The other Dadwagoneers have all weighed in about vacationing with a small child, and I am last to the party, with good reason. I travel less than my blog-colleagues (“blogleagues”?), I work all the damn time anyway, and my annual destressing week is so low-impact as to be invisible: We have available to us a family house on Martha’s Vineyard in August, and unless we someday decide to mix things up, that’s the default trip. It’s nice not to have to think about what to do most years, and blessedly inexpensive. This time, my wife’s parents were along, and since I get along with them extremely well, there’s virtually no downside to that. We divide the cooking and chores. We split childcare four ways. My wife and I can leave the house for a grownup few hours occasionally. Her dad prebooked the ferry, back in February, and did the driving to get us there. I essentially showed up and had a vacation laid over me like a cozy afghan. I had nothing to complain about.
Which made it a little frustrating when, on the first day, I got some noxious little stomach bug. It dominated the first two days of the trip, during which I had to stay (EUPHEMISM ALERT) close to home, night and day. Bah.
Wednesday was lovely, and I had recovered enough to venture more than 100 feet from a bathroom. Blue skies, warm weather. And regular, increasingly hysterical hurricane warnings. Earl was headed up the coast; Earl was likely to drag the edge of its eyewall over the island, bringing a storm surge and all the other National Weather service terminology that we learned during Katrina. We were in its direct path. And Thursday morning, after a scramble for a standby ferry slot, we hit the road, headed back to New York.
Well, as we all know by now, the storm was a fazoo. It missed M.V. by tens of miles, and took out nothing except a few branches and one long-planned trip.
I have a long-standing beef with weather-media extremism, and this is why. If you lead a twenty-first-century life, and you’re not someplace like the Oklahoma plains, a storm has to be pretty bad to affect you. In New York, I once walked home in a bad rainstorm just because my bus was taking forever to show up, and discovered when I got home and put on the TV that it was some monster nor’easter, one for the books. I just got wet, was all. We carless apartment-dwellers don’t have to contend with mud, downed power lines, wet spark plugs, or swaying trees that might fall through the roof.
Yet to watch weather-porn coverage of a storm like that, it’s Katrina all over again. Reporters in yellow slickers do field reports to tell us that… it’s raining and windy. An hour later: still raining, in fact. Even when there’s no storm, they attempt to make weather seem worse than it is. It’s only 85 degrees? Well, “the heat index is 104!” (Don’t get me started on wind-chill factor. Just tell me the temperature, for god’s sake.) They whip up anxiety, turning banal news (it’s raining, hard) into breaking news (it’s Armageddon!). My parents, who consume a lot of TV, tend to huddle in the house during rainstorms nowadays, scared to leave. And I have to say that I think it’s nonsense.
I will admit that the resulting staycation, back in New York for the last four days of the week, was rather pleasant. I got stuff done around the house. Spent a pleasant afternoon doing some light-duty research at the New York Public Library, too. And we took the family to the Central Park Zoo (big hit this visit: the puffins). Out of that fearmongering came a nice break from ordinary life. And the weather at home, unpredictably, was impeccable: cool, dry, and without a cloud in the sky.