Hurricane Without Television

August 27, 2011 at 7:14 am (By Amba)

. . . is a strange experience.  Television, annoying a companion as it is, is what mediates collective experience to us, especially in crises, keeps us “in the know” (or provides a comforting, deceptive illusion thereof), and makes us feel a part of something larger—a community and an event.  For us who live alone, for all its drawbacks it is perhaps particularly important—a voice in the house—as a divorced friend has been exhorting me in vain.

The computer, normally welcome because it doesn’t harangue you with overhyped drama, incessant repetition, and noisy sales pitches, is eerily silent now.  I usually prefer to get my information by reading—certainly not by watching video snippets, which you have to activate voluntarily and which are the worst of television, rendered-down, semiliterate, breathless, frustrating in what they fail to tell you. But reading is a cold experience when you are facing a mass-scale event paradoxically alone.  I’ll turn on live streaming AM news radio and will no doubt quickly get annoyed by the repetition, the trivia, the jocular commercials (there it goes: “You may be a candidate for dental implants!”), the attempt to drum up drama where as yet there is none (“What’s it like where you are?” “Rain is still pouring down . . .”).  The winds are supposed to intensify overnight and the worst to come between 5 A.M. and 5 P.M. tomorrow.  Irene is a slow-moving beast.

Of course, if and when there is the nearly inevitable power outage, TV and the Internet will both be gone and only a battery-operated radio (which I failed to buy in time, but which some neighbor probably has) will provide vital information.  The result will probably be renewed bonding with neighbors, a taste of the unwired world we would revert to if there were a massive grid crash or sabotage.  It will be a novel experience for the young, who will keep reflexively checking their blank iPhones, and a nostalgic one for older generations.


  1. Melinda said,

    So I’ll finally find out who those new kids are on the fifth floor–Unless they went home to their parents’ for the weekend.

  2. wj said,

    That may be why the older generation “does get” smart phones. Unlike the younger set, we didn’t grow up with them — and therefore can cope with life without incessant notes and comments. Those who have never been truly “on their own” have novelty added to whatever trauma got them disconnected.

  3. wj said,

    Of course, the “older generation” can manage to type “does get” when intending “doesn’t get”. Sigh

  4. Rod said,

    Amba, thanks for your observations about isolation in a storm and the communal experience of television in a crises. I think of the similarity of our experience of some major events, such as the Kennedy assassination and 9/11, because the developing story was mediated through television.

    I think you have provided more insight into the anticipation of the storm than a dozen TV windbags.

  5. amba (Annie Gottlieb) said,

    If a human companion was as repetitive as TV or radio, you’d kill them.

  6. Rod said,

    The problem is with live coverage of an extended, ongoing event. I just watched 20 minutes of coverage on Fox, and they were already doubling back to the same reporters in rain gear, stationed with the beach to their backs, with nothing new to add.

    In most developing stories, you occasionally get a new tidbit of information, perhaps every half hour, then there is 29 minutes to fill up until the next tidbit.

  7. karen said,

    Does anyone have anything new to add, now?
    It’s still raining here and we have gotten around 3″ so far and there is flooding here-but, to the South is worse.

    Waiting for the wind.

  8. amba12 said,

    It’s a two-parter. Rained all night here and it’s been blowing all afternoon.

  9. karen said,

    Spud lost power around 1:00 this afternoon- so far, so good for us.

    We brought the calves in from the hutches as we heard winds could get to 60mph sustained for up to 4hrs, and that’s no good for them, their houses could blow away!! I love them in the barn, to see our future all lined up against the wall(and being shat upon, but that’s a given, her:0).

    The horses are across the road, usually, but their barn(lean to- is not so rugged and the wind may blow that down, so they are in the area behind our barn where we winter heifers. I hope they aren’t too disoriented.

  10. karen said,

    You have power, amba?

  11. amba (Annie Gottlieb) said,

    Never lost it, Karen. Stay safe — I wish you no damage. These winds across open space are still very strong.

  12. karen said,

    :0). Thanks!

  13. lh said,

    Does anyone have anything new to add, now?

    Buy basic stuff ahead of time and preferably in the absence of emergency. The stuff will be cheaper and better chosen, and, since you’ve already provided for/covered the basics, you’ll have more time to think of other things as you will and wish. That’s handy.

    Does anyone have anything new to add, now?

    This question made me think of my grandmothers and stuff they told me/challenged me with decades ago.

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