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Chasing The American Dream

October 29, 2005


Thursday, 10/27. Noon.
I remember, oh about four years ago, hearing a familiar noise. I looked up into a clear blue sky and saw the contrails. An airplane. It had been quite some time since I’d seen one. It was great to see. One step closer to normalcy after the 9/11 disaster. I got that déjà vu feeling today hearing the roar of a jet engine. Looking up into a clear blue sky, and seeing the belly of a Jet Blue aircraft. It’s only been four days now, but it’s one step closer to normalcy.

There are a couple of cars on the road, grocery stores are open, and non-Wilma programming can be heard on the radio. I even got to read a newspaper. Normal things. But normalcy around here is far from reality. The newspaper headline reads, “WHAT A MESS.” I would have added an exclamation point. 2.2 million people in Dade (Miami), Broward (Ft Lauderdale), and Palm Beach (West Palm) counties lost power. 900,000 in Broward where I live. After day three, a measly 24,700 Broward customers got their power back. That’s about three percent in three days. Miami is getting all the attention. Hundreds of thousands of customers in Dade got power back. Even Palm Beach, which had 300,000 less outages, has had three times more power restores than the red-headed stepchild known as Broward County.

FEMA continues to confound me. You’d think that after Katrina, there were plenty of lessons learned. Lesson number one HAD to be better planning, right? Apparently not. Despite a true-blue dead-spot on forecast by the National Hurricane Center, FEMA has once again dropped the ball. I mean, they had the forecast track. They knew approximately when and where the storm would hit. You’d think they’d be ready to drop the green flag and go as soon as Wilma blew out to the Atlantic. But no. Water was late, ice was late, their trucks got lost, their trucks hadn’t enough gas to get here. People have waited all day for ice and water and come away empty. Sure, eventually FEMA got it right. Or did they? Yesterday, we waited for them to show up while the ice melted.

Today, I tried the same routine. Woke up at 7 a.m. and got in line for ice and water. I was way up in the front this time. Shoot, after a day’s practice I should be free and clear by 8 a.m. I waited and waited. At 8:20 a.m., a police car slowly rolled down the street while a cop announced that there was no ice. Water only. I left the line hearing people screaming. I had to laugh. What a joke this all was.

Even more scarce than ice is gasoline. I saw what looked to be open stations. My only clue was that there were cars miles long waiting. No, things are not nearly normal around here. I’ve been walking mostly, saving my gas, but since I was out for an ice run, I took a 10 minute drive to Weston where power was supposedly almost 100% restored. Weston is a wealthy neighborhood. Is this why they got power first? No comment. I’d heard that they had open Baskin-Robbins and Mc Donald’s and that their grocery stores were selling cold goods. Plantation’s stores still had no power and sold nothing cold. Well, you know what I was searching for. Nothing could have brightened my day more than an iced coffee from Starbucks. But I couldn’t find one. I got excited just to see an open bagel shop. After three straight days of PB&J, I was ready for something ELSE.

I ran into the shop only to find they were selling cookies. No bagels, no cream cheese. The hell with that. I decided to go back home. I thought my luck was finally turning. I saw one of those look to be open gas stations, and the line was fairly short considering what I’d seen earlier. The line was even moving fast. Too fast, I thought. I decided to get out of the car and ask if anyone knew if they were really selling gas. There was a lady walking back with a frown on her face. “No gas. The little store is open but no gas.” Well, that figures. Heck, there were cops there. I figured they were there to make sure no one cut in line. Maybe Bea was right about bad luck with the Lost lottery numbers? I told passers by that there wasn’t any gas. I watched them. No one believed me. Off they went to sit in a phantom gas line. No, things are not nearly normal around here, and from the looks of things, normal is a long time coming.


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