News & Opinion

The Thunderer

In the city that never sleeps we’re tired of Sandy

The Times

October 30, 2012


“Emergency supplies meant organic crisps, cheese and hoummus”

Superstorm Sandy has been doing what you simply don’t do in New York: hanging around, staying still, not knowing when to leave the party. By yesterday afternoon, it still hadn’t blown through, causing destruction and exiting stage left as the mega-blizzard of two years ago did. “Snowpocalypse” did what a New York storm should: it came, it went, we tidied up.

Sandy, like a lumbering, farting Sumo wrestler, has squatted on us, causing windy, floody chaos. It’s been like the worst ever houseguest. New Yorkers, not accustomed to such a stubborn cuss, have been going stir-crazy in their apartments, afraid to go out lest they are felled by scaffolding or struck by dislodged air-conditioning units; one of those scary impossibilities that suddenly become plausible when 70mph gusts barrel down Manhattan’s precipitous canyons.

Before the storm, New Yorkers’ legendary impatience was palpable: invariably “over” something before you’re even aware of it, they had been warned of Sandy for days and were tapping their watches. When was the damn thing going be done already?

The non-event of Hurricane Irene added another layer of “meh”: that much-hyped mega-storm had us taping up our windows, buying bottles of water and tinned food and then . . . in the city at least, nothing. We felt cheated. So the snarky feeling about Sandy was: “OK sweetie, are you actually gonna happen?”

But yesterday jaded New Yorkers realised Mayor Bloomberg was right: “The storm is here. It’s dangerous to be out there.” On Sunday we had been advised to stock up on milk, water, food for at least three days. The queues outside such chattering-class paradises as Whole Foods told the true story: “emergency supplies” meant organic crisps, good cheese, hoummus and Cabernet Sauvignon. One expert advised removing Hallowe’en decorations from stoops and balconies: joke-skeletons and pumpkins were now “lethal flying objects”.

Sandy’s cardinal sin has been to slow New Yorkers down, placing the city that never sleeps in enforced hibernation. The streets are almost empty, the bodega by my apartment where I can get a cheese and tomato sandwich at 3am is boarded up. Broadway shows are cancelled, airports shut, tunnels closed. Rarely has New York felt more like the island it is. No coffee-and-croissant guy with his queue of rush-hour caffeine addicts outside my apartment on 7th Avenue, no news vendor with the latest New Yorker.

As I write this, no one knows how “bad” Sandy will be, but even before it hit it achieved the impossible