Preparation

At 7:30 this morning, the supermarket was packed. I felt bad for an elderly man who had a huge stack of frozen dinners – “They were on sale,” he told the cashier.

“What if your power goes out?” I said.

“Ah, I’ll be fine.”

Then I went to the Home Depot, which was a lot less crowded, but still pretty crowded for early Sunday morning. There, I had the happy task of buying a 5-gallon bucket with lid, as I was instructed by a friend who’d been through extended power outages. For what? Don’t ask.

Last night, I bought a few bags of ice at the local convenience store. “If this runs out tomorrow, are you getting more Monday?” I asked.

“Oh yeah, we’ll get more. I don’t know why everybody’s buying so much ice.”

“Because of the big storm. We’re going to have power outages,” I told her.

“But only for a day, right?”

“They’re saying to prepare for at least a week,” I said.

Her eyes got big. “But I have a baby on an apnea monitor,” she said.

I didn’t know what to say; she was doing shift work at a convenience store, I knew she couldn’t afford a backup generator.

“The hospitals always have power,” I told her. “If you have a problem, call them.” I didn’t know what else to say. In a visceral way, I really got it: The working-poor folks who went through Katrina were too busy holding their lives together to deal with a hurricane. Who has time to watch the news?

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