Manhattan residents cope with Sandy in different ways
While residents in hazard zones busied themselves as Hurricane Sandy roared into NYC on Monday, fortifying their homes and filling sandbags, many of those in less imperiled areas found their ultra-busy lives suddenly idled. The prospect of an unscheduled free time was unfamiliar, and, for some, jarring.
"I'm bored to death already!" exclaimed Holly Trager, 56, a midtown medical assistant who was told not to come to work Monday and Tuesday. "I've cleaned the house! I've been to the store three times!" she exclaimed.
Watching the news with its endless drumbeat of horrors to come, Trager concluded, "Is definitely not psychologically healthy." She was heading home to learn the "Gangnam Style" dance on her iPad and resolved to catch up on some DVDs, if she could figure out how to work her DVD player.
Open liquor stores did record business. "They're bored," Grace Racoma, said of the hordes tromping into midtown's Westerly Liquor. Racoma, a registered nurse from Fort Lee, N.J., drove in with her 14-month old son to help her parents, who own the store, handle the "crazy" volume of sales, mostly of wine and vodka. Customers said they weren't buying booze for parties, but to take the edge off and maybe enhance a cozy time with loved ones.
For other New Yorkers, Sandy is an altogether new experience.
"We've been through earthquakes, but not hurricanes," said Janet Pan, 24, an Oakland, Calif. transplant. Pan and her boyfriend, Mondrian Hsieh, 24, a Columbia grad student, offered their 16th floor apartment to friends in low-lying areas, but no one had taken them up on the offer. Every few hours they answered the phone to assure anxious West Coast relatives, that yes, they were still alive.
The hurricane also answered the question: What happens when a largely workaholic group of people who define themselves by what they do outside of their small apartments, are suddenly under orders to stay in them?
While many Gothamites cracked jokes on social media and shared storm pics on Facebook, Mayor Michael Bloomberg kept up his Twitter feed, exhorting New Yorkers to stay in, stay away from their windows, and look after their elderly neighbors. Some were delighted to obey.
"I'm going to be staying in, reading and spending some time with my wife, catching up with my wife," said midtown restaurant manager Hristo Zisouski, 32. "If the Internet goes down, we can really catch up," he added.
While Zisouski seemed unconcerned about a possible power failure, many were fearful of the lights turning off.
Danny Suggs, 40, was Skyping a lot. "I'm also doing a lot of push-ups and will be watching a lot of DVDs to take me to another place," far, far away from the "Sandy" related hysteria, said Suggs, a personal trainer. If only he hadn't lost that cable to his DVD player when he moved to midtown, he sighed.
Some wished they could have joined the "snow day" hordes, who got a free pass from their employers.
Bob Goldstein, a travel consultant for Protravel, was overwhelmed with inquiries from frantic travelers that he’s been comforting via phone and email.
"Since Friday night, it's been crazy – nuts!" he related. "People want answers to questions I just can't answer. I've got people here [in NYC] who want to get out and people out who want to get back," but he can provide little solid advice to his customers until the airlines and airports tell him when things will go back to normal.
Others seemed to thrive on the chaos outside the apartment door.
The Gristedes on Eighth Avenue and 54th Street was a mob scene of often emotional shoppers stocking up on staples and "comfort foods" such as chips, dips and meats.
While stocking the endlessly emptying shelves with "our last delivery" of olives and hummus, deli clerk Christopher Lamar, 28, of Harlem, said that emergencies brought out the true nature of people.
"Some people just crack and get meaner. Others are just enjoying it and out looking for liquor stores," Lamar said. "Me, I don't want to be home watching TV, worrying: I'd rather be working and distracting my mind," he said.
A woman with a thick Irish accent approached Lamar and told him she had walked for 20 blocks in search of groceries before finding the Gristedes open, and then profusely thanked him for coming to work.
"That makes it worthwhile," said Lamar, who drove in after picking up a coworker in the Bronx, who had been rendered transportation-less due to the cancellation of MTA service. That was nice of him, he was told.
He laughed. "I wasn't coming in by myself!" he exclaimed, pointing to the box-strewn aisles and checkout lines that stretched around the store. "I'd get killed!"