Thursday, June 2, 2011

Why I Would Probably Die In The Opening Scene of An Action Movie

There was a tornado warning in New York yesterday. I was in a screening of X-Men: First Class, trying to keep the baby from going prematurely deaf by muffling the bone-rattling explosions with my copy of Fit Pregnancy (which is a total sham, but that's a post for another day), when I got the text from Jeff.

And much like the last time a tornado came to the city, I reacted like someone who learned everything she knows about tornadoes from The Wizard of Oz and Helen Hunt.

"Should I stand in a doorway? Wait, no, is this the basement one? Shit. Should I go in the subway? It's dripping what looks like acid rain and there's a lady near the turnstiles with no pants on but I have an unlimited MetroCard so I can live down there until mid-month if need be. Oh, also! There's an Au Bon Pain next door. Should I go in there so that I can have muffins available in case I'm trapped? The cashier is pretty small but I bet he would let me hide behind the sandwich station."

"Just stay indoors," my husband said slowly, as if talking to a particularly feeble puppy.

Now, I'm in no way trying to make light of tornadoes, which are terrifying and destructive and which just over a week ago killed over a hundred people in Joplin, Missouri, devastating an entire town. But New York is ill-prepared for natural disasters. That's why movies like to send over floods, asteroids, and alien invasions--the severed head of the Statue of Liberty rolling like a bowling ball down Broadway makes a pretty good special effect. Unfortunately for me, movies are the only training I have in emergency situations. If I can't hole up in the library with Jake Gyllenhaal, or storm the subways with Lt. John McClane, I'm lost.

There's a character in the X-Men movie called Darwin, so named for his ability to adapt to survive in any situation. I am... like the opposite of that.

Sigh. At least Jeff has better disaster instincts than to run to the nearest muffin. Maybe our kid still has a chance.


  1. Honestly, you probably would have fared just as well at Au Bon Pain as you would have in the movie theater if the tornado would have hit--you could have died either way.

    As a (nearly) life-long Midwesterner, I can tell you that the best place to be in a tornado is underground. If you can't get underground in time, then go to an interior room, like a bathroom with no windows or a closet, and hide in the bathtub, preferably with a mattress over your head. Did you see the pictures of the Home Depot and Wal-Mart stores in Joplin? They're huge box stores with cinder blog walls, and they were both completely flattened.

    Not trying to freak you out, but next time you guys are under a tornado warning, you should try to get underground, as far away from the stairs up as possible, or at least to the bottom floor of whatever building you're in. Better safe than sorry!

    One reason so many people died in Joplin is because they ignored the sirens and didn't take cover. That's pretty common out here, since we're used to tornado sirens. People would rather go outside and look around for the tornado than crouch in a basement and wait for it to pass. Those are the ones who die. They're dumb.

  2. Muffins are key to survival. There is carbohydrates for energy and sugar. It's important to keep your blood sugar at safe levels.

    And maybe you should name the baby Darwin. You know, just to increase his chances of being a survival savvy guy.

  3. Haha--I wrote "cinder blog" walls. Oops.

    God, my response was depressing. Sorry 'bout that.

  4. This happened to me last summer. I grew up in Phoenix. The closest thing we have to a natural disaster is people driving too slowly on the freeway. When my husband texted me about a tornado warning, I totally panicked, and then I also panicked when we had a tsunami warning a few months back. Some people have fight or flight instincts. I have panic.

  5. Underground would definitely have been the right answer had a tornado been coming at you. I have lived in the Midwest for my entire life and actually helped cleanup debris in Joplin this past weekend. In big buildings the safest places are the center, as TB said, or also often staircases. They are structurally more sound than most other building elements.

    @TB: Actually most of the people who died weren't dumb. A good portion of the 8,000 houses that were leveled had no basements, and even in the center of your house if debris flies at you at 200 mph, or collapses on top of you and you're stuck underneath it for days, your odds aren't very good. No basements is the reason you hear a lot of stories from this particular storm of people in their bathtubs.

    Sorry, I don't want to be preachy, I just think that was an extremely rude and insensitive thing to say.

  6. I love this post! I was thinking today as I watched 'POTC: On Stranger Tides' in 3D whether watching loads of stuff like this would de-sensetize us to a war situation. 'Oh there's something hurtling towards me! I won't
    move out its way, it's never hurt me before!'
    Modern films are not giving us the answers we need!

  7. Anonymous10:07 PM

    Angie, thank you for saying everything I was going to say but better than I would have said it. One of my best friends was working at St. John's Hospital in Joplin when the tornado struck, destroying the hospital. Another friend's elderly MIL lived in a brick house without a basement that was directly in the path of the tornado. The house basically imploded, the lady was badly injured and her dog was killed. This is a bad time to call tornado victims dumb.

  8. I didn't mean to say that all the people who died were dumb. I meant to say that the ones who thought it would be cool to see a tornado up-close and didn't take the warnings seriously are dumb. They live in an area where they know what to do in the case of a tornado warning. It's a constant threat, talked about incessantly on the news, at school, at work, and around the dinner table.

    The day the tornado hit Joplin, I was at a graduation party in St. Peters, MO and the tornado sirens started to go off. Everyone was in the backyard, and nobody flinched at all. I said, "Uh, aren't those the tornado sirens?" and everyone looked at me like I was an idiot to be worried about some silly siren. Two of the people there were policemen, so I guess they thought they knew better since they're first responders or something, but it made me extremely angry that they set this kind of example for all the kids at the party.

    Yes, tornadoes can kill you even if you're in a basement or interior room or even a cinder block building. Lots of people took cover and still died. The people who didn't take the sirens seriously or who heard them and wanted to watch it roll in and died because of it...those people are dumb. I'm sorry, but they are.

  9. I've thankfully never been anywhere that's had tornado issues, my home town has minor earthquake problems though everyone is always "waiting for the big one".
    I recently moved to Okinawa which was hit by a typhoon this past weekend. Typhoons and tsunamis are fairly common here and most people know heading out to the beach during one is not the smartest thing to do. However, the US military tv station here runs commercials telling people not to do that. The introductory day class they run for americans new to the island has a video taken by some marines who did just that and ended up being swept out to sea. They show these things because people keep making those same mistakes.
    While perhaps TB's comments come off as insensitive they aren't completely off the mark. Perhaps it could have been worded better? The fact is, some people do not take these threats seriously and end up paying the price for it.
    Me? When the typhoon hit I curled up inside and waited for it to pass. Then I got bored and went for a walk. Thankfully I didn't get hit in the head with anything, just a little drenched.

  10. I looked up what to do last summer after we had that tornado warning that turned into scary total blackness with sirens bleeping that I've never heard before. I couldn't remember if I was supposed to open the windows a crack to relieve pressure or not and I perseverated on it in my head while sitting in an interior hallway with pillows, blankets, and flashlights. Very not fun. Right now I can't remember what I read. Great.
    We didn't even get a drop of rain or a gust of wind following that dire storm warning on Wednesday. I'm guessing that kind of experience contributes to people becoming desensitized to warnings.

  11. If you don't mind my asking, where are you getting your information? I know there are times people ignore sirens, definitely. I think most of the time, around here at least, that happens when people are watching radar and are pretty confident it's going to miss them (not to say that makes it alright!). During the Joplin tornado, I haven't read or seen anything that would indicate that any of those killed in the storm were killed because of ignoring the sirens.

  12. I remember tornado drills in elementary school. We'd all go out into the hallway and line up along the wall sitting facing the wall cross-legged and hunched over with our hands clasped behind our necks. We had to go to the one hallway without windows because breaking flying glass is scary.

    For the future, you're probably just fine until the sky turns green. When it does that, get to some shelter. Preferably with Jake Gyllenhaal.

  13. I loved this post...reminds me of the dynamics of my own marriage, me the panick stricken one, husband the usual voice of reason

  14. @RiseandShine, you should keep the windows closed. If you open them and the wind gets in, not only are your odds of being impaled by something in your house greatly increased, so are the odds of your roof coming off. The wind can get under the roof and lift it off much more easily from inside your house than outside.

  15. @Carin, Thank-you for that information. I can remember it easily put that way.
    Windows closed = nothing flying in, up, or off.

  16. Awesome post. That's all I've got :)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...