The last few weeks of August are usually pretty soporific. The grass becomes wispy and brown, dogs prefer to sit under benches rather than run with the enthusiasm of early summer, baseball becomes tedious if your team is not in first or second place, and most people would rather lay in the air conditioning than sit outside and scarf burgers at yet another barbecue. Most people won’t admit it, but by late August, people are sleepwalking through the rest of summer and ready for all the changes that come with fall.
The week of Aug. 22nd, however, sent us frantically trying to deal with two natural events, one that we knew was coming and one that quite literally shook us with disbelief. After both the 5.8 magnitude earthquake that rattled the East Coast on Aug. 23rd and Hurricane Irene, which made landfall in New York City early Sunday morning, Aug. 28th, I heard many people vow they would not be caught unprepared for events like these again. It will be interesting to see if that is true. I don’t think that it will be.
“I swear I am never going to drink again” is a phrase that I have heard more than a few times, muttered through dried lips while a hand goes over one’s head and eyes squint to hide from the morning sun. I believe that people never have the intent not to drink again or, even never to get drunk again. It is just something that they say that works towards the same goal that the Advil that they take does: to make them feel better.
A grim case in point: a good friend of mine in college was severely injured in a car accident after falling asleep at the wheel. The doctors told him that if he were wearing his seat belt, he would not have needed the reconstructive facial surgery that was required. After the accident, he swore that he was would always wear his seat belt “from now on.” That lasted a few months.
In and around my home town in New Jersey, I have heard many people say that they will now purchase both flood and life insurance after Hurricane Irene. The problem is, people have short memories and we assume that we are inherently luckier than we actually are.
One reason for this could be some of the statistics that we are bombarded with since we were children. [Fill in the blank] is about as likely as getting hit by lightning twice, or so we are told. We often rely on such improbability to justify not preparing for obvious risks. Buying life insurance for the next time you get struck by lightning, however, does you no good if the first time is fatal–and it usually is.