No Shore Thing

Even the best-laid vacation plans get blown off course

I looked forward all year to the week at the Shore that was supposed to begin last Saturday. I had my bags packed, and my boogie board brought up from the basement. I was good to go—and then that bitch Irene ruined everything.

I followed the track of the storm anxiously as the week wound down, hoping for a miracle. Please, God, clobber the poor suckers in Nags Head and pass us by. Disasters bring out the ugliness in me. I dutifully trudged to the grocery store on Friday night, on my way home from work, and stocked up on bottled water and bread. Saturday morning, I blinked when Mayor Nutter warned me to be ready for a week to 10 days without electricity: A week? Really? Do I look like Laura Ingalls Wilder? If you put my husband and me and our kids in a house for a week without electricity, there would be nothing left at the end but bones and scraps of hair.

As the storm developed, e-mails flew between me and my siblings and cousins: Are you going? Are you staying? Then came the e-mail from the owners of the house we’ve rented every Labor Day weekend for the past 23 years: They were evacuating. So long, lazy weekend playing Scrabble at the beach. Hello, hauling every potted plant and piece of lawn furniture into the garage.

I felt sorry for the wind-swept, rain-drenched reporters on the Atlantic City Boardwalk and the beach at Brigantine, gamely proving to us that it really was awful out there. Weathercasters can’t win with a storm like Irene. If they underplay it, people could die. So, inevitably, they overplay it, and then get accused—rightly—of hyping for the sake of ratings. In the end, our roof stayed on, the tomato plants lived, and the lights never even flickered. Which is a good thing, because even though we had plenty of food in the house, I’d have had no way to cook it without electricity. And how would we make martinis when the ice ran out?

So I lost a couple days of vacation. A lot of people lost much more. And we all got a taste of the refreshing camaraderie that binds us together in the face of adversity: We held doors for one another at the SuperFresh, joked with neighbors as they battened down their hatches, empathized over ruined canopies and plans. That’s the upside of a natural disaster, as, increasingly, we live our lives in LED-lit isolation: They remind us that we exist on a real planet, amidst real people.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m heading for the Shore.