Dear South Florida: When was the last time you had a political argument?
Yeah, I don’t remember either. My life, like yours, has been honed to a keen focus: When will the power come back on? When will my cell phone start working? Who’s going to drag those trees out of my pool? Is the roof stable? Any water in the foundation? Should I even attempt to borrow a machete? When does Starbucks open? And is there anything else brewing out there in the tropics?
Not surprisingly, Hurricane Irma has dramatically shifted our attention from the things that typically obsess us. We haven’t really argued over President Donald Trump since before we were stockpiling water. We don’t know why Ted Cruz was trending on Twitter or if North Korea is still testing missiles. Is the Pacific Northwest still on fire? What’s the latest on Russiagate? Have we even bothered to have that argument yet over Hillary Clinton’s new book? After more than two years of political wrangling with friends and family members, we’re just trying to find gas for our chainsaws.
The anniversary of 9/11, one of the most solemn days in our national history, passed almost unnoticed in South Florida — and not because we don’t care. Right now we’re focused on personal essentials; talking to friends and families, neighbors and colleagues; reliving our storm stories with a sense of relief despite our losses and knowing this all could have been much, much worse.
And in the weirdest of all possible ways, it’s kind of a relief.
Spending a few days in sweltering South Florida with no air-conditioning tests the patience and fortitude of most people, of course. There has been destruction and tragedy here and not so far from home.
But do you miss that feeling of your blood pressure rising? No. A hurricane threat and its aftermath minus a direct hit turns out to be psychologically refreshing despite hardship. We’re boiling water and not reliving the 2016 election and all that has happened since. We’re not tweeting about the latest scandal. We’re tweeting about the fact that there’s gas available on 36th Street (and the line isn’t too bad). Party affiliation doesn’t matter when all you want is a hot meal and some cool air.
The idea that hardship makes us our best selves is a tricky one. There are always price gougers and guys like the local dealer who put cars in a city garage meant to protect residents’ cars before the storm. There are still reckless drivers trying to cut in gas lines or ignoring four-way stops while the traffic lights are out.
But still. Turning off Aggravation Mode, even this little bit, feels almost as good as the moment the lights come back on. Almost.
We will inevitably start fighting again, human nature being what it is, and it’ll probably happen soon. We’re going to get our cable and our internet service back, and our cell phones will work reliably again. Some idiot will cut us off in traffic and make our tempers boil. There’s no way to prevent it.
So just for now, take a deep breath. Enjoy the (relative) silence. It’s going to get noisy again real soon.