When it comes to emergencies, the key to survival is staying calm. Which is why I’m sure I’ll be toast, because all evidence points to me being a crier and screamer.
I’ve been reading emails and blog posts for the past two weeks about online friends like @dustyearthmom, @marinkanyc and @modmombeyondindie as well as my mother-in-law, nephew’s girlfriend, and college friend Amy who rode out the Sandy superstorm in various parts of New Jersey and New York with resolve and as much patience as they could muster. They built fires to boil water, they layered their clothes, they made funny videos and played harmonica and kept their senses of humor. Amy made her family do a group yoga session via a DvD player, which would be brave even in good weather.
I admire their fortitude and their quiet stoicism. I like to think that when the Big One comes I’ll show similar grit. But when my car got stolen out of my apartment building parking spot in DC, what did I do? I cried. When my oldest daughter was two and came down with a horrific ear infection on Christmas Day, what did I do? I cried. I have a history of it. When my dad fell off the roof where he was shoveling snow back in ’74 and I was the first to find him, and he calmly explained to me that he had broken his leg and was about to go into shock and could I please get Mom? I got her, all right, but was sobbing so hard that she had to go check for herself what the hell I was talking about.
Then there’s the screaming. Luckily this has not yet manifest in cases of emergency, but rather in clutch situations when not screaming would have been way, way better. Like the time I shook President Clinton’s hand the first time, when he was Christmas shopping in a Georgetown mall with Chelsea and my husband and I were also wandering through. The time Neil Finn leaned into my face to sing a lyric at a concert. The time a bat flew into my office.
Scream, scream, scream. Screamy McScreamington. Did you see “Flight” yet, with Denzel Washington? I’m not the guy who calmly inverts the plane to offset the descent and save the souls on board. I’m the mustachioed co-pilot sitting next to him screaming “Sweet Jesus! Sweet Jesus! Oh Lord Baby Jesus Baby!”
Maybe what I need is a chance to practice being calm. I could hire someone to run into the house at random times to yell “Fire!” or “Zombie Apocolypse!” until I am conditioned to slowly, calmly gather the children, the dog, the photo albums, and the firebox while humming soothing songs and making sure the neighbors are alerted. That’s who I want to be.
In the meantime, I take comfort in knowing that I have a couple of saving graces for when the ground shakes. One, I’m extremely organized and have put together a kick-ass emergency kit.
And two: I will be in charge of alerting the first responders to our location.