8.27.2011

Admit It: You Want To Watch Hurricane Irene Smash Right Into New York City (And So Do I)

Let's cut the shit. You're watching the weather forecasts and hurricane trackers and news coverage of Irene today for one of two reasons:

1) You live in the path and want to know when to leave, or how long you'll need to batton down the hatches, or
2) You want to watch it when it plows right into New York City and see it cause millions, if not billions, of dollars in damage.

Now, the "good person" in you is saying "Joe, that's HORRIBLE! I would never..."

Let me stop you right there, liar. You would. And you do it all the time. You may not like NASCAR, but I guarantee you if you watch Sportscenter, you don't flip the channel when they tell you there was a gnarly crash that happened in an event. You roll over in bed and look up from your laptop or your book just to catch a glimpse.

You watch YouTube footage of train wrecks and car crashes and steam pipe explosions and what-have-you. You're morbidly curious. And so am I. We humans have a fascination with destruction, so long as it isn't our own.

Now, I need to clarify: I'm not saying you're HOPING it does that much damage, or that it kills people. That's too finely detailed. Only monsters delight in the individual aspects of pain and suffering enough to hope it happens. And I'm not calling you a monster.

I'm saying you're full of shit if you tell me you aren't watching the coverage of the hurricane because, if it DOES bulldoze New York, you want to make damn sure you see it when it does. And if you're a weather nerd like I am, you want to have been keen on every detail leading right up to it. Because in 10 years, if the worst does happen, you want to feel like you were as aware and awake as possible in the midst of a tragedy.

It's instinct.

When the tornado ripped through Atlanta in 2008, I was up the entire night watching every second of footage and live-Tweeting everything I found out. I went downtown in the morning (because they were VERY clear that you weren't getting anywhere near the city that night) to see the destruction myself. I couldn't look away.

The Atlanta tornado, 2008. It really whipped the llama's ass.
(can't see the photo? Click here)

The same is true with Hurricane Katrina in 2004 and with 9/11. And the truth is, there's NOTHING wrong with that. You want to know what's going on. When you find out it's relatively little, you're no longer interested. However, when it's something huge, you just can't look away. And the bigger it is, the more you stare. Car wrecks, "Craziest crashes" tv shows... We're drawn to disaster like moths to flame.

...So long as it takes place in America, anyway. We have a keen disinterest in disasters that happen in places that aren't here. And the reason for that is the same reason I believe we're intrinsically drawn to witness as bad things happen to other people near where we live:

Because they're not us.

If they don't look and act like us, or don't live in our little sphere of influence (our city, our state, our country), we take the information as data. "Wow, did you hear about that thing that happened? How crazy."

If they do look and act like us, we can't help but put ourselves in their shoes and think one honest, unadmittable thought in our heads: "Thank God that's not me." And the closer the issue is to home, or the greater in magnitude the disaster, the more we watch and take note and ponder. And when the two combine -- like, say, a category 2 hurricane barreling through the most densely populated city in the nation -- we can't help but give it our full attention.

But you won't admit that to anyone. You won't tell people "I'm watching coverage of the hurricane so that I can witness wonton destruciton and be glad it's not me." You won't admit that there's a perverse pleasure in it.

I don't want to either. It's not comfortable in the slightest to pull back the covers of civility and admit that, at our core, we're animals. But we are. And there's nothing wrong with it. I just wish all the hand-wringing well-wishers in Kansas and California and Oregon and even here in Atlanta, GA could admit it.

So pop the popcorn and pull out the brews and enjoy the live broadcast of the greatest -- BUT OH MY GOD UNFORNTUNATE FOR THOSE POOR PEOPLE -- disaster film ever recorded... You hope.