TITLE: Gravity May Lose Its Pull*
DATE: 12/27/2004 03:08:00 PM
There is a delicious post-apocalyptic feel to mornings like this day's morning was. Brightly-colored price signs at the gas pump partially obscured by a thin spun-sugar layer of driven snow. Only the occasional car bumping and fishtailing along a blurry street. The hysterical blinking yellow on top of plow trucks. And silence--the kind of silence that only descends in a heavy winter storm, or, you would imagine, some kind of overwhelming disaster.
There's a sense of freedom on a morning like this, a sense of release from mundane responsibility that always accompanies a state of emergency, regardless of its scale. This is the kind of morning when the clerk at the mini-mart tells you, "drive safe out there," and newscasters warn, "if you do not absolutely have to go out, stay off the roads," and you know as long as you manage to stumble in before noon, you'll be looked upon as something of a hero just for battling and sliding your way into work.
Other people dislike the snow, and the howling winters of New England. Can't blame them--especially couldn't when I was shoveling out my car with frigid snowmelt seeping into my sneakers, because I forgot my boots at work; winter means you can't be quite so careless as usual, and this is bad news for me. But part of me loves when winter takes over, crushes, punishes, reminds us unequivocally that there are forces and concepts bigger than us, squashes our petty complaints under its thumb. Leaves everyone squished together, bundled, sniffling through red noses and suddenly conversing, though they are strangers stamping icy boots on the soaked rubber mat in the convenience store, like old friends deeply concerned for one another's well being.
"Christ, crazy out there."
"Ayuh. Got fowahweel drive, tho."
Caught up in a strange feeling of nostalgia this morning as I coaxed my little car along to work (in snow storms like this one, I often compare cars, in terms of their relative usefulness on inclement roads, to shoes: sports cars are like high heels, SUVs and big rumbling trucks like sturdy boots; on this scale, my car is kind of like a sensible flat. Not as bad off as a Thunderbird, maybe, but these are the kinds of days I think how good it would be to own a Jeep), wanting to wrap myself up in the memories of batten-down-the-hatches-light-candles-and-put-on-the-radio mornings past, I switched from my usual FM morning show to WBZ, Boston's AM news station. Needed those up-to-the-minute bulletins this morning. Oh, yes. I am, to paraphrase Julie, ten kinds of mighty survivalist badass.
Soon after turning on 'BZ, I learned that earthquakes measuring 9.0 on the Richter Scale, centered the Indian Ocean off Indonesia, as well as the Mega-Tsunami they caused, had killed between 22,000 and 23,000 people in Asia overnight. The earthquake, among the strongest in recorded history, actually moved the island of Sumatra 100 feet to the southwest.
WBZ played an audio clip of a woman whose daughter was washed away by the monstrous wave as the two lay in their bedroom. It was the kind of grating, animalistic sound few creatures--a mother in mourning among them--can make; the kind that makes you grimace involuntarily, even as it comes across airwaves from thousands of miles away.
Once that story was over (for the time being, anyway, WBZ cycles its coverage around the clock; listen for a whole day and you'll hear the same story either repeated or updated at least ten times), the next item was the problems the snow was causing holiday travelers in the US over the past week, especially in Boston in the last 24 hours. Once again, WBZ played an audio clip, this time an hysterical American woman shrilling, "It's not just the delays! It's the lack of information! If they would just TELL US WHERE WE STAND!!! THAT'S ALL WE'RE ASKING?!?! IT'S NOT TOO MUCH!!!!!!! "
Though of course she lacked the raw note of genuine pain, she sounded as passionate and wounded as the woman who'd lost her daughter. The comparison was difficult not to make, especially given the fact that the two stories were presented back-to-back.
And I thought: You know, sometimes it's kind of a no-brainer why the rest of the world hates us.
And then I thought: Sometimes, you look around, and you hear the stories of disaster, and you think...well...maybe it wouldn't be so bad. Maybe the only way to fix this situation--this human situation, this earthly situation--would be a vigorous shake of the Etch-A-Sketch.
**That's if an asteroid doesn't hit us first.