Matthew Gates 6m 1,559 #hurricanesandy
The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
I had been working as a programmer for a micromanaging boss for a little over a year. He was the kind of boss that was goodhearted when he wanted to be—inviting his employees to lunch and paying for it, a seldom bonus every once in a while for good work, but other than that, and most of the time, he was just the type of boss you avoided. The boss would have meetings and make you email him the entire transcript of your conversation and then come over and ask you what you were working on, even though you just had a meeting about it and emailed him the transcript of your conversation about it, to which he usually responded and made corrections. His whole idea of doing that was that he wanted to make sure what he said was what I actually heard and reviewing it for himself would ensure he made his own changes to his own statements, informing me that I heard wrong, though I correctly wrote down what he said. Anyway, this was the type of boss he was and the boss I dealt with 5 days a week and with plenty of stress.
Work was a pleasure when he was not around or busy. I kept busy working on code, fixing code, adding new features to the program, and answering phone calls for technical support to ensure great customer service of our software product. When the boss appeared, work always took a turn for the worst. He was always out to prove himself right and everyone else wrong. I often just agreed with him to get to the point, get the conversation over with, and help him to move along so he would not bother me. Luckily, the boss only bothered me two or three times a day. Each interruption probably cost him at least a half hour of my time, as it took me more time to re-focus on what I was working on, and get back into the mindset of what I was doing. I am sure an excellent programmer can get right back into coding where they left off, but I had to be in the zone and state of mind in order to do my job well.
Anyways, the weather reports in the prior days were reporting a terrible storm on its way, a possible hurricane. New Jersey Governor Christie was warning everyone to leave a few days early if they had a place to go. Christie had warned of hurricane Irene, which turned out to be nothing more than large puddles everywhere. I remember Irene knocking over a few branches and water coming up just above the dock in our yard. We lived on the lagoon so our backyard was basically just a dock and water leading into the Bay and traveling far enough, to Seaside Heights, and the Atlantic Ocean. Hurricane Sandy was going to be cake. I was wrong.
Many people took the warnings seriously and left their homes. Those who had no where to go were told to go to the schools in the area, where people were sleeping in auditoriums and on the hallway floors of the school, which could hold a few hundred people including their families. A roommate and I decided to stick it out, hang around the house, and everything would soon be over. Unfortunately, the winds got stronger, the rains kept going, and soon, water started to come above the dock, then up to the door, then into the door, and continued. We climbed the stairs of our two story house and watched the water continue to rise. It rose a foot every half hour for about four more hours.
Everything on the first floor was under water. Our mattresses, our beds, our clothes, our dishes, furniture—all of it was under water. This very house I had grown up in and witnessed several hurricanes before it—Andrew, Ivan, and Irene—all came up to the backdoor, but never entered the home. Hurricane or Superstorm Sandy was different. She did not care about whose home she entered. She did not care what she destroyed. She was powerful. And she was bent on destruction. The power was out and we were in complete darkness for the night. No working lights and certainly no working telephone, cell phones, or heat. The smell was horrible—it was the smell of the sea, which is not normally bad, but add in all the objects of the house, the oil of the cars outside, and the microscopic bacteria that managed to get in through the cracks with the flow of the water made everything smell like dead fish. Was this the end? Would anyone ever find us?
It was cold. We spent the night upstairs in a freezing cold house. Even the blankets seemed to be damp because of the air. Nothing was keeping us warm and we could barely sleep. We went outside on the upper porch to look at the water below and even climbed the roof to get a better look at the neighborhood. Everyone’s property was underwater. Boats were in the middle of the street. Cars were lifted and moved from their places, all damaged and destroyed. Mailboxes were gone. Garbage cans were no where to be seen. Even the neighborhood seemed like a ghost town, as most people abandoned it when they could no longer stay.
We were able to get a little cell phone service for a while and a call to 911 ensured us that we would be rescued in a few hours, but that there were hundreds of people, approximately 900 people, that were still stranded in the area and needed to be rescued. A short phone call to my boss—who I thought would be understanding—let me to know how little he cared and that the office was still open for business and that I should have been at work early in the morning. He claimed his house was unharmed and that the storm was small and had not done much damage.
It was more than several hours later, in the afternoon, when a police rescue boat would soon come down our street and to our aid. While I had been smart enough to get a ride home and park my car elsewhere where the water would not touch it, I had been having car issues for several days. I did not stay at the rescue center because it was packed and uncomfortable. As cold as it was, I was sleeping in my car. Unfortunately, I forgot to put gas in my car before the storm, so I was driving around on a quarter of a tank to near E for several days. I barely turned it on for heat in order to stay warm. My boss let me know that he was unhappy with me that I could not make it to work, but I was not in the state of mind nor in the place to go back to work immediately. I was still making sure my family was in safe and warm places they could sleep.
Another issue was that I had not eaten in days because I am not a person that carries around much cash. I usually swipe my debit or credit card and pay it at the end of the month. The places that had electricity did not have working debit or credit card machines because all the bank systems were not working, so any plastic was pretty much useless. The Internet was down for a week so no one could really get in touch with anyone.
I learned that the Internet and the phone systems were down at the office for several days and the only thing the boss had running for a few days was a generator. I ended up quitting that job a few weeks after Hurricane Sandy, leaving for a better job, and because I realized the boss had no sympathy for my situation. In the most dire situation, I expected my boss to be completely understanding, but he was just unsympathetic and arrogant to the whole situation, frustrated that his employees could not make it to work.
It took several months for things to return to normal in New Jersey though there are many people still recovering a year later. Many people are still without their homes. Others are learning that their homes are to be demolished. Many carpenters and other handymen started flourishing, as this was their business, and a time to make some money. Many were legit and license-certified. Many others were not legit and uncertified, looking to scam who they could. Many people learned that their flood insurance only covered basics and that flood insurance would rise to unreasonable rates for most New Jersians, who are still fighting those rising costs. FEMA also tried to use outdated maps and place people in unrealistic zones that would drive up their insurance rates. This is another story, but a story that is a nightmarish reality for many in New Jersey still today.