Six Months After Sandy: Sandy, You Were Delicious

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Sung J. Woo

Here’s the truth: I kinda sorta miss Sandy.  Not her destruction of beloved homes and property, no, of course not, nor the inconvenience of driving around an hour for a viable gas station.  And don’t get me wrong – I love hot showers.  And cable TV.  And the Internet.  Everything about the modern world, I love.

But at the same time, didn’t it feel like we were all in this big, horrible mess together?  That we were in a crisis, and people were going out of their way to be extra nice?  Take my neighbor, for example.  Great guy, but waving from afar is pretty much our relationship.  And yet there he was, knocking on my back door after our neighborhood blacked out, offering the end of a very long extension cord that ran from his generator.  His mother-in-law lives next door, so he had to share his juice with her, too, but that didn’t stop him from gifting us with a few sparks of his electricity.

I  telecommute full time, which means I need to be online to work.  On the second day of the darkest timeline, my wife and I tried to find any open establishment where I could plug in to the cloud, and we found solace in two unlikely places, the café of a hospital and my tennis club.  At the café, we huddled around the few open outlets, and I was more than happy to open up additional electrical pathways to fellow desperados with the power strip I’d brought.  At the tennis club, my wife and I got to shower, and they sent us off with several bags of ice, too.  Everywhere we went, there was instant rapport with total strangers.  “How long?” they’d ask, not needing to mention the word electricity.  We all knew, because we were all suffering, bonded together in this calamity.

After being out for the day, my wife and I returned to our cold, gloomy house, but we actually looked forward to dinner.  It was nothing special, just leftover pizza, but because we couldn’t run the microwave, we had to use a pan on our gas stove to reheat it.  The microwave, we learned, is a destroyer of flavor.  On the pan, with a little olive oil and a lid to infuse the steam, a triangle of bread and tomato sauce and cheese became a symphony for our taste buds.

The lights came back on, as we knew they would.  And we went back to our old ways – staring at monitors and screens in our absent presence, pushing the buttons on the microwave oven for the sake of speed.  I would like to tell you that my wife and I have agreed to spend one evening a week in honor of Sandy, that we turn off all our electronic devices and fire up the gas stove to cook up another culinary masterpiece.  But unfortunately, that would be a lie.

Sung J. Woo is a Korean-American novelist who lives in Washington, New Jersey. He is the author of "Everything Asian: A Novel." Woo was one of three authors commissioned by WNYC to write essays about Sandy, six months after the storm.