Stumped | October 2005


This month I won’t ask you to send me an e-mail. Instead, give what you can to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina. They still need help. Just make sure you give to a well-known agency, such as the American Red Cross (or call them at1-800-HELP-NOW). Or give through a large, well-known company that is offering to match donations (such as the Sports Authority was doing as of the moment I wrote this). Whatever you do, be careful of charity scams. Do your homework first.

The one or two of you who have been following this column for some time now (your checks are in the mail, by the way, and yes, I know, that means about three years now that your checks are in the mail but what can I say, the post office is slow) know that every once in a while, I get stumped on what to write for this column. This is one of those times.

It doesn’t help that it’s difficult to try to be funny when once again, our nation is facing a huge crisis.

Of course, some of you might argue after reading my columns (if you can make it all the way through) that it’s ALWAYS difficult for me to be funny. But I digress.

It is work to write a column, albeit not of the physical kind. When you’re writing a humor column, you have to get yourself into the right mood first. It’s not easy to write humor unless you do so first. At least not for me. And of course, even though I’m a big smart aleck, it’s not easy to get into a humorous mood so close after Hurricane Katrina’s devastation.

So I think I’ll just do a little navel-gazing this issue, hope you don’t mind…

Looking back now, I think we were REALLY lucky with Katrina. Of course, it’s easy for me to say as I was only without power for about 12 hours. Some of you may have been without power for a lot longer. I was without power for 10 days after Andrew, so I know it’s not easy.

But still, it beats having to break your way out through your own roof because water has filled your house to the ceiling. It beats having no house at all, just a concrete slab and the bricks and lumber that were your house are now 10 blocks away. It beats losing your pets or worse, not knowing for days if your loved ones are alive–or not.

In talking to different people here in Miami about their Katrina experiences, the universal sentiment seems to be “next time, I’m putting the shutters on the windows.” After last year’s close calls, and with Katrina headed towards Broward (until the very last minute, of course), many of us failed to put up our shutters. “Too much work,” said an acquaintance of mine, “it’s not worth the trouble.” But it’s hard to find someone who thinks that way now.

“My windows were shaking, including the sliding glass door,” said my brother. Mine was shaking, too, and at times it felt as though it would only be a matter of time before either something flew into it or it was blown off the tracks.

I don’t have shutters on my windows and sliding glass door: I live in a condo. But I am going to have a SERIOUS conversation soon with my condo association about that.

By the time you get this, in early October, hurricane season will be nearly over. And not a minute too soon. As I write this, a thunderstorm (a rather loud one) has just started up outside and Hurricane Ophelia is going around in circles just off the coast of our state. I just hope Katrina was the end of the season for us.

One of the things I found most curious about Hurricane Katrina was how people in other parts of the country prepare for hurricanes. In my reading, hearing the news reports and seeing what others have to say on the Internet, I found it interesting that people on the Gulf Coast don’t have the same “hurricane culture,” if you will, we have in South Florida. They don’t take it as seriously as we do (although I’m certain that will change real fast).

For instance, they don’t have building codes as tough as ours (although I understand that, ironically enough, New Orleans had just implemented a tougher code last year). One guy on a message board on the Internet–who claimed he was from Alabama and had lived in Florida through a hurricane before–explained that the people where he lived just didn’t take hurricanes seriously. The homes don’t have shutters, and only a few people bought plywood for their windows, he said. It just didn’t seem to me that they undergo the annual hurricane preparation ritual we do here in South Florida, buying up batteries, bottled water and canned food in May and June each year.

One little aside here: most people don’t know that you really don’t need to buy bottled water each year. Buy plastic camping water containers from a sporting goods or camping supply store instead. Keep them empty until a hurricane warning is announced, then fill them up. Make sure you get enough containers to store the amount of water recommended for your family (a gallon per person per day, for 10 days). Once you have these containers you’ll save money because you won’t have to buy bottled water ever again. Also, you won’t have to go rushing to the store for water at the last minute, only to find that they’re out.

I think I’ll call this a night, or a column, as it were. Before I go, I ask you to please give what you can for those who were really hit hard by Katrina. Just go back to the very beginning of my column for information on where and how you can give. Remember, our fellow Americans were generous when Andrew hit us. It’s our turn to return the favor.