A New Kind of Hoarding


It’s been one week since Hurricane Sandy swept through the US Northeast.  I am happy to report that no one in my family suffered any great damage.  I lost electricity but got it back within 24 hours; my sister’s house never lost it; my mother’s house got it back three days later; and some people still don’t have their electricity.  And as annoying as that is, it doesn’t compare the actual devastation that others have experienced—things like no running water, flooding in their homes, no homes left to speak of, loss of life.

I’m sure everyone has seen pictures of the devastation the storm has caused.  The event made it into my planner—I made a note of it on last Monday’s insert, as well as when we lost power, when it returned, and the days that I did not have to go to work due to power outages and cleanup.  That cleanup continues today and for many, will extend into next year, and for some, even beyond that.

Removing the true devastation from the equation, what many of us are dealing with now (myself included) is a very big gas shortage.  The stations that do have gas have no power, and therefore no way to get at the gas.  The stations that have power have no gas because for several days there was no way to get gas to these stations.  When stations do get gas, there is a one- to two-hour wait.  People need gas to run their generators because they have no power or heat.  Add that to the fact that people are now returning to work and need gas for their cars.  And add the two to the fact that the media is concentrating on the fact that gas is in short supply and high demand.  People are panicking and running to the nearest gas station when they hear about or see a tanker pull into the station.  Even after some people have waited on two-hour and/or three-mile lines, by the time they get to the station, there is no more gas.  So their time (and the gas they do have) have been wasted and have nothing to show for it.  Then, they need to scout around for another station that may or may not have gas, spending even more time and gas doing so.

Every week, in my planner, I have a notation to remind me to get gas.  I prefer to fill up on the weekends, after I’ve run all of my errands.  I prefer going on the weekend because it’s less crowded at the station and saves me time during the week.  Usually a fill-up on the weekend will get me through one work week, unless I have a meeting or program at another library.  (Then, I might need to fill up a second time during the week.)  But this week, the notation has been especially important, reminding me that getting it is no long an option, but a necessity—I don’t want to get down to my last drop of gas not be able to get it.  That would prohibit me from going to work.  Most people I work with live in the district where we work.  But I live a good 30 minutes/20 miles away, so I depend on that gas to get me to and from work.

I took today off to save myself a day’s worth of travel.  Ironically, I had planned to spend the time and the gas waiting in a long line to get gas for the rest of the week.  Thankfully though, last night, after I got home from work, my sister called to say that she had just passed the gas station right up the road from me, that they had gas, and that the line was not long.  I dropped everything I was doing (putting laundry into the washing machine and sitting down to dinner), drove uptown, and waited for gas.  In the end, I waited “only” 40 minutes.  The process wasn’t as horrific as I had feared and heard.  The station was well organized and they limited you to one full tank of gas and one can of gas for generators.  I was glad to see this since some people have been hoarding the stuff, filling several cans and taking it back home for fear there would not be any when they needed it again.  I only needed ¼ of a tank but it filled my car and gives me peace of mind that I’ll be able to get to and from work for the rest of the week.  What happens from there is anyone’s guess.

But I feel like I’m hoarding gas too, since I have a full tank and don’t want to use it up for fear of not being able to get it again.  Government officials and gas industry experts feel that this is a short-term issue and that most of Long Island should be back to normal soon.  I sure hope so because we’re expecting a nor’easter come Wednesday—heavy rains and high winds, some of which could knock out power lines.  Again.

Only time will tell.  But in the meantime, I will have my planner to help me be prepared for as much as possible.  And if nothing else, I can play with my planner while waiting on that gas line.