunteers came up to us and lamented, "I feel awful for Montague.  He's been here a while, and for the life of me I can't figure out why."

"How long has he been here?" I asked sympathetically, prepared to hear a truly awful number.

"At least a month," the volunteer told me.

When a no-kill shelter considers a month to be a long stay for an adult cat, you know they're doing something right.  I should add here that Midland County has no Animal Control.  HSoMC is the only animal rescue organization in town, and the board and volunteers are incredibly, incredibly dedicated to finding a safe, vetted home for the hundreds of cats and dogs that enter their facility every month.  And they're doing an amazing job.

 Me with Mist, an ADORABLE five-week-old kitten who I nearly stuffed into my purse and sneaked back to New York!

My speech Saturday night went off without a hitch, and Laurence and I were up at 5:00 Sunday morning to catch our flight back to New York.  We landed at noon, as scheduled, and walked in our door at 12:20.  So far, everything was going to plan.

Except that once I turned on my computer and checked email, I found a message from FreshDirect saying that all deliveries scheduled for 2:00 and later had been canceled.  My reunion with an ecstatic Homer (who always hates it when I'm gone overnight) was cut abruptly short as I slammed back out the door five minutes later, cursing at the top of my lungs, with Laurence in tow.

If there's one thing I HATE, it's fighting for items in a crowded store and then standing in a long, long line.  Truly, if there's a hell, for me it will be standing in a looooooooong line that doesn't move. Well, you can imagine what the grocery store was like the day before a hurricane.  Laurence and I filled our grocery cart quickly enough, but the lines at the crash registers stretched all the way to the back of the store and wrapped around.  Twenty minutes later, we could have sworn that they hadn't budged an inch.

"What's going on up there?" I asked Laurence.  I stood on my tiptoes but couldn't see over people's heads to the front of the store.

"It looks like the cashiers are bagging the groceries themselves," Laurence said.  "It's taking twice as long.  Why don't they make people bag their own groceries?"

There's a fine line between "helpful" and "pushy," and I decided to cross it.  "I had a job bagging groceries in college," I said.  "Would it be nuts if I went up there and helped?"

Laurence shrugged and made a face in a way that said, It sounds crazy, but why not?

So, handing Laurence my purse, I wove my way through the packed-to-the-rafters-with-people store, went behind the register of the line we were waiting in, and told the cashier, "I worked in a grocery store in college.  Will you let me help you bag groceries?"  (I should add here that Laurence and I are in this particular store at least three times a week, so just about everybody who works there knows us at least by sight.)

"PLEASE!" Linda, the cashier, replied.

Back to my roots--bagging groceries ahead of the hurricane

And so I spent the next hour and change bagging groceries at our neighborhood Gristede's.  Suddenly our line was moving three times faster than any of the other lines.  Most people laughed and thanked me when they got to the register, although one fussy customer wanted everything individually bagged in a very specific way and got a bit cranky with me.  Finally I observed, "I don't work here, sir.  I'm volunteering.  So you wanna step off my jock?"  (When dealing with surly New Yorkers, one must speak in the language they understand.)

Things were moving so swiftly and Linda--the poor, overworked cashier (who'd been there since 6:00am without a break!)--was so relieved to have some help, that I stayed awhile after Laurence was checked through and kept bagging.  The store graciously allowed Laurence to use the grocery cart to get all our things home--since I wasn't able to help him.  Eventually, though, I had to join Laurence at home so we could start pulling everything off of our balcony, get our batteries and other supplies together, and so on.

So we're pretty well hunkered down at this point.  My main concern is all the construction scaffolding on the buildings around us, which I'm pretty sure wasn't built to withstand hurricane-strength winds.  But Laurence and I are pretty high up.  When the storm hits its peak, we'll probably put the cats in our bathrooms (which have no windows and should be the safest rooms in our home in terms of flying debris) and hole up in our bedroom with our mattress against the window.  God willing, our little family will wake up Wednesday morning none the worse for wear.

I hope that all of you reading this in the Northeast have made your preparations (and accounted for your cats and dogs!) and will stay warm, dry, and safe over the next couple of days.  I'll post when it's all over to let you know we're okay. :-D

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