Friday, September 08, 2017

Hunker Down and Batten the Hatches, a Hurricane is Coming

Living in Florida is a whole lot different from living in Indiana. For one thing, I miss the four seasons. I miss being cold four months of the year. I miss putting on sweaters, and wearing a fleece everywhere I go. I miss the coziness of crawling under a blanket to watch football. I miss telling my kids, "You call this a snowstorm? Why, in the blizzard of '78, the snow was piled so high, it was like driving down a hallway!"

I miss the way Hoosiers freak out over every impending snowstorm and pick a grocery store clean three days before it hits, like ants at a picnic. They think they're living in a Laura Ingalls Wilder book and won't see food again until the Spring thaw.

Of course, the stores were always restocked 24 hours after the snow fell and everyone said, "Oh, that wasn't so bad. I knew it wasn't going to be so bad."

In Florida, we have two seasons, hot and hotter. When we do get our three days of winter, and the temperature hits 36 degrees, you can tell the real Floridians, because they chop up their furniture for heat and eat their neighbors.

Otherwise, it's so hot, we're always fighting off the Florida state bird, the mosquito. And the lakes and ponds are filled with animals that are genetically programmed to eat us. That whole "they're more afraid of you than you are of them" nonsense does not apply to Florida's modern-day dinosaurs.

We also have hurricanes, one of which we're preparing for now. As I write this, Hurricane Irma is bearing down on southern Florida, and is expected to reach the Keys by Saturday and Central Florida by Sunday.

All week long, people have been preparing for it. We started hearing about Irma last Monday, seven days before it was supposed to reach us, and people began panic-buying supplies, like that year Ma and Pa Wilder spent in Jacksonville.

Everyone has been snapping up all the bottled water they can find. Never mind that it's currently flowing freely out of our taps, people insist on the bottled stuff.

I don't know if it's because bottled water is gluten free and filtered through cruelty-free kale, or if Florida tap water is filled with gator pee, but people are draining grocery stores dry and leaving other important items behind, like empty 5-gallon water coolers.

Seriously, for the price of two cases of water (which equals six gallons of water), you could buy a single 5-gallon cooler on Amazon, and fill it up with tap water the day before the hurricane. Then, when the next hurricane comes through, you're not scrambling for more bottled water. Just fill up your 5-gallon cooler again.

What's more surprising is the number of people who suddenly realized they needed water to survive. They've lived on six Diet Cokes a day for the last 12 years, until there's an imminent disaster. Then they're as thirsty as a goldfish in a half-empty bowl.

As a language aficionado, I've been paying close attention to how we talk about our preparedness. Despite our many differences and the things that will kill us — gators and snakes versus deep fried Twinkies at the state fair — we still talk about preparedness in the same way.

I've heard "hunker down" from the TV weather people so much, if the news were a drinking game, I'd be hammered by lunchtime.

No one is sure where "hunker down" comes from. We know hunker is a Scottish word that means "to crouch," but it's originally tied to an Old Norwegian word, "huka" or "hoka," which means "to crouch or crawl."

I also hear "batten down the hatches" a lot. It's an old nautical term that refers to covering a ship's hatches with tarps and use lengths of batten (rods) to hold the tarp in place. Mostly people are boarding up the windows, but the sentiment is the same.

Because that's what we do, both Floridians and Hoosiers. We prepare for things. We get ready for what's coming. Whether it's blizzards and tornadoes, or hurricanes and sharknadoes, we face what this world throws at us, and ask if that's the best it can do.

Because we're veterans of natural disasters, and this isn't our first rodeo.

We're planners, preppers, heavy hitters, triple threats, five tool players, and Jack Dusties.

We hunker down and button everything up. We zip up our houses tighter than a drum, batten down the hatches, and beat to quarters.

We're locked and loaded, in the ready position. It's all hands on deck, asses and elbows, as we get everything squared away, making it shipshape and Bristol fashion.

So we're ready for whatever Mother Nature throws at us, because that's what we do. We're made of sterner stuff than those fair weather weenies in Virginia and Tennessee.

I just hope the power doesn't go out, because if there's no air conditioning, I would just die.

Photo credit: National Hurricane Center (Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)


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