You’d think we New Jerseyans had never been through a hurricane before. Back in 1985, Hurricane Gloria brushed us with her western edge. Then there was Tropical Storm Floyd. Guess he didn’t count because he got downgraded. All the same, he sent Post Brook as high as anyone could ever remember it.
Garden Staters are freaking out. People were asking directions for Lowes on Rt. 23, which was the last chance for anyone in northern New Jersey to buy a generator (I was stopped for gas and motorist asked me, “Do you live around here? Do you know where Lowes is?” Right up the highway. I wonder if the people buying them realize how noisy they are? Still, if you basement is filled to the ceiling with floodwater, who cares? Wear earmuffs.
What I was doing so near to the bedlam that is the new Route 23 shopping strip? Cell phone. I couldn’t get airtime anymore for my old phone, so I decided to be a big spender and get a new one at Staples. The market has definitely narrowed – AT&T, Verizon, or T-Mobile – or those two the same? I decided to go with the tried-and-true. AT&T has been around a long time, so maybe I won’t find my cell phone outdated in three years.
But the traffic! Home Depot was packed. Thank goodness I didn’t need to go in there. Not a D battery was left in Stop & Shop, the A& P, or Shop Rite. I’d had the good sense to buy a package of Ds about two months with a coupon when they were on sale. I also have a AA flashlight.
So now I have the new cell phone. Mom and Big Brother have the number. My tablet is charged up. All my outdoor furniture and Halloween decorations are in. I was going to let the Scarecrow Family join me in the living room, but Daisy started eating Mother Scarecrow’s feet, so into the closet they went. That’s all there is to hurricane preparation here in S.G. I went down to the Ground Zero of our town to help my good friend KL get ready for the flood.
They’ve lost track of the number of times they’ve been flooded out. She’s supposed to move to Pennsylvania for a job transfer but she and her husband are no sooner ready to sell the house than another flood comes along. She said she got the company to wait until July. However, when I mentioned the words “spring floods” she seemed to have second thoughts. The L’s convinced FEMA to let them have one of those flood trailers, which can be driven out of the area.
The flood plain people are great people; they help each other out packing up, moving things that can be moved and protecting what can’t. Today was the L’s turn. I showed up unexpectedly. I miss KL. I considered her my best word buddy. Watching her work was great fun. No one argued with General K. She put me to work wrapping up the Christmas decorations and moving their library to the second floor.
Pretty soon, their other neighbors showed up and got them moving. They told stories of previous floods and previous promises. On the way down, I noticed police barricading one of the streets and giving me a look as if to say, “Don’t even THINK of coming down this street!” Seems the governor was coming to town. By the time I got through with my circuit of chores, I could see many flashing lights at the Big Truck firehouse. I shrugged and went home. The only reason I knew Christie was there was because Mom called to tell me. Yup, there he was – just a short drive down the road. I still had too much to do, though.
Hurricane Sandy doesn’t worry me. But our fire department does. Every five years, they do a basement check. If everything isn’t in beer and pretzels order, they fine you. You can’t place anything within five feet of the water heaters. Well – duhhh. Believe it or not, though, people do those things. A local fireman told me a story of how a house went up in flames when the owners placed wicker furniture next to the furnace.
You can’t block the electrical box. Okay. This year’s firehose-through-your-car-window rule is that you can’t have anything within two feet of the ceiling. Well, the old color TV, PC monitor, and air conditioner were all out of date, anyway. So I called Bigger Brother over to haul them away. As a bonus, I gave him all of my ex sister-in-laws pocketbooks. He was worried I was going to throw these expensive pocketbooks away and he wanted to give them to his current girlfriend. God bless her, I said; take them! Get these things out of my basement – I’m a two pocketbook woman.
I was glad for the excuse to get rid of all the junk in the basement. I brought two carloads over to the Salvation Army. What was left, I threw in our association dumpster. When I opened the garbage bin, I was appalled to find someone had thrown out a Children’s Bible, and some other religious books. That bible was in excellent condition. Sometimes I just don’t know what people are thinking of. So I plucked the poor bible and the other Jesus books out of the bin. They are now a permanent part of my children’s book section.
Meanwhile, my next-door-neighbor, the Tattooed Lady, inveigled or perhaps even bribed our landscapers on Tuesday to mow down all the tiger lilies and hosta plants (which were still in bloom) along the riverbank. There is absolutely nothing now to stop the water from coursing down from the backyards across the parking lot, through the two curb cutaways that allow the maintenance vehicles through and right down the gulley that is the Tattooed Lady’s “backyard.”
I use the possessive term advisedly; it’s actually common ground. None of us owns anything except our units, and she owns nothing at all, being a renter not an owner. I e-mailed our property manager on Friday, and the Association Board came to look. But the idiot maintenance guy decided it would be too much work. In truth, there’s nothing they could do at that point. So everyone just walked away.
Which is okay by me. My spiteful neighbor claims she cut away all the plants because she “wanted to see the river.” The chances that the river will come at this high are not very likely; it’s a very high bank. Still, Tropical Storm Floyd set a new record, according to old-time tenants back in 1999. The town played it safe this time, and released as much water as they could ahead of time. Which is only get to get picked up by the storm again and find its way back here. But that’s life at the Ground Zero of flooding, at least in northern New Jersey. We should say a few prayers for Bound Brook, N.J.; they’re going to get the eye of the storm.
As for the Tattooed Lady, even now, in 40 M.P.H. winds, she’s sitting out on her porch in the dark, “watching the river” even though it’s as dry as a desert gulch. I hope she sits outside tomorrow, during the brunt of the hurricane (she’ll have to strap herself to her chair) and watch as what’s left of our soil goes cascading right off the cliff edge.
With any luck at all, it’ll take her barbecue patio with it. I'll be relaxing on couch, meanwhile, after working hard all weekend in anticipation of our fire department and Hurricane Sandy, listening to my favorite storm music, "Peaches and Screamers."