Importance, Idiocy and Ill-timed Gas Crises

Everyone thinks they are important.

Don’t get me wrong– everyone is important.  The problem is that everyone agrees with me, especially when it concerns them.

I live in a state lying in the east coast of America.  As anyone who doesn’t completely ignore current world events will know, the East Coast was recently hit squarely by hurricane Sandy.  Millions of people lost power as the storm raged, and at least two million homes are still without power.

I was living in one of those homes until noon today.

Now, I’m not writing all this to rant at people and how unhelpful they can be.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  It is flooring how many people were willing to help after the disaster.  The problem is not the attitude of the relief workers– it’s the attitude of those still being relieved.

When you’re living a normal life in a normal house that just happens to have lost all ability to buzz with power, just as the days are growing shorter and colder, it’s hard to come to terms with the fact that maybe, just maybe, you won’t be watching TV in a while.  The bare essentials of life– heat, running water, Internet– are no longer there for you whenever you press a button.

It’s in times like these when you wonder, Am I really getting all the help I could be getting in this, my time of need?  When all your neighbors have generators, you wonder, Why did I have to be number 5000 on the waiting list?  When you’re beginning to forget what laundry detergent smells like, you wonder, Was U2’s hit song “Walk On” actually meant for… my pants?

When you’re in this position, you can become extremely impatient with people.  When we heard that people in Staten Island who had refused to evacuate were screaming for help, our first reaction was “Why should they get help?  They were told to evacuate and they didn’t.  Tough luck.”  That is not the right attitude.  People might be stupid, but they don’t often deserve that kind of ridicule.  If they’ve learned their lesson, that’s enough.  And enough is enough.

When we saw that “power guys” were working on restoring electricity to the other side of the town before us, we asked, “Why can’t they come over here?  It’s so cold, our digits are subzero!”  This too was not the correct attitude for us to assume.  The people who live in the houses across town are people too, and they’re just as entitled to power as we are.

The problem is that though many people will agree (in public) that all men are created equal, we all think (privately) that we were created just a tiny bit more equal than others.

Guess how many people in this picture really need the gasoline!

Take, for instance, the recent gas crisis in and around New York City.  With everyone wanting to fuel their generators for the next few days, lines were stretching to infinity and beyond.  The problem is that most people were getting gas for the sake of getting gas.  I’m sure more than one Humvee got gas early in the past week and sat in the driveway for the next few days.  More than one gallon of gas was used to power a generator that was then used to burn the porch lights all night.  Do they need the gas?  It depends on who you ask.  Ask the owner of the Humvee and they’ll say yes, of course– what if there’s an emergency?  Ask the man who is sitting in line half a mile from the gas station who desperately needs gas to get his grandmother to the hospital.  What do you think he’ll say?

It’s nearly impossible to compare situations like this, however, especially in this sort of situation.  Importance is always subjective– perhaps being able to sit in your driveway with the knowledge that you can go anywhere you need to go is more valuable to you than knowing that your neighbor can save a family member’s life.

It’s hard, after disasters, to step back and look at the big picture.  It’s so easy to get caught up in your own complaints and not realize that we ought to be happy for people who have regained power, or who ended up with the gas you could have used to idle in your driveway.  Self-importance is part of the curse of humanity.

So here’s my plea to the world: use whatever brain cells are left over after breathing gas fumes and think for a moment about what’s truly important.  You shouldn’t have to think long.

Leave a comment


  1. “Self-importance is part of the curse of humanity.” = awesome. I would have probably gone a different direction and turned it into something about politics, about how we need to give and take to get things done, but the main point is still the same. *applauds* And it’s even awesomer that someone who actually was affected by the storm is saying this, because it’s so easy for someone who’s OK to say, “Of course you know what’s important!”

  2. Goshdangit, Liam, I didn’t know you could be so poignant. You just crushed my sense of self-importance….In a good way.

  3. Erin

     /  November 9, 2012

    Wow…I really hope that all you guys on the east coast can recover quickly! My family is keeping all the victims of Sandy in our prayers.

    These past couple weeks have made me really grateful that I live in Wisconsin…

  4. Melly

     /  November 9, 2012

    I’m glad to hear you’re okay. 🙂

  5. I’m awfully sorry to hear that you were affected by Sandy. Big things like that should put people’s perspective right, but it’s insane how selfish people can be. (I’m not saying I would be less selfish…. because I don’t know. I would hope I could be, but I’ve never been in a situation like that.)

    Good post, Liam.

    God bless

    • Thank you ever so much for your support. I know exactly how it is– only a few days with power back we’re all wondering, “What’s taking them so long on the rest of our state?” Oh, the silliness of us… Anyway, thanks.

  6. I hope you’re saying sub-zero celsius, not fahrenheit? Wow it must be tough to be without power for so long in such a cold, electricity-dependent country. Since I live in South-East Asia most of the time, I’ve seen my fair share of power cuts – but it’s never more than an inconvenience here.

    Good thoughts and I’ll pray for all you Sandy-victims.

  7. Charley R

     /  November 10, 2012

    Well said, sir! One of my biggest peeves with people is that they fail to sit back and see that, in the grand scheme, their little trifles aren’t the end of the world. Words can’t describe how many times I’ve wanted to hit people and scream “STOP BEING SUCH A SELF-IMPORTANT LITTLE TOERAG! SHUT UP AND GET ON WITH IT LIKE THE REST OF US!”

    Sorry. I hate whiners.

    Big applause for you, Liam, and I hope everything gets back to normal for you lot ASAP. Sandy was definitely a nasty nasty cretin.

  8. Very good post, Head Phil. I’m glad your power is back. There were similar words spoken about those who refused to evacuate in my house, but you are right when you say, “People might be stupid, but they don’t often deserve that kind of ridicule.”

    In February of last year, while I was still in a cast and on crutches for my run in with that RV, my family lost power for two (maybe three) days during an ice storm. I thought that was bad, but what you guys on the East Coast went through sounds so much worse. I’m still praying for y’all.

    • Keeping oneself from saying things like that is hard. I hope I don’t have to do it much… Kidding.

      Ach, nae, ’tis a simple power outage with extended duration. It gets rather boring eventually. But thank you so much for your support.

      • You are welcome. This is completely off topic, but thanks for recommending the How to Train Your Dragon soundtrack. I looked it up a while ago when I was bored and IT IS AWESOME!

      • Isn’t it, though? I love all the low vibration of the low brass. Don’t know what instruments are used, because it isn’t present in much other music, but it’s cool.

  9. Blown away by the passion you have in that post! A different side to you, I’d say.

    I do agree with you on both of your arguments: That stupid people who were stupid enough not to leave their homes with a huge storm coming to destroy things shouldn’t be ridiculed for their choices, and that each person is not more important than the person next to them.

    Hope that the East Coast gets back in the swing of things soon. I’ll be praying for you and your family, along with the other victims of the storm. Glad you got your power back. (Meaning your electricity. I don’t think you have supernatural powers…. Do you?)

    • Now all I need is to figure out how to get that sort of passion, whether real or artificial, into fiction.

      Thanks for the support. It’s appreciated.

  10. rickwood26

     /  November 12, 2012

    I like your friends. Dad.

  11. I am now thinking of all the times I thought I was not important.

    And I didn’t even know laundry detergent had a smell to begin with… gah, by this point, I should just assume everything has a smell and stop being surprised when someone mentions that something has a smell.

    And now my silly comment is making me feel like I’m undermining this post. So…I’ll say my usual—good post. I appreciated it. And I’m glad we don’t get hurricanes out here…just earthquakes.


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