I’m scattered this morning, so I figured I’d share some of the thoughts I’ve been having as a result of Super Storm Sandy. (Such a catchy name, but my mom isn’t exactly appreciative of having a storm named after her. One of the nice side effects of having a unique name. I can’t be given kitschy gifts like key chains with my name on them and I can’t have a massive storm named after me.)
First thought, is about the nature of connection in this day and age.
I grew up in one state, went to college in two others, lived in a third, have spent way too much of my working hours in a fourth, and have spent a decent amount of time in a foreign country lately. Which means I have some really great friends and they are scattered all over the world.
I was trying to figure out what to do with my life (before I let that job that pays my bills decide for me yet again) and I listed out where my best friends are. Turns out that my four best friends are in four different locations spread across two countries. And they really are great friends – those people you can always talk to if you need it. But the nature of our friendships is not the same as you would’ve had fifty years ago. They’re not based on face time. Three of the four grew out of time spent together, but the fourth has always been almost completely remote. And now all four are remote.
Which means that in a situation like this one, I can hope that my friends are ok, but I can’t DO anything to help them. I can’t swing by and help them board up windows. I can’t offer to let them crash at my place because they’re in a danger zone. And, if the situation had been reversed and I were in the path of the storm, they couldn’t help me. So, I have these people in my life who are a great source of emotional support, but they aren’t physically present in my life.
Second thought is about our interconnectedness and inability to fend for ourselves.
This leads into the second thought. When I was younger we lived in a small mountain town and pretty much everyone in that town except for us knew how to hunt. And a number of my friends overseas also know how to hunt. But most of the people I know cannot take care of themselves. Myself included. If life went to shit tomorrow, I’d be screwed and so would they.
No electricity? No water? Canned goods used up within a week? Now what?
Help, someone, please.
It’s a product of modern life. Live in big urban areas and you have to rely on others to survive. But it’s somewhat scary if you really scratch the surface and think about how dependent your existence is on so many others. (And that’s just the basics – electricity, water, food. Let’s not even talk about where your “money” is and how that works…)
Third thought is about our inability to encompass the possibility of negative outcomes.
Yesterday, in the lead-up to the storm, I had a few friends who were very dismissive of the storm. One was posting about having Cheetos and beer and asking why it’s important to have water stored up. The other was right outside of an evacuation zone and absolutely positive that they’d have power no matter what because they weren’t in the evacuation zone and their building had a generator.
Well, one turned out lucky and the storm didn’t really hit their town. The other is now stranded without water or power. And, yet, the one who is stranded is still planning on doing a conference call this afternoon. Not a life and death call either. This person still doesn’t understand that things may not get fixed right away. That using a cellphone for a conference call on day 1 may mean it’s not available on day 3 when things still haven’t been fixed and it’s needed to call for emergency help.
It’s good in one sense that we don’t dwell on the extreme outcomes. Doing so can freeze you in your tracks. But it’s bad if you don’t at least consider that there can be extreme outcomes.
And that also brings me to my fourth thought.
Fourth thought is about skewed priorities.
I’m all for “the show must go on” thinking. You don’t grow up with a terminally ill parent who’s hospitalized on a regular basis without learning that some things aren’t near as serious as they may appear on the surface. BUT. The other thing that taught me was that not everything is as important as others would have you believe.
And I can’t understand this person I know participating in a conference call when they’re still in a precarious situation and have no electricity and are stranded. And I know that this person is not the only one. I know this type of person. I spent too many years working in offices with this type of person.
It’s the same person who leaves their kid’s soccer game when their phone rings. Who gets up in the middle of the night to review e-mails. Who bows out of Sunday brunch with their family to go into the office.
I don’t know. The world needs those types. (It’s amazing how much certain people accomplish.) But, ugh. I guess if it makes them happy to live their life that way, then good for them. (I’m just not sure it does for most…)
So, anyway, that’s my random thoughts for the day. I hope everyone is ok and that your friends and family that were hit by the storm are ok, too.
Smart-phones might make people who use them more productive (for a given value of productive); however I can remember having several important meetings derailed because someone thought their immediate input on a completely different task was more important than the meeting, leading to everyone else losing productivity.
Having seen some people check frequently on spec when they have an audible alert for everything, I believe the feeling of being in contact is addictive.
Yeah, I’ve had those bosses. I had one who put his blackberry on vibrate and in the course of a meeting it would literally shake itself right off the end of the table. (Assuming he wasn’t sitting in the corner checking it for the whole meeting…)