Communications meltdown

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A crisis is intensely local. It took us the better part of two weeks to clean the wreckage from our basement and pack the stuff that survived into storage, and the only thing I could think about while we worked was what was going on in our house, our block, and our neighborhood. Since Sandy knocked out power throughout the region, she knocked out our means of connecting with the outside world. Cell signals were spotty, and anyway you had to be careful not to run down your battery. The few times we did get online at Baked, I was much too frazzled to do anything other than check my email.

As a neighborhood, of course, we banded together to commiserate over our collective loss and share whatever we could spare. The lucky few with power ran extension cords out of their windows for passers-by to plug in. We swapped trashbags and plywood to board up broken doors and windows, and we let one another know whenever volunteers were around with hot food.

What is generally true became more obvious: I knew what was going on on my block, was familiar with what was going on in my neighborhood, and had only fragmentary snapshots of the city, the country, and the world. I overheard some people arguing that it was time to return to analog phones, but that wasn’t really failsafe, either, since the storm also took down some land lines.

In a way, it forced us to live purely in the moment, which might have been a nicer experience if it hadn’t been so stressful. The effects linger, though — I still have no real idea what happened during those weeks, aside from the election, of course.

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