Hurricane Sandy Hit & We’re Giving Each other The Finger?

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Boats are strewn among houses amid wreckage from Superstorm Sandy in Sea Bright, New Jersey. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Over the past week, the news has been filled with footage and updates regarding Hurricane Sandy’s devastation and recovery efforts. Referred to by many media outlets as “New Jersey’s Katrina,” the superstorm has claimed lives and livelihood here and across several other states.  Some lost power. Others lost  homes, business and in some cases, family members.

As a New Jersey resident for over 20 years, I’ve never lived more than 15 miles from the ocean. It’s difficult to comprehend when Governor Christie and others say that most of the Jersey shore is now entirely “unrecognizable”  or altogether gone. Homes, possessions and pets are no more, swept in the ocean along with the twisted metal of entire roller coasters from nearby boardwalk amusement areas.

Seaside Heights Funtown Pier, NJ. Superstorm Sandy 2012.

Much of my childhood was spent on Staten Island (also greatly impacted by Sandy) where trips with family to head “down the shore” made me lose sleep with excitement.  Through the years, there were strolls along the shore, enjoying boardwalk taffy and bonfires and of course, plenty of swimming. One unusually hot April day a few years ago brought hundreds of people to the shore. I joined them on Sandy Hook, one of my favorite places, grinning ear to ear at the pre-Memorial Day delight of wearing suntan lotion.  Just a few days before Sandy hit, I sat on the Point Pleasant beach and watched the wonderful sunrise.  I made the rest of that day a “beach day” as I drove through Spring Lake, Ocean Grove and then along Ocean Avenue passing through Monmouth Beach, Sea Bright and finally, Sandy Hook.

Yesterday, I spoke with a friend who is now in a hotel room miles away, unsure of the status of her Sea Bright condo.  Low-flying  Coast Guard helicopters are a routine sound as are the sights of the National Guard waving people through blocked intersections, downed poles and buckled streets.  Parts of the shore do not exist.

Sunrise, Point Pleasant, NJ October 26, 2012

Point Pleasant beach October 26, 2012

Yet while many people have pulled together to assist others by making monetary donations, volunteering at soup kitchens or donating food and clothing, there are those who have exhibited shockingly appalling behaviors.  Their childish “woe-is-me-and-nobody-else” whining and unwarranted rage (although, is rage ever warranted?) towards another person is an embarrassment to the human race, a shameful reflection of character and very, very disheartening to observe.

Actually, this could be said about behaviors in response to Sandy’s devastation just as much as it could be about how many people handle an ordinary day at work or home. A perpetual bad attitude, the inability to respect others and throwing their hands up in the air at adult life responsibilities, especially at times like this, does not demonstrate confidence and courage but rather cowardice and crudeness.

I say this because of what I observed yesterday: Big time road rage while waiting in a local gas line for over an hour. The man behind me could not help but to block the intersection and it was enough to set off the woman on the side road trying to cross. She had enough. She actually got out of her car, pounded her fist repeatedly on the man’s van door and hood, then shouted that he shouldn’t have blocked the intersection.  I couldn’t help but tremble as I watched from my rear-view mirror, her tone and frowns as deep as her impatience and lack of respect. The driver basically ignored until she returned to her vehicle. This of course, caused others to yell from their windows, a domino effect of anger that is often seen spewing forth from little minds trying to make big moves.

I spent the rest of my wait feeling nervous inside, listening to yells and honks and watching angry fists and fingers rise towards the glorious sky.  Just as I got to the tank about 30 minutes after this incident, a pedestrian came running up to a nearby police officer. She was breathless and near tears as she informed him that a fight was about to break out.

Moments later, my tank was filled. The instant I left the station, I felt lighter inside. Forget gas, I felt more grateful to have escaped near-riot experiences.  Yet my heart felt deeply saddened.

Entire boardwalks, homes and business are forever gone, the National Guard is in our own neighborhoods and for some, family members have died or are missing. We are all, in our own way, struggling. And yet, many folks—likely the same kind of folks who are bothered by sunlight but wait for someone else to buy them sunglasses, the same kind of folks who complain rather than contribute, the “I’m the only one in the world (or region, or mere moment)”—these people have nothing better to do than yell and pound their fists in anger all in their attempt to get ahead and ironically, move forward with their lives in peace and happiness.

We’re in this together, everyone. Not just concerning Sandy, but this thing called Life.

Let’s learn to play nice.

Sign in Tinton Falls, NJ November 3, 2012.

Life in the Fast Lane

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I haven’t told many people this, but I see UFO’s every day . . .

The relaxing tune of “Summer Breeze” was playing on the radio a couple of weeks ago as I sat at an intersection close to home. Just Seals & Croft, my 8-year-old silver Saturn and, yes, a true gentle breeze. Not a soul was around, not in the next lane, across the street. Nada.

Highway to Hell

The light was red; my car the only one waiting.  The light turned green and naturally, I accelerated. Then, my heart accelerated. What I saw when I glanced in my mirror left me with no choice but to become paralyzed with panic.   

 “Makes me feel fine. . .”  Breathe. Just breathe.

Literally from out of nowhere came a dark object, that just two seconds ago, was not present. I blinked and there it was, two bright lights on either side of the massive beast. It hovered directly behind me at first, then picked up more speed. Before I knew it, it was swaying side to side, still maintaining its location behind me, reminiscent of a fighter jet that had its target locked in sight. It was playing “tag” and clearly, I was “it.”

UFO

 “Blowing through the jasmine in my mind.”

Keeping one eye on my speedometer and the other on the UFO, I tried my best to stay calm, despite the fact that the bright lights were now flashing repeatedly behind me; pulsing, relentless strobes. Clearing, they were sending some alien message to me; a futuristic frenzy of flickering that was telling me something. But what?

All this, and all I wanted was to make it downtown to get another hazelnut Dunkin’ Donuts coffee.

 Born to be Wild

In reality, this UFO was not manned by those gray beings with saucer-wide eyes and a narrow nose, but rather very hyper human beings with a very narrow-minded view about sharing the road. These are Unusually Frantic Objects (UFOs).

Apparently, their mission was even more dire than my coffee craving, if that’s even possible.

speeding

Either they were late to their own wedding or really excited about Kohls’ shoe sale, but the fully tinted Dodge Charger was so close to me I could no longer see it madly flashing its lights, not to mention view its license plate. Like a 5th grade bully with unresolved issues, the driver was intent on “pushing” me out of the way.

The Top Gun “locked in” fighter jet pursued me for about three miles down the road, where I maintained the clearly-posted speed limit of 50. OK, for fear of being hit, I crept to 55. Maybe . . . ok. 57.  For what, though? Since when is another person’s personal hurry my own? I went back to 50. The madness continued until we approached another light just on edge of a very crowded downtown area. The UFO moved to the other lane (a right turn only.) Whew. Finally.

Oh, I should have guessed. UFO man wasn’t turning right. It was an illusion—a fancy, highly-skilled move built on trickery. He had only drifted over there so that he could scoot in front of me and hold the highly-coveted position called, “Being First at the Red Light.” He was gesturing wildly at me as he passed, veins bursting from his neck. For a second, I thought I saw his eyes glow red.

evil_eyes_small

stoplight

His dark haven of steel sat impatiently before me, almost directly under the traffic light. The sunlight beamed in through the thick coat of tinted glass just long enough that sadly, I could make out a baby seat in the back. Frightening. Then, after no more than 10 seconds, the baby on board, as well as the infant in the back seat, ran the red light and headed directly into the town where numerous people were enjoying their meals and coffee . . . ah, coffee. . . that was all I ever wanted out of this trip.   

I watched the UFO fade into the distance, half feeling sorry for the man and half secretly hoping he’d get a flat on the way. 

Life in the Fast Lane  

As always, I try to see the other person’s point of view, even when I know in my heart of hearts that their behavior was/is downright wrong, disrespectful or just inexplicably strange.

 “Everyone does something for a reason,” I always think.

I often think that I may be too quick to assume that the other driver is a just a moron. I chalk up 12 lane changes in 10 seconds to “being an idiot.” I see people going 90 in a 65 zone during a hail storm (without headlights) and typically think they’re not the brightest lightbulb in the box. I observe folks going 90 in a 65—with their cell phone in one hand and lipstick in another—and automatically assume they weren’t blessed with the common sense gene. Shame on me for conclusion-jumping.

Commuter

For all I know they just—at that very moment—received an urgent call that would clearly explain their Driving Defiance. Perhaps it was a call about Aunt Betty suddenly taking a turn for the worse and unless people are at her side within 15 minutes, last month’s family bowling reunion may end up being the last.  

 Maybe a bee flew in the car and while they were talking on their cell phone, the winged created buzzed right inside their mouth, and chaos ensued.   

buffetMaybe the Chinese buffet suddenly kicked in.

Nah, chances are, as I’m becoming increasingly aware, the big hurry to the red light 1,000 feet away (Quick! Hurry up, hurry up and . . . wait) is all in the name of getting to a destination as mundane as the grocery store.

These UFO’s used to be a rare sighting, seen only near certain areas and witnessed by a few people. Today, fast-driving, law-breaking road rage is a way of life where anything goes—and where just about anything is expected, if not almost welcomed.

It’s A-ok. Wanna go 60 in a 40? Go for it. The other guy’s gonna creep up on you at 70 anyway.

The Police

Yes, yes, the police! Surely, any UFO worth their grain of salt will abide by these gun-toting, ticket-giving, license-suspending authorities. What with all this need to hurry, hurry, hurry, surely being pulled over will only delay the UFO’s destination and bring their frustration factor up a notch.

speedgun

Yet I’ve learned that UFOs are manned by some pretty brazen folks. Folks with super duper important stuff to do like buy a turkey or pick up hot dog rolls—fast. They see the authorities plain as day, yet careen past them at rocket speeds. What happens? More often than not . . . dare I say . . . nothing. That car sitting in the median remains still.

Heck, I’ve even seen police cars in non-emergency situations maneuver without a signal, drive without lights on in a downpour, and move over solid lines only to nearly hit another car who actually did wait—as they should—until the solid line opened up appropriately. Again—not once, but several times. Clear case of, “if they, above all people, can do it, I can too”? Who knows. But everyone’s driving, and everyone’s driving everyone crazy.

Hasty judgment on my part? No so much. Again, throughout life, I observe a certain behavior over and over again. One time, I may dismiss it depending on the action or circumstance. Twice, I’ll scratch my head in bewilderment. Third time, I start to seriously question the person’s maturity, security, sanity, regard for the law—fill in the blank. Tenth, 15th, 100th time, well, something’s just gone wrong and I feel safe in making the statement that, in this case anyway, we’re fast-becoming a driving society where rules are not just broken, but ripped apart with sheer abandon and a blatant disregard for safety.

It’s frightening, ridiculous-looking and laughable all at once. The beet-red faces, the frowns, the semi-mad scientist expressions all vying for first place like their life depends on it.

Your Plates or Mine?

Sure, I’m in New Jersey. Go ahead, let the jokes begin. I can see tons of folks nodding their heads right now thinking, “Well, there ya go. New Jersey. That answers that.”

However, this isn’t a “NJ thing.” More than this being about a state, it’s a state of mind. We’re an “immediately if not sooner” society, driving in a way that mimics the frantic pace of our lives. Gotta have it now. Gotta have it yesterday. Honk as soon as the light turns green. Go. Go. Faster is not fast enough.

Besides, I’ve seen plenty of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and even Florida license plates. I’ve lived in Germany, Staten Island, NY, and Massachusetts. I’ve commuted in the hustle of New York City and relaxed in Hilton Head and, in every single instance, cars of all makes and plates with drivers of all genders and ages have made moves that never cease to shock.

Turn, Turn, Turn. . .

Finally, my destination. I turn into the lot and can smell the coffee drifting pleasantly through the air. Ahhh.

I’m almost there. Hazelnut, here I come. . . I coming for you, I am. . . I am!

I can’t wait to—SCREEEECH! I slam on the brakes to avoid a UFO that ran a stop sign and almost hit my front right end. I hold my hands palm-up as if to say, “What kind of maneuver was that?” His verbal reaction can not be published, but his face was distorted, his words quite lively. He was rabid.

rage

Rabid

 

 

 

 

That warm cup of coffee? You bet.  Slow roasted, served to me—as I’d expect—in the store’s express lane.   

Jen

Jennifer Lilley

Jennifer Lilley, 34, calm as she may drive, is a bit of a thrill-seeking adventurer. She enjoys the adrenaline rush of roller coasters (the crazier the better) and is seriously considering hangliding or skydiving in the near future.  

© Jennifer Lilley and Jen Lilley’s Thought Buffet, 2009.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jennifer Lilley and Jen Lilley’s Thought Buffet with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.