Because life is a series of edits

For Perspective’s Sake

In Places & Spaces on July 22, 2006 at 2:00 am

I suppose I should comment a bit on the status of things here in St. Louis after the storms that came through earlier this week, but I'm afraid there's not much to report, at least for us. Apart from a few downed limbs and leaves (and a stoplight out here and there), we've not been too impacted by the storms. It seems most of the damage was to the north, south, and east, but here on the west side, we never lost power or walked out to find a tree on our minivan.

This, of course, doesn't mean that others haven't felt the effects. Listening to the radio yesterday, I was amazed at some of the stories people were calling in to tell – of live power lines flopping around in their backyards; of vehicles narrowly exited before being crushed by trees; of not having power for 3-5 days with no end in sight. Though probably somewhat embellished for radio, these were real stories, all. One thought I had while listening was just how helpless most of us (and I include myself) would be if there were really a major long-term disaster or war of some kind. Obviously, Katrina is an example of this; so was 9/11 to a degree.

Back in the spring, I read Stephen King's novel, The Stand, about a deadly virus that wipes out 99% of the country's population (and therefore its infrastructure), and it freaked me out a bit. What would we do if something like that really happened? I think about that book every time I get on I-64/40 on Sunday morning to go to church and the lanes are almost empty (okay, so I've got issues thinking about that every Sunday morning on our way to church).

We are so "soft" as a nation (particularly in our major cities) when it comes to doing without that to which we've become so accustomed. We forget people didn't have air conditioning fifty years ago and somehow survived; we forget going without power for days on end wasn't that big a deal a hundred years ago. For perspective, 80% of the world's population still lives this way, but we tend to forget about/deny that reality as well.

I'm not intending to make light of the situation in St. Louis now (nor am I trying to say that we as a people were somehow better in the past). But the recent storm damage and inconvenience should make us stop to think about just what is is we've come to expect from life, especially when considering what's going on in the Middle East, where people have no air conditioning, no power, and an enemy aggressively trying to kill you.

Then again, that might be too much perspective for some of us to handle.

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  1. Your points are good– and we are soft, and too quickly forget what’s going on outside of “our” world.
    But you also forgot to account for the fact that, largely speaking, the lack of air conditioning 50 years ago (sort of– it hit mainstream adoption 50 years ago, but air conditioning itself has been around more than 100 years) was tolerable because the architecture of the time built houses that were designed for window-based circulation, and were spaced apart sufficiently to obtain it. There also weren’t large (as in 5+ stories) buildings to block and hinder the wind, so the heat indices– even in towns and cities– were lower due to convection cooling. And blood was thinner because folks were used to being out in the heat.
    Yeah, yeah– spoken like a St. Louisan who still doesn’t have power, right? Right– but I also live in a house with no front porch to speak of, poor air circulation, and that is 10 feet away from the neighboring houses on both sides.

  2. We’re both right on the history, Ed. Air conditioning’s been around for 100 years (making its official debut, ironically enough, at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair), but used more residentially for the past 50, which is what I was referring to.
    Hey, if you and yours still don’t have air, come on over. Three of the six of us have pink eye, but at least we have power.

  3. Some friends from church have posted a few fairly amazing pics of the power of the storm that blew through. Wow.

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