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Saturday, August 16, 2003

Posted by Matthew
Kinder, gentler New Yorkers

This is a remarkable evening. When I think of the city, my hometown, civility is not the first phrase that comes to mind. It's an impatient city. Last night, I took a walk from CNN's bureau across Penn Station all the way up 8th Avenue. It's a five-mile walk, and you go through five different kind of neighborhoods-- commercial hotels, grungy hotels. And the theme all the way of that walk was a sense of civility.

This whole power outage thing kinda amuses (sarcastically of course) me on a variety of levels. First let me start with the disclaimer: Power outages suck, major ones cost millions, a few people may acctually die or otherwise suffer because of them, etc etc etc... But in the grand scheme of things, for most people, a power outage is just a damn frustrating annoyance... and that's about it. Humans lived without power for a million years or so and by and large got along fine. Sure life was hard, but I should hope modern man can make it a couple days without juice. Now in a major city, things like sanitation, and food preservation become an issue, but there are ways to deal. So what amuses me? Here's a list:

- First and foremost, its a F***ing power outage... Everybody's been in power outages before. Yeah its a big one, and people are right to be concerned about terrorism or a even be a little indignant towards their provider for poor handling, but c'mon, we're talking about one of the very most complicated systems man has ever managed to invent which simply could not function efficiently without a few fragilities here and there, and every once in a long while, one breaks. (Now I know I know, analysts calculated the probability of such an outage being very low, but it was, and always will be possible) People freaking about all this and rushing to play the blame game (probably blame Dubya) are either a) directly loosing oodles of money or b) idiots.

- The media going nuts and trying desperatley to drum up a good riot for the evening news. Man, I hadn't seen news casters so excited and dare I say it, blood thirsty. When one didn't happen, they switched to the tactic of this article: Its a miracle there were no riots, or New Yorkers are just such fantastic people, etc etc. Oh wow! Heck, most groups of people when faced with a minor crisis will tend towards being a little more civil to eachother since a) we all like to comiserate with eachother (comraderie and all that) and b) we may need the other guy's help.

- Everyone just got a minor day off... take 'er easy, settle down with a good book or a good woman... sure there are things that need to be done, but otherwise what an opportunity to let life slow down for a little bit. I wonder if there will be a baby boom next May?

Okay okay enough of a rant from the guy on the otherside of the country with the computer, TV, fans, lights, and refrigerated drink at hand... I hope I haven't put my foot in my mouth when you all get back online and have stories of gross inconveniences... but really, the amount of coverage this is getting out here is getting absurd. So how did you all fair? Post your stories if you got any...

Jake -- I don't know about the news because I have been out of the loop for about 48 hours, but power outages are hell on hospitals. Every hospital in New York was on back up power and for a while our backup power failed. This means things like ventilators need to be done by hand which is a tall order when you are understaffed because Manhattan is a parking lot and none of the subways are running. Furthermore, backup power can only be used for critical tasks so all the elevators are out.

Meaning: Me and a lot of other medical students just spent the last 24 hours running up and down stairs carrying stuff. My personal favorite was cases of water that had to be taken up the 11th floor. But, hey, at least the backup came back so I wasn't hand venting a baby. I have no idea what the rest of the city was like. But in the hospital it was a mess.

Matt -- That's pretty cool Jake (not the hell, but you getting to help out). I've always wondered how things like hospital get the extra staff they'll need, I guess med students are top of the call list. Case of water eleven floors eh? Rough... that musta taken awhile.


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