Sunday, December 26, 2010

Blizzards & Other Disasters: How They Bring People Together

So I'm happy that my family in the South FINALLY got a White Christmas. The last one in their area of NC was close to 30 years ago. I told my mom to make sure my nephew gets to play in the snow + if he wants to get tons of snow to play in, he can always visit me in NYC. CT also gets tons of snow.

I remember first moving to CT & after going through that scary blizzard to visit the law school, driving through yet more snowfall from West Haven after going to this guy's house one evening early on in my law school career. I also remember getting my car stuck in the snow & a guy coming to my rescue on that. My law school classmates who were w/me that night instantly thought he was cute (or if you want to use the British term, "fancied," which I think fits here & should become part of the American vernacular) & he hung out w/us that whole evening. I was simply grateful my car was no longer in the snow.

So that first Northeast winter, I got an instant education on the pitfalls of mass snowfall.

I find it telling & interesting that natural disasters tend to bring people together. Granted, you don't need snowfall to make that happen. Power outages or getting stuck on a subway can do it as well. Still, I was living in Atlanta during the 2003 blackout & for 9/11. Since I'm sitting here in NYC while the snow steadily falls (and am thrilled I won't have to drive in it), I wanted to wax eloquently about a particular bad weather experience in college.

Atlanta saw some bad weather once in a while but no blizzards, very few ice storms and you'd see a lot of people wanting it to snow so we'd get out of classes.

One Sunday in January (could have been February but I think it was before my birthday) we got an ice storm. There were some visitors from my sorority helping us in our recruitment efforts & building our colony (I joined my chapter when it was a simply a colony, making me one of the founding members). At that time, I'd only been in the sorority for a couple months. I didn't know a lot of the girls too well & heard talk about people but didn't know enough about the subjects of that talk to form my own opinion of them. Having been talked about myself, I was not the sort to condemn people just for sleeping with people or getting drunk somewhere.

So, I remember hearing a knock on my dorm room door & going to answer. My RA was there, telling me that there was an ice storm. She may have been evacuating the dorm to the student center but my memory escapes me here.

I got dressed & went to meet with my sorority sisters, since we'd had our colony building activities scheduled at the same place that I had to attend anyway. When we were finished with our meeting basically talking about the lack of power, we walked into the dining hall to find food heated by sterno & classmates saying there was no power.

So since we had no events continuing at the moment, my family lived very far away & I didn't drive, I just decided to hang out. I ended up hanging out with a sorority sister who became one of my close friends in college since we were trying to get in touch with our parents, figure out what was going on, etc. I had no reason to go back to my dorm since it was abandoned, there was no power, etc.

We ended up going shopping at Lenox Square Mall, eating a hot meal & I got some undies at Victoria's Secret.

After we got back to campus, we were told to go to the student center immediately. We go into the darkened building, where the powers that be were trying to evacuate the campus due to the lack of power (and by extension, the lack of heat). I figured I'd be staying on campus that night since again, no family nearby & I didn't drive.

Instead another sorority sister (who was the colony president as well as my big sister), told me I was going to spend the evening at her house since her parents had power. I went back to my dorm to pack up and then met w/her as she told me.

Turns out me & some other classmates I knew to varying length (male & female) were going to this sorority sister's house. She'd talked about her parents being cool & not having an issue w/guy friends spending the night. This was a total 180 from my parents, considering that we didn't have a home environment you'd want to bring people into + my mom is still quite puritanical today. She was even more so when we were younger.

Sure enough, my big sister was dead accurate about her parents. They didn't bat an eye at seeing our crowd or seem put out by us all being there. We just settled down, watched movies, hung out & stayed warm. The next day, we did more of the same & attempted to find out when we'd be having class again (since the university pretty much had to cancel classes with power not being restored by Monday morning + the previous night's evacuation). On Monday evening, my dorm had power again so I & the other refugees from that dorm went back to our cable TV, showers and solitude.

Even now, you can form alliances when you're clearing snow off your car. My husband's helped people get their cars out as they've helped him with our car. Let's face it, when technology isn't available or there's some crisis preventing you from staying at home you can see human kindness manifest itself in strange ways. Sometimes, it's the people you wouldn't think would help you or someone you'd never talked to before.

I suppose it's why I find crisis interesting. You learn things about people & see things you wouldn't otherwise see. There's deviations from the facade people like to place up about themselves & I think it forms bonds you might not otherwise get. That's also the reason I think one of the best ways to get to know someone is taking a road trip w/the person: the facade eventually vanishes & you get insight into the real person if the trip is long enough.

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