Yeah, so you get the occasional dusting of snow. Or you can’t get to the grocery because the roads are clogged with
scientists tourists hoping to shoot video of a tornado that will end up on TV. Maybe the ground wiggles once in awhile. But here in South Blogistan, we’re gearing up for another hurricane season. You want tough? Lemme tell you about the time the wind drove a hibiscus blossom right through a reinforced concrete wall. (More)
You Think It’s Tough Where You Live?
This week we’re exploring Homo narratus, humans as a storytelling species. We not only like to tell stories; it’s fair to say use stories to organize stimuli into experience. As we’ll see tomorrow, that can be a problem when we try to predict the ending of a story we’re still living.
But that’s for tomorrow. First we’re exploring two common forms of human storytelling. We began yesterday with age-and-change narratives, those “When I was your age” stories we endured as children and now make our children and grandchildren endure. Today we look at geographic hardiness narratives, where regions compete for who endures the worst of Mother Nature’s offerings.
In keeping with my classmate Aristotle’s suggestion that rhetorical forms are best explored in the form’s own medium, we’re exploring these stories with stories. Which is to say, yesterday we told “When I was your age” stories, and today we’ll tell “The weather here is so bad” stories. And as Blogistan Polytechnic Institute exists as internet conversation – where legends propagate faster than fruit flies – embellishment is not only permitted … it’s mandatory.
“It’s not the heat that gets you; it’s the stupidity.”
That’s a popular expression here in South Blogistan. Oh sure, you get something you call a “hot day” elsewhere, but we own the patent on it and frankly you’re late paying royalties. Here in South Blogistan, summer starts in mid-April and runs until late-October. While Republicans fret over whether we should be able to carry concealed firearms in national parks – apparently that’s important enough to warrant inclusion in the credit card relief bill – here in South Blogistan we know firearms are useless unless you have a chain saw.
You need the chain saw to cut out a hunk of air to shoot the gun through. You also need it to saw off a hunk of air to chew on, because the air here is thick enough to be a complete diet. Admittedly you have to wring it out before it’s chewy, but wringing out the air is how we get drinking water. People talk about the mosquitoes here, but they’re really not that bad most of the time. The air is too thick for them to fly through, so most took to walking and evolved into alligators.
We don’t mind it though. You’re probably thinking that’s where the “it’s the stupidity” comes from, and if so you’re wrong. The stupidity comes in later. We don’t mind wading through the thick, sodden blanket we call “air” because we’re tough down here in South Blogistan. You have to be tough to live here. That’s why most of us, if we live here long enough, have skin that looks like leather. It worked for the mosquitoes-turned-alligators, didn’t it?
Some of us try to put that off using sunscreen, which is about like trying to stop a mass attack by Mexican flu-bearing terrorist grizzly bears in Yellowstone with a handgun. Sunscreen might stop a photon or two, but most of them get through. We use our superior local knowledge of that to identify the tourists – another of our favorite expressions: “Why do they call it ‘tourist season’ if you can’t shoot the tourists?” – because they’re the ones who look like steamed lobsters. A helpful hint: if you vacation in South Blogistan, stay inside the whole time. You will get less sunburned, and you’ll be off our roads.
Not that we completely hate tourists. They are the backbone of what passes for an economy here. And they make sure we know it and express our gratitude on a regular basis. Complain that it took you an hour to drive five blocks to the store for a gallon of milk because the roads are clogged with tourists, and one of them will reply “Yeah, but you couldn’t afford the milk if we weren’t here!” We just love being reminded of that. Really.
You might think that must be where the stupidity comes in, but you’d still be wrong. Tourist season runs from Thanksgiving to Easter, so most of them are long gone by the time the heat and stupidity season really gets into full swing. It’s right about now – late May – when the inverse ratio of temperature and intelligence begins to manifest. That’s when we enter the other of our two seasons:
North America was invented before Viagra, so South Blogistan hangs limp below the Bible Belt, dangling into Hurricane Highway. We get hit almost every year, at least once. We’re kind of the off-Broadway preview, where hurricanes see what they need to work on before they get real star power with Jim Cantore as their announcer somewhere else on the Gulf Coast. He used to come here to announce them, but either he’d already eaten every variation of a fried grouper sandwich we offer, or our state government put him on a no-fly list. Forget evacuation notices or the lack thereof; if you hear that Jim Cantore is within fifty miles of your home, get out while you still can. I’m surprised the guy has any neighbors.
Because however clogged the roads get with tourists, they’re even thicker when the weather media show up “to bring you this live report from the scene of Hurricane Xyzyx, making landfall.” And yeah, I know Xyzyx is not a name of a hurricane; it’s the name of a prescription drug. You can tell by all the Xs, Ys, and Zs. But lately hurricanes make babies faster than the government can look up names, so they’re having to rent names from the drug companies. That program began after the year they had to go to Greek letters because we got through the English alphabet with several hurrikiddies still waiting in the tropical Atlantic nursery.
Or as we South Blogistanis call it, the Parking Lot. That’s where baby hurricanes line up like commuters on a one-lane road, growing bigger and angrier, honking their horns and giving each other the finger, while waiting their turn to smack into South Blogistan. Back in 2004, Ivan was so worked up that he hit us once, cruised up through East Blogistan, then got back in line to hit us again.
It’s only after we’ve been glued to the Weather Channel watching the Cone of Uncertainty slowly narrow to the Arrow of Doom, moving from atop our stacked crates of bottled water and non-perishable food only to silence the ear-splitting squeal from the weather alert radio or answer the weather alert calls coming in on both home and cell phones, all while the news media airlift in legions of reporters to line up on our beaches like a human sea wall, that the stupidity begins to crest.
That’s when we think, “Y’know, we ought to have a portable generator … just in case.”
So it’s out into the rain bands and into the traffic snarled with more reporters trying to get in and the smart South Blogistanis trying to get out, giving us time to discuss what size generator we might need. With every passing hour and mile, one each, the estimate rises.
At first we just need to run the refrigerator. But it’d be nice to have a fan or two to stir the air, especially if we run out of gas for the chain saw. And lights, so we can read. Well, and it’d be nice to let online friends and relatives know we’re okay, plus maybe we could live-blog it, so we need the computer and modem too. And since we’ll have the fridge, we really ought to be able to heat the food too. Forget that platoon of propane tanks out by the gas grill; what if the wind is too strong to run that gas grill? We’ll definitely need the stove, or at least the microwave, to boil water if nothing else, just in case we get through the stacked crates of bottled water. We’re looking at a portable generator with roughly the dimensions and capacity of the Hoover Dam.
We finally get to the home improvement store, wading through the masses of people hauling enough plywood to cover every window south of Nome – but nary a hammer or box of nails, just sayin’ – and find there’s only one portable generator left. It’s the mini-mite model. Runs for a week on a bottle of rubbing alcohol, and generates enough electricity to run a solar-powered calculator. Hardly worth it, but just in case….
And while we’re here, and since they’re out of plywood, we should pick up another few crates of bottled water. We can stack them in front of the windows and doors, for extra protection. That idea can sound rational if you’ve been in the Cone of Uncertainty often enough, for long enough.
If Americans want better elections, you need to move them to May 1st. By November, we South Blogistanis are kinda punchy. That’s why Bush v. Gore happened.
So yeah, we South Blogistanis are like boxers. We’re tough, but the hits to the head do accumulate over time. Of course they don’t get hurricanes up in North Central Blogistan, and they’re still sorting out Franken v. Coleman. So what’s their excuse?
Come to think of it, what’s yours?