What I learned about Human Nature from Hurricane Irene (and the small earthquake a few days earlier)

Well we’re finally out of the woods on Hurricane Irene…  The last few days have been pretty intense with the buildup the media has been giving – And while Jackie & I survived it pretty much intact, not everyone was so lucky.   There was a river running down the main street of our town (and we aren’t close to any regular rivers), and the reports and pictures from Facebook show that people in other parts of town had some real damage.

My good friend Anna Zelikman took a bunch of pictures of Scotch Plains-Fanwood showing the damage that Hurricane Irene did to our town.

Here is the link to those pictures…
http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=oa.243539165685094&type=1

As you can see, it was no joke – Yes, that is a picture of a tree that split down the middle and crashed into the street AND landed on the side of some poor bastards house in there.

Now Jackie & I did the smart thing and stayed indoors throughout the hurricane so we can’t really comment on the actual devastation out there outside of Anna’s pictures, but we did watch a LOT of TV and see a lot of my Facebook friends postings about what happened…  And that dear reader, is the theme of this blog.

What I learned about Human Nature from Hurricane Irene (and the earthquake a few days earlier).

First, pre-hurricane, people were already skittish about ol’ Mother Nature.  A couple of days earlier there was an earthquake in Virginia that was felt all the way up to Maine.  Here in NJ we felt it as well, but it was very small and lasted maybe 30 seconds tops.   But it was very telling about human nature and that leads us up to my first Human Nature insight:

1.  People want to know EVERYTHING about something before they react.

Now on the surface that might be the smart thing to do.   BUT, sometimes that’s just not very practical.   If all of a sudden a Crockasaurous is in front of you, then you run your ass in the opposite direction.  Period.  Sure there may be a Megashark waiting for you that way, but if you dont move NOW, you’re going to be eaten by the Croc before you can find out…  (Sorry I watched the beginning of a really crappy movie last week, and had to get that out of my system – it won’t happen again)

Ok, for a more realistic scenario, here goes:  I was at work during the earthquake, and afterwards, we were all a bit shaken up and didn’t know what to do.  My job’s fire wardens were asleep at the wheel and no announcements were made on what we should do, and people just decided it might be a good idea to evacuate the building – Which at the time seemed like the right thing to do in case that was just the warning shot before the real quake began (eventually we found out it was a big earthquake hundreds of miles away, but we didn’t know it at the time)

Our escape from the building was hampered and it took us over 20 minutes to get down the stairs from the 9th floor.  There was a major holdup on the stairwell leaving – I can’t say for certain what that holdup was, but I think I can take a pretty good guess…  Every other person in the stairwell was on their smartphone calling loved ones or surfing google news trying to find out what happened.   And when the crowd moved they were standing still trying to get a response.  I saw at least two people trip and almost kill themselves while walking down the stairs not paying attention.

For future reference, make sure you escape the immediate danger before you start trying to figure out what happened!  And don’t block people trying to evacuate a building – please?

(As a side note, half the crowd had AT&T which was absolutely worthless for a half-hour after the tremors)

After we evacuated the building, I learned another aspect of Human Nature:

2) People are just way too dramatic.

As we were outside on the waterfront in Weehawken off the Hudson River, I heard someone say,  “Oh my God, we should get away from the waterfront in case there was a tsunami!” and then a few other  people chimed in getting all panicky about it.

Granted, there were some really bad and recent tsunami catastrophes, but this was a SLIGHT tremor and we were by a river not an ocean.  One person coming up with this I could understand, but after a group of people started to agree with her, I just gave up.

The media has really done a mind-screw on us.   Every storm or whatever nowadays is Apocalypse this or Armageddon that… Maybe it’s gotten that way because of the people in our #3 Aspect of Human Nature – which is the complete opposite of #2:

3) Some people are not dramatic enough.

If you watched any hurricane coverage at all, you saw these people – the ones who decided that the media is blowing things out of proportion, and won’t evacuate dangerous areas.  And then when the poop hits the fan, they have to be rescued by emergency responders who have a lot better things to be spending their time on.   (Side note:  I really hope that these people who didn’t evacuate and ended up being rescued are actually billed (fined) for not having common sense.)

Then there’s the people who are danger seekers – And I’m talking about the surfers and weathermen who think that being safe is for wusses and throw themselves into whatever danger to get a good story (or wave)  My favorite weather person Amy Freeze (yes that’s her real name) was able to give me the information I needed without throwing common sense out the window.   Jackie’s favorite weather person – Jim Cantore is like the Croc Hunter for weather – always trying to stick his thumb into some storms behind.  And eventually he’s gonna get killed in the line of duty.

Now these reporters are insane, but there are a lot of really good reporters out there. And they have to regularly deal with our #4 group:

4) Some people are just annoyingly clueless.

I was watching some poor reporter trying to report from a beach that was hit by the hurricane. And there were a bunch of gawkers in the background checking out the scene as well.  As soon as the camera went on, these people turned into first class pests mugging for the camera for the entire time the camera was on.  There were kids AND their parents, and they were on screen calling & texting their friends telling them to watch whatever channel they were on. These kids and adults (40 & 50 yr olds too) were jumping in the background and were making fools of themselves trying to be “on TV”

I could cut the kids a break since they’re kids, but their parents have no excuse…   God forbid I did that as a kid, my Mom would’ve given me “the look” saying that I was embarrassing myself, her, my entire neighborhood, and the Irish people as a whole.  And I knew I would be in trouble when I got home.

Now, I’m not against someone getting into the background of a reporters shot to be immortalized on the evening news.  (yes, I’d do that too if I had the chance).   But once you get on, you’ve achieved your goal – Step aside and let the reporter do their job or let someone else get their moment of immortality.  Sticking your face in the camera the entire time its on just reeks of desperation.   Back in the day, Opie & Anthony used to encourage photobombing reporters with obscene and promotional signs (before they got into trouble for it and stopped).   That was ok because they were TRYING to be annoying (they were called O&A Pests and were just living up to their name) – these people were just clueless and annoying.

And finally, this is one I am pretty guilty of myself, so I’ll be gentler.

5) Too many people think that they are cub reporters for the news media.

Subtitled:  Just because you have a camera and a Twitter/Facebook account, that does not mean you are a reporter for TMZ.

For the record,  I would be out there today doing it myself if a branch didn’t crash to the ground, as I was looking out the window thinking about going out there.

While photos like Anna’s gallery above are great and I’m really glad she took and shared them, they really could’ve put her at risk for getting hurt.  And I wouldn’t want that to happen.

But Anna’s not the one I’m bitching about right now.

Every news report this morning had people with cameras taking pictures of the devastation.  When the reporters asked people about it, they invariably said they are putting them up on Facebook.  And some of them were getting in the way of the emergency responders or doing things that could get themselves hurt.

Like I said, I would’ve been out there myself, so I can’t say it’s a bad thing,but just use common sense please?

On a side note, in addition to this aspect of Human Nature, I also learned a lot about where the news reporting is invariably heading with regular-Joe photos and videos.  Every news program also asked people to send in their hurricane pictures and videos – And the pictures & video shown were more interesting than the video footage that the reporters were showing.  Maybe this explains the whole “Patch” style of online news reporting.

So yes, I learned a lot about human nature and other stuff today.   Bottom line is that the world has a lot to learn about plain old common sense.   Hope this blog gave you something to think about. :)

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