How to Survive A “Disaster”

1.) Remain clothed.  I can’t stress this enough.  You may be soaked through every layer you have on, with 2 inches of water in your rain boots, and you might just want some dry clothes for a couple minutes before you go back to your flood duties.  The problem is, every single towel in the house is wet from those halcyon hours (minutes) when you thought you had a minor problem that could be treated with towels.  So when you change into dry clothes, those are wet immediately from your hair and skin, so you take have of them off and think, I guess I have to air dry for a couple minutes.  But people are going to come into your house to help you in any way they can, and you are going to want to be dressed from the waist down, for sure.    In later days, you may want to get back into your Tuesday routine of not getting dressed until 2:00 pm, but you will have learned your lesson early on, and you’ll put on a bra and some other clothes, and you’ll be happy to be dressed when FEMA shows up for the second inspection.

2.) Laundry.  Laundry is a tough one.  If you get a lot of towels and clothes really dirty in a short time, and at that same time your washer and dryer are pretty wet from flood water, you are going to want a plan in place for laundry.  First, say something sad on Facebook about how all your towels are soaked with flood water.  Then one of your neighbors will leave some towels on your porch.  Then when friends come by and say, “how can I help?”  send them home with a basket of nasty flood towels.  Towel laundry is easy, and getting all the wet towels out of the basement is going to help it dry out faster.  I know you are thinking, “Hey – enough about the towels.  What am I supposed to do about my underwear?”  That’s a tough one.  People are going to say, “Come to my house and do laundry.”  But the thing is… no.  You are a flood victim with too much to do.  You don’t have time to hang out at someone else’s house while your clothes wash.  Laundromat?  Double no.  On the one hand, you don’t have to pretend to be your normal fun and witty self at the laundromat, on the other hand you know that’s where everyone takes their stuff when they have lice or bed bugs.  Hard pass on the laundromat.   You have enough problems.  So what you do is, take two baskets of light weight essentials to the dry cleaner to pay by the pound to have them do your laundry.  Then buy socks and underwear at Target.  Those will come in handy when it’s Sunday and you never remembered to pick up the laundry and the dry cleaner is closed.  FEMA and the internet say to get an electrician to come out and check your washer and dryer before plugging them back in.  That is a good idea.  You could also ask a loving spouse to stand close by with a wooden bat to knock you free of the electrocution when you plug it in.   One thing though – check the dryer before you start the wash.  Or get good at googling error codes and praying to the dryer gods.

3.) HELPAccepting help: Practice this word:  Yes.  Do you need help? Yes.  Can I take your kids for 2 hours? Yes.  (Parenting tip:  When someone offers to take your kids for 2 hours,  they’ll see the situation when they come to pick them up and they’ll say, “Grab a toothbrush, kids.  How about we bring them back tomorrow.”  Can I make you dinner? Yes!  Do you need to borrow a fan? Yes.  When someone says, “What can I do?”  That’s a hard one.  Slap yourself across the face and make a list and then assign tasks.  You can do it.   Asking for help is hard too, but you can send a txt blast that says, “I have water coming in two places and I only have one shop vac.”  Someone will come by with a shop vac.  And if they don’t who cares, your basement was already ruined 3 days ago.  But someone will come over and help.  Offering to help:  Are you going to Home Depot?  Ask everyone you see as you drive down the street if they need anything.  Text your fellow flood victims and say, send me your list, I know you were just there, but you probably forgot something.  Take a break and bale water at someone else’s house.  A change of scenery is good for you.

4.) Organized Religion – You may normally not be a fan.  But if a church group walks straight into your house and offers to take your water logged couch to the curb, say “Yes, thanks!”  Thanks Mormons!  Tell everyone how awesome the Mormons are.  When a church group walks down your street and offers to each family free trash removal, say thanks to them too.  Maybe when you get your act together make a donation to one of those churches.   Thanks Cornerstone Church! You don’t have to join, but seriously, its OK to be impressed and thankful that there are really people out there caring for the downtrodden.  Don’t focus on how that’s you.

5.) Adjust your expectations.  Maybe you are sort of a Type A person who hates clutter.  Maybe you think you should just get rid of everything now that you have half the space.  But then you realize that the trash isn’t getting picked up so you won’t be getting rid of anything, you’ll just be carrying it to the front yard.  And man, does the front yard look horrid.  It might take a while, and your house is going to be cluttered.  Take up meditation.  Don’t you have a giant empty, carpetless, drywall-less room?  No, you now have a giant mediation room.  Pretend the hum of the fans is just thousands of monks breathing with you.  (This is not actually going to work for me, as the basement is the cause, not the solution to  100% (ok 65%) of my anxiety.)  Long story short, your house is going to be messy, deal with it.  Or try yelling at your family 0-10 times a day and see if they pick some stuff up.

6.) People.  Some people are going to call, some people are going to help, some people are going to do nothing.  Just complain about the people who don’t call or help to other flood victims, it will make you feel better.  You never know what those other people are going through.  Maybe they don’t read the news, maybe they just found out they have cancer, maybe they have been meaning to call but they got distracted by something shiny.  Maybe they are uncaring jerks.  You don’t know!  Just assume they don’t watch the news.  I heard the NPR pronunciation of Lyons, maybe they think the flood is happening far away from you, in France.  But when you are complaining to other flood victims make sure to only complain to people who had the same level or less flooding than you did.  If you get 20 minutes into a complaining session, and find out your partner just had a tiny spot of water in their unfinished basement that will negate the catharsis of your complaining session.   Conversely, don’t complain to someone who died (obviously) or who lost their house, or else you are the jerk.

7.) Your use of language.  When you say your state/city/house/life is in a state of disaster, and people still don’t seem to care that much, maybe it has to do with your prior use of the word “disaster.”   When you said, “It’s a disaster” do people think maybe its like waiting at the deli at King Soopers?   Do you “encounter” “disasters” on a “daily” “basis”.  (Imagine air quotes here, obviously.  I’m using them like Jack does, frequently and semi-“randomly”.)  So maybe instead of always talking hilariously about the many disasters encountered on a daily basis, reserve that word for actual disasters.  It’s ok to say it about the flood, because The President did.  But it’s not like your entire family died in a collapsed garment factory in Bangladesh.  If your basement flooded and you are a alive and you have a savings account, and FEMA already gave you money, you may just be experiencing a “disaster”.

Summary: Keep your clothes on, accept help, complain to the right people, and be thankful.

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