Benny Goodman and a Bagel

Benny Goodman and a Bagel

I was sitting in my family room watching the weather forecasters get practically giddy that they were actually going to get their forecast for Hurricane Sandy and its path right for a change. During the commercial break I could picture them jumping up and down, hugging and screaming, “It’s hooking left, it’s hooking left…just like we predicted! I was hoping that they would be wrong as usual, but as the night wore on I knew they had it right.

In the hours leading up to the storm I learned plenty about surge, wave amplitude, and the physics behind the Gulf Stream and a nor’easter. My main concern on the morning before we got hit was: can I watch The Good Wife On Demand before the power goes out.

I had done everything suggested by the experts. I had plenty of water and non-perishable food. My computer and phone were fully charged and I had a full tank of gas. I was hooked up with my town’s twitter account. I had enough peanut butter and water to be good for a week.

I’m a Jersey girl, I thought. Much smarter than Snookie…I can handle it.

But as the winds picked up and we ultimately lost power, I realized I had the wrong list.  The list should have been more like something out of Little House on the Prairie. Clearly all our cell phones, tablets, computers, technology, and free apps would prove to be obsolete. Could an app keep me warm? Could my computer open a can of tuna? If the quality of my life came down to how many things needed to be plugged in I was cooked. It was like camping without the fun.

Here’s what we should have had on our list:

  • Wood for the fireplace
  • Matches to light a fire
  • Hand held can opener
  • Hand held wine opener (very important)
  • Buckets to carry the water stored in the bathtubs
  • candles
  • an ax to chop more wood

The reality was:

  • Nothing electronic was working and with no internet, no town updates were coming to me. If I wanted information on what was happening I had to go out the front door and take a look
  • I would not be able to blow-dry my hair

What I learned during the storm:

  • I didn’t need to check Facebook 10 times a day.  I didn’t care that friends loved their dog and I wasn’t in the mood to “like” anything.
  • I Loved oatmeal.
  • Backgammon was more fun than TV
  • I could live without my $4.00 cup of coffee from Starbucks.
  •  It was possible to be warmer outside than inside.
  • I could enjoy picking up sticks. (My husband wanted to know if I would also enjoy picking up a vacuum cleaner since he had never seen me picking up sticks before).
    • No matter what, college kids are still very self-absorbed. Friends with no power received texts asking for Tide pods to be mailed, letters to be written because they loved getting real mail, or the best one of all, “I  hate my life….they took away make your own pizza.”  REALLY? Get a freaking grip! Your mothers can’t feel their toes and you’re complaining about the demise of “make your own pizza??!!”

I almost said, “stop complaining! When I was your age I had to hike 10 miles up a hill both ways”, but I stopped myself.

At Kings, suddenly we were all the same…no make-up, bed-head, clothes that were functional and not stylish.  Everyone looked overweight with all the layering.  (Granted, some of us were already overweight even before the layering, but not a thin thigh in any aisle).  I was in hurricane heaven.

What I learned after the storm:

  • We were kinder to each other; nothing was a problem
  • Those of us with power offered showers, laundry services, open bedrooms to those without and didn’t want to be thanked for it
  • Texting was a lifeline
  • There were plenty of people a heck of a lot worse off than me
  • The kindness and compassion shown in the shelters from complete strangers to other strangers was beyond words
  • We really were Jersey strong

After 8 long days the power finally came back for me.  My parents were staying with me and when they came into the kitchen that first morning with power I asked my dad what he wanted.  He said, “Benny Goodman and a toasted bagel.”  So I plugged in my iPod and toasted him a bagel.  Such a small thing but it made us so happy and grateful for other small things that we took for granted. Gone were the candles, the matches, the can opener, the tea, the powdered milk. And no, I wasn’t nostalgic about putting it all away. Give me something to plug-in any day.

What became clear once I was plugged in was all the devastation. New York City subways underwater, the Jersey shore decimated. Yes, the experts were right this time.  We should have been worried about this one and I felt grateful that my home was still in one piece.

My girlfriend mailed her son the Tide pods and I wrote my daughter a letter. (Of course I couldn’t help but tell her when I was her age I had to walk 10 miles up a hill both ways in a storm).  I  washed all the sheets from the many friends who had stayed with me and I put away the coffee thermos and the backgammon game.  But I still listen to Benny Goodman every morning on my iPod, just to be grateful for the small things.

PS  My intent is not to make light of the seriousness of the situation.  I know the Jersey shore is decimated, NYC is struggling and there are many still suffering and homeless. I just wanted to bring a little humor to the situation and hope I didn’t offend anyone. I sincerely apologize if I did.

About Tracy Buckner

Tracy’s humor writing appears in the new book Laugh Out Loud: 40 Women Humorists Celebrate Then and Now...Before We Forget. She regularly blogs for the Erma Bombeck Humor Writers workshop,, and is a syndicated contributor to The New Jersey Hills Newspaper,,serving Morris County. She enjoys writing about life's slow decline and vows to go down kicking and screaming.

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