Weathering a move into a dormitory in the eye of a hurricane
By Connor Miller
I first learned about Hurricane Irene, which was tracking along the eastern seaboard, the day before I left for college in New York state. Back in sunny California, my dad took me to the computer and showed me a map. He pointed to Bronxville, New York, just north of Manhattan, where my home away from home would be. “This is where your college is. And this,” he traced a line directly over my school, “is the path of Hurricane Irene.” I was a freshman who would be moving into my dormitory during a hurricane.
The next day, Friday, August 26, we (my mother, father, and myself) boarded our plane for New York. The flight attendant shook his head as he scanned our boarding passes. “Shouldn’t you be leaving the city?” This became a recurring theme on the trip. The flight attendant would come onto the intercom, make an announcement, and spice it up with a hurricane joke.
“Are any of you planning to do the ferryboat tour? Leave your jewelry with me for safekeeping and if the hurricane gets you…, I’ll be rich.” There were more jokes like this at which everyone on the plane laughed because we had nothing better to do. But by the time we landed, I was sick of hurricane jokes, and I could tell when a new one was coming.
In our hotel room my dad obsessed over hurricane updates on the news. The reports were overly dramatic, complete with animations of what New York City would look like underwater, as well as footage of the storm blowing through east coast towns. One woman journalist, broadcasting live from an area that was about to get hit by the hurricane, reported, “It is so quiet here. It is like the terrifying calm before the zombies attack.”
The next day, I moved into my dorm. I met my roommates and their parents. Hurricane jokes! I went through registration to get my student ID and paperwork. More hurricane jokes! Then we sat down under a tent to listen to a speech from the president of the college. Even more hurricane jokes! However, I will give her credit for tying the storm into the more inspirational parts of her speech. “Sarah Lawrence College encourages creating a sense of community, and what better way to do that than weathering out a storm in your dorm rooms.” Well played, Mrs. President. Well played
That night, we all piled into the school auditorium for a presentation put on by our upperclassmen. We were told how much we would love our college experience, how Sarah Lawrence is so different from other schools, and of course, how funny the hurricane really was. “There are a lot of things I’d like to say about Irene, but I can’t because they’re misogynistic,” said one student.
That night there was thunder and lightning. Our Resident Advisor had told us that the campus would be closed the next day and that for safety reasons, we were prohibited to leave our dorms. If that meant an end to amateur comedy hour, I was completely fine with it. I had classes to pick and forms to fill out, and the last thing I wanted was cracks about Irene in the middle of Irene. There would be games in the dorms and meals would be delivered to us. “We will survive this together,” our RA told us.
Neither of my two new roommates seemed bothered by the storm. We were preoccupied with figuring out how the shower worked (turn on the faucets slowly, because the water pressure dishes out enough power to take the bark off a tree). Even though I could hear the wind outside, I was busy wondering if I could mix shampoo with face cleaner to make body wash. My roommates were the first to fall asleep, while I decorated my wall with pictures. The storm raged outside, but I felt very safe. I slept soundly.
Sunday morning, the big day, the day of the hurricane for which we all had been preparing, turned out to be disappointing. Other than some strong wind, there wasn’t anything to really fear. The campus lockdown was lifted at 11:00 a.m., when most of us were just waking up. Lunch took place in the dining hall as usual, and we did not play a single board game.
Of course, the storm was serious in other places. My roommate got an enormous kick out of reading us updates from his iPad, so I heard about the flooding and damage in New York City. Down the street from the college, the town of Bronxville was flooded as well. My parents, who were staying with a relative in the city, told me a tree fell and missed their car by a couple of feet. However, I believe the world suffered equivalent damage from bad jokes. If I learned anything from this whole ordeal, it was that the threat of a natural disaster somehow awakens the stand-up comic in people. But it makes sense.
We need a way to cope with impending doom, and what better way than with humor. It took away some of the seriousness and the edge of the storm and made people laugh instead of worry. And people did laugh. No matter how bad the jokes were, the people on the plane laughed, the incoming students laughed, and strangely enough, I laughed, all in the face of disaster.
Now that I can scratch surviving a hurricane off my to-do list, I can’t wait to see what’s on the agenda during the next four years. I’ve been told it snows.
Connor Miller is a freshman at Sarah Lawrence College whose first day on campus coincided with a hurricane striking the eastern United States. He is interested in a career in writing.