Dateline: New York By Abiodun Giwa
A week of journey to nowhere was what Hurricane Sandy brought residents in the East Coast of the U.S. early November 2012. The first day of trouble was a Sunday. In the afternoon, Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a Press conference announced the closing of three main tunnels in the city, closing of the subway, buses off the street, to be followed by closure of the bridges if the wind should increase to 60 miles per miles per hour. Those who left their home to work that Sunday began to think why they embarked on the venture. How would they get back home after work in the night?
Most people who worked the afternoon shift finished work between 10.00pm -11.00pm.There was no wind and rain to signal the coming of trouble at the end of the shift. The trouble was about getting home. Some rode and paid for their cabs. Others were more fortunate with their employers paying for their cab ride home. Some on essential services had options to either sleep at work to continue the following morning or get a ride home and wait until they are needed for the employer to send a car to pick them up.
I was home Sunday night after I arrived from work and through Monday night to Tuesday morning. School had closed. Hurricane Sandy’s noise in the wind became more audible than the Sunday night. I watched developments on the television. I was fortunate I lived in an area where I rarely had negative effect to electricity supply along with other essential services. I didn’t open my door and windows throughout Monday, day and night. Watching the devastation wrought by Sandy on the television screen, I knew that going to work on Tuesday will be a burden.
I went to bed on Monday night after I witnessed Sandy’s terrific landfall. I was full of prayers for residents in coastal areas and others whose houses had been damaged by the evil wind. But the thought of how I would make it to work on Tuesday afternoon was uppermost in my mind. I thought of the disaster of missing a day of work and pay, and the negative impact it will have on my finances. I called my office as soon as I woke from sleep early Tuesday. I was asked if I was interested in coming to work. I answered in the positive. The respondent said it was alright if I could find my way, and if I couldn’t it was as well alright.
I began to think of how I was going to find my way to work. I went to the bathroom early with the aim of getting out early to walk the distance I can walk to get to work. Between the time I was in the bathroom and got back to check my phone, my boss had called. I immediately placed a return call. “Where have you been, Giwa? Always be by your phone when there is an emergency. Do you want to come to work?” he asked. “Yes,” I answered. “Alright, a car will be coming to pick you up. Just stay close to your phone.” he admonished.
It was a promise fulfilled. I found myself at work. But returning became a problem on the first most difficult night of commute in the three difficult days of leaving home to go to work and uncertain of how to make it back home. On this Tuesday night a colleague who had his van dropped me off at the tip of Manhattan’s end of the Brooklyn-bridge, and waited for me to get a cab before he drove off. I paid $20.00 for a ride home. I don’t go to work on Wednesdays. I waited till Thursday night when partial train services had been restored to Brooklyn end of the bridge from my area of residence, and shuttle buses available for a ride into the city.
I took a shuttle bus from Barclays Center and dropped off at Delancey and Bowery on the East side. My destination was on the West side. I flagged a cab to avoid arriving work late. It costs $10.00. I visualized that most part of downtown Manhattan was in darkness. The following morning on a Friday, I left work and wasn’t sure where I was going. I stepped out and headed toward a Chase bank nearby to check my balance and get some money. The service at the bank was off due to lack of electricity. I walked another four blocks close to the city hall to another branch of the bank, it too had no service.
Alternatively, I checked on the R train station, the train wasn’t working. I flagged down a cab, rode across the bridge and paid $10.00 to Jay Street. I cut short the cost by choosing to get off at Jay Street, instead of the Atlantic Train Station I had bargained with the operator. I dashed into the subway at Borough Hall for a ride to my destination.
Coming back to work on Friday night, I went for a shuttle bus at Jay Street, instead of Barclays Center, having been told the earlier night that the shuttle buses at Barclays Center traveled only through the East side, and for West side I needed a bus from Jay street. The direction was a fluke. I took a bus from Jay Street, but the bus went East side like the night before. Rather than taking a cab, I walk the street to my destination .The entire downtown, after crossing the Broadway and Spring Street to West Street, was in darkness. It was dreadful. It was a type of darkness worse than the type I had witnessed in backward African villages, where they had numerous flickers of light from oil lamps. Such flickers were absent here.
I didn’t plan to walk thirty minutes to work a week before that night. It was a situation forced on me by circumstance beyond my control. I was luckier than those who lost electricity for days and had to live a life in the centuries past, for days. Luckier than those who lost jobs or homes, and some others who unfortunately either lost their lives or relatives. It was one week of hell that people here in the Tri-State were forced into circumstances, which people in disadvantaged countries experience on daily basis as a normal lifestyle.