So, you’ve decided to shelter in place.
Looking over your massive checklist, you feel pretty damned good about your progress thus far: you’ve boarded up your windows, fully stocked your pantry with a variety of unhealthy snacks and wine, filled up your car, polished off the remaining tubs of ice cream in your freezer (you know, in case of power outages), and put together a workable plan B for evacuation if the situation takes a sudden turn for the worse.
Now you wait.
The distance between when the hurricane first shows up as an indistinct circular blob far out in the Atlantic and when it finally rakes across the boarded up expanse of your coastal community can be upwards of ten days. In that prolonged period of frenzied activity followed by anxiety laced nothingness, you’ve had time to watch your friends go batshit on social media as they publicly decide whether to stay or go, posting a nonstop flood of pictures depicting destruction and terror from past storms that manages to seriously harsh your mellow. You’ve fielded panicked texts, calls, and emails from out of state friends and relatives who are freaking out on your behalf as you take time away from conducting precious hurricane prep in order to soothe them. You’ve bought eighty dollars worth of the unhealthiest garbage you could find, along with several bottles or cans of your alcohol of choice. You’ve returned to the store to replenish that first round of snacks and booze because, after a few days of the storm barely moving at all, you shoveled everything you could find in the cupboards and fridge into your mouth, despite your solemn pledge not to gain ten pounds during this hurricane. You’ve watched too many hours of the Weather Channel, gasping when you see correspondents broadcasting from your nearby sleepy little expanse of beach (looking at you, Jim Cantore).
But, mostly, you’ve just been waiting, because work, school, and all your social activities have been canceled, leaving you plenty of time to imagine the worst (days without power and air conditioning in the sweltering heat), scarf down round two of your snacks (the store’s still open, anyway), and pull up Expedia.com long enough to check out a few hotels further inland before scoffing cavalierly and refusing to be dislodged from your own home (also, what clothes would you bring? You’ve already gained five pounds).
The wait is mind-numbingly boring and yet also weighty with fear of the unknown storm, which is currently spinning hundreds of miles southeast of your location. What you need is something to take your mind off of this.
Don’t you have some work you could be doing in the meantime? Oh, you’ve already done it.
Hurricane prep? Done and done days ago.
Perhaps you could visit a non-evacuated friend and commiserate over shared snacks? Well, your car is already barricaded in the garage, which is locked from the inside and lined with sandbags on the outside. Moving all that seems like way too much work.
Well, maybe you can dig into some of those round three snacks then. Technically, you’re under Hurricane Warning, which means all snacks are fair game.
The calm isn’t terrible, come to think of it. Neither is the way all your professional and social responsibilities have momentarily fallen away, leaving you oddly free, besides being trapped in the shuttered fortress of your home. And isn’t it kind of nice hearing from all the people you knew from school and all of your former coworkers who live out of state? You know, the people you never talk to in real life, just via Facebook whenever one of you posts a cute picture of your pets.
But now you’ve ventured into day seven of persistent hurricane watch, and your patience is tattering at the edges, as though it’s already weathered the howling winds and pouring rain of the incoming Category 4 (or 3? Or 2?) storm.
Can it come already? Even if it means losing power? Because you can’t do anything until it does. This phase of the game is better known as hurricane paralysis. You can watch and stuff your face, but you can’t carry on with life until the storm either puts you through the ringer or passes you by.
So you continue sheltering in place. You check in with friends. Have they evacuated? Are they staying put? Have they heard some precious tidbit about the coming storm that you somehow missed despite your white-knuckled cable news vigilance?
No one knows anything.
No one is doing anything.
Everyone is on edge, bored to tears, and eating themselves out of house and home.
Fortunately, thanks to an endless stream of updates and satellite images, you’re basically an amateur meteorologist at this point and fully capable of projecting where the hurricane (still seemingly weeks away from where you sit in front of your television, double-fisting Doritos and jarred cheese dip) will make landfall. You estimate the probability of your county falling outside of the Cone of Uncertainty with near scientific indubitability, despite your past shaky performances in high school and college level math and science courses.
This is your life now. You might as well embrace it.
Sartre once said that hell is other people. But maybe it’s actually hurricane paralysis.
In the meantime, thank god for snacks and air conditioning. Long may they last.