Posts tagged safety
Ever since I left on holiday two weeks ago, I’ve been saving up pictures, anecdotes, and dorky Nice-related puns for my inevitable spring break recap update. When I turned on my computer two hours after arriving back in Edinburgh last Monday, however, I found my Facebook newsfeed flooded not with jubilant post-travel memories but with harried posts about the Boston Marathon bombing.
As it turned out, the incident took place while my friend Natalie and I were obliviously hanging out at the Charles-de-Gaulle airport, writing and napping (her) and reading F. Scott Fitzgerald and eating chocolate-covered popcorn (me). Since then, I’ve been trying my hardest to make my recap happen–but I don’t think I can, in all sincerity, write a comparatively silly post about my little trip without addressing the events in Boston first. I won’t pretend eloquence, originality, or profundity; I just need to throw my thoughts into the vacuum of the internet.
I don’t have any relatives in Boston, and didn’t know anyone attending the marathon, so I can’t even begin to imagine how people directly affected by the bombing must feel. Still, the tragedy obviously had a very emotional effect on me–one further exacerbated by the fact that I’m studying abroad.
While the Internet servicemen drilled a hole in my wall on Tuesday (perfect timing, right?), I waited in the living room, where my fellow American flatmate was watching the news. Hearing the BBC reporters describe the Boston events as though they were taking place in a foreign country–which was, in fact, true!–made me feel all the more homesick, alone, and estranged from my nation in its time of need.
There are other reasons why this attack is particularly disturbing, I think, for my generation. The now-captured suspect and I are both nineteen years old. We (along with most of the sophomore class at Cornell) probably attended elementary school at the same time. It petrifies me primarily because I literally cannot imagine anyone from my age group–someone who lost their teeth and hit their teens roundabout when I did–doing something so heinous. If he is truly is responsible for these atrocities, then this teenager kept Boston in a horrified standstill during the recent manhunt and, with his brother (who’s not that much older himself), orchestrated the murder of three innocents and the wounding of countless others.
And he was born in 1993 like me. Year of the Rooster.
Younger kids have racked up higher death tolls, it’s true, but I was six years old when Columbine happened, and didn’t really know it happened until six years later. This time, I’m old enough to understand and be scared, and, thanks to social media, have an entire world of terrifying knowledge–and even less desirable lies and misinformation–at my fingertips. Though I’ve spent most of my teen years bragging about my incredible desire to move to England and become a reclusive countryside writer, every single post, tweet, and news update only increases my need to be in America: if only for the sake of solidarity.
I think it’s time to pull the emergency break on this train of cliches and emotion, so I’ll stop with a little bathetic conclusion instead. Even in trying times, Scotland still offers simple comforts: a sunny hike at Arthur’s Seat, a phenomenal street guitarist in the Meadows, a recent restock on Kelkin brand chocolate-covered rice cakes at Tesco (before you think I’m really throwing on the bathos here, let me explain–those things are ambrosial), or an undiscovered health food store (run by a shy fellow who was just as happy as I was to carry out the transaction using only smiles and nods). Here’s hoping today’s London Marathon (which touchingly held a brief memorial to Boston victims) was a safe, enjoyable celebration of sport and fitness, and that all of the clearly many people who read my blog and their families are safe and accounted for.
Puns and pictures will resume next time.
Batten down the hatches, kiddos. There’s something powerful brewing up for this Halloweek–and it might turn out to be way tricksier than we expect.
After an enjoyable night at Risley’s annual “Masquerave” Halloween dance (and by “night” I mean “forty-five minutes”), I woke up this morning to find my various Internet feeds flooded with meteorological news concerning both of my current “homes”: New York State and Hawai’i. Though the sudden tsunami warning issued last night in the islands fortunately amounted to nothing more than a precautionary measure, the approach of Hurricane Sandy has East Coast mainlanders in full-on storm battle mode.
Like occasional late-night treks to see the lava flow and the unfortunate smell of volcanic vog, hurricanes and other extreme weather conditions were a major part of my childhood in charming Volcano, HI–and not necessarily a bad one. When you’re young and in love with Little House in the Big Woods, an unexpected power outage is absolutely thrilling. Too innocent to worry overmuch about the dangers of storms, I would stare out of the window and watch as the sunken areas of our yard filled with water while the rain gauge overflowed like a fountain. Reading by the light of our headlamps and camping lanterns as thunder clattered outside made my life seem almost as interesting as the stories in my books.
In a completely expected turn of events, however, experiencing a hurricane while away from my family sounds drastically less romantic.
There are practical considerations, too. Back home, my house would be stocked with all kinds of food–in fact, since we lived in an area frequented by hurricanes, I’m pretty sure we also kept a kind of “hurricane emergency kit” with granola bars, extra water, and other essentials. Because most of my food preparation requires electricity, though, it’ll be hard to scrounge up balanced meals if the power goes out for an extended period of time. Recent product recalls in the natural peanut butter market have unfortunately ensured that my number-one vegetarian no-prep staple (PB & honey sandwiches) is out of the question. Still, at least I’m off the meal plan: imagine being stuck in a dorm with nothing more than a bag of chips and some cereal because you can’t get to the dining hall.
Ithaca doesn’t seem to be in quite as much danger as NYC or other areas (Cornell hasn’t cancelled classes yet, for example), but it’s still a good idea to be prepared in case of an emergency. For readers who have no idea what to expect from the (hopefully im)perfect storm, here are a couple of pointers from someone who’s survived a couple of ‘em in her time:
- Go hit up Bear Necessities (or, if you’re feeling brave, something a little farther away like Target or Tops) tonight. Regardless of any storm’s actual impact, people tend to freak out when natural disasters are imminent and end up buying everything. Wegmans was absolutely packed today, so I recommend picking up some non-perishable staples as soon as possible.
- Remember your umbrella & raingear tomorrow. Ithaca’s chance of precipitation only jumps up to 90% around 2PM on Monday, so make sure you don’t get fooled if it’s just drizzling in the morning.
- Fill up that reusable water bottle (you don’t have one? Have Cornell’s decidedly unsustainable sustainability campaign posters taught you nothing?). Actually, fill up a few if you have them.
- Got a flashlight? No? How about a leftover glowstick from Halloween party shenanigans? Round those dudes up as well.
- Be informed! Since I am apparently the only person left in the universe who doesn’t have a smartphone, take advantage of your superior technology and check on the weather reports and warnings constantly. If we’re lucky, we can weather the storm without an issue–but you don’t want to be this uninformed guy when things go wrong. (And yes, I got to see that video clip live on the news back when I was in high school: at least you inland mainlanders don’t have to worry about tsunamis too!)
Dear Universe (/Magical Guardian Spirits/Assorted Energies/Powers That Be),
I thought we had this communication thing worked out.
Remember Tuesday evening? When I was just about to tuck myself into bed before I suddenly had the strangest feeling that I should put a pair of shoes next to my bed in case the fire alarm happened to go off? Five hours later, I was rudely tugged from some REM sleep by a wailing siren–but wait! My sandals were right there for my use! High five, Universe!
Naturally, I thought we were on pretty good terms after that. Was that wrong of me? I kind of expected at least some sort of minor cosmic message concerning this week’s second fire alarm (which, in case you weren’t aware, occurred about an hour ago).
I was in the middle of debugging some Python code, you know: and although I admit that I wished, for a second, that I were doing something else, I was imagining an activity more along the lines of arranging music or watching Market Warriors. Not standing outside in the surprisingly-chilly September air with a group of PJ-clad peers.
While I suppose I could have chosen to remain in my room, don’t give me that “free will” nonsense: issues of actual fire safety aside, I’d be in big trouble once the officers checking the building found me hidin’ out.
The good news about all this madness? At least I know the fire alarms work. A little annoyance is worth saving lives. Still, Universe, how many times do you have to prove your point? And when will these silly kids learn not to burn popcorn/leave the kettle on near the fire alarm itself/keep their dragon hatchlings outside in the courtyard at night?
(Sassy letters, baby dragons & Avatar: The Last Airbender memes aside, you can learn more about Cornell’s history with fires (and the apparent recurring theme of ‘intentional’ fires caused by ‘burning paper on the front of the door’) by reading through the 2012 Fire Safety Report. CUPD also has some helpful fire safety suggestions. And if the universe doesn’t tend to send you magical warnings about impending building evacuations, consider getting into the habit of leaving footwear, a warm coat, and your purse/wallet/keys at your bedside–especially in the cold winter months!)
I laugh in the face of danger! Then I…hide until it goes away.
–Xander Harris, Buffy the Vampire Slayer 1:3
If there’s anything watching hours of cult-classic 90s paranormal TV shows has taught me, it’s that scary things can be defeated by sass (and stakes, of course, but honestly, it’s probably Buffy’s bad puns that do those bad ‘uns in, anyway). And because I’ve got a bit of smart-aleck demon-fighter attitude myself, I tend to address things that frighten me with a healthy dose of humor. After all, how else could I get to sleep after watching X-Files reruns?
When I woke up to automated emergency response system emails from Cornell on Sunday morning concerning two (and, as later reports rolled in, three) incidents of sexual assault (including a rape) in a single night, though, I found myself without a single comforting wisecrack. It seems no amount of exposure to creepy paranormal dramedies could prepare me for, if you’ll forgive the massive amount of cliche in this sentence, the horror of the real world.
I can’t remember ever hearing about a rape during my time at Cornell before. That doesn’t mean, of course, that none occurred–though I’d like to hope so–but, to my knowledge, there were no reports of sexual assault beyond the occasional harassment incident late at night in Collegetown. Although these events were also unquestionably serious, I generally witnessed students nervously mocking the awkwardly formal vernacular Cornell police use to describe these “forcible touchings” instead of outwardly expressing fear.
It’s not like Ithaca has turned into the back alleys of NYC or something following these occurrences: I still think our campus is very safe and well-lit compared to others I’ve visited. I’m just (more than) a little freaked for now. Being a spunky heroine (or even the comedic-relief sidekick) in a supernatural soap opera would be so much easier–a universe inhabited by hideous demonic forces that can be slain easily with a magical item or special incantation sounds so much more appealing than one in which fellow people are our biggest threats.
So, what should the Cornell administration do to address these issues? I’ve already received the campus-wide email from vice president Susan Murphy, who reiterated the importance of using campus escort services and blue light phones.There’s also a series of free self-defense classes offered at Willard Straight for the next few weeks–except the class runs from 7:30-8:30 in the evening. I know that’s not quite prime time for feelings of sketchiness, but couldn’t they hold this class at a time after which participants–even paranoid ones like me–would feel comfortable walking home by themselves?
Because we can’t all be the vampire slayers or whip-smart FBI agents who battle against evil on a normal basis, I hope (and trust) that Cornell will continue to help keep everyone able to–well, not laugh in the face of danger or hide from it, but at least feel secure enough to make it across the Arts Quad without jumping at every shadow.
(…and that sappy ending was rather cancelled out by the fact that my favorite newspaper of all time, the Daily Sun, referred to Saturday night’s incident as an “alleged rape“. Talk about connotations galore. Come on, you couldn’t have used “reported” or something instead? I’ve never seen headlines about other crimes in the area described as “alleged.” Jeez.)
Despite the cheerful-looking exclamation mark in the title, this is actually one of the most serious blog posts I’ve written so far. Go figure.
On Saturday, a friend and I went to watch (and by “watch” I mean “provide sarcastic Mystery Science Theater 3000-like commentary for”) a certain popular film (I’m too ashamed to name it) at the Ithaca Mall. Though the movie started at 7, Daylight Savings Time ensured that it was dark as midnight when we arrived at 6:30 to pick up our tickets. As we were leaving the bus, my friend suddenly pointed at something in the shadows.
“Hey, what’s going on there?” she whispered.
I glanced over and saw a young woman backed up by the wall with a hoodie-clad man standing menacingly behind her–he was digging through her pockets. They were far enough from the rest of the mall-goers that they might have gone completely unnoticed if it hadn’t been for my friend’s sharp eye.
After examining (what appeared to be) the woman’s terrified expression for a few moments, my friend and I freaked out (as much as two unarmed college-age women who are not trained in physical combat might be expected to) and ran into the mall. Once safe, we decided to contact someone from security and let him/her know of the issue before something worse happened. Unfortunately, those security guys are apparently only around when you don’t need them, so we were forced to pop into a pet store and awkwardly inform the two women at the register of the strangeness we’d witnessed.
Right as the pet store owners were dialing, the man and woman themselves walked in and started cooing over the cages. Immediately, my friend and I realized that unless, of course, the mugger had held a gun to his victim’s head and ordered her to buy him a ferret, we had misinterpreted the situation. Maybe the lady had lost her wallet and was so distraught that her boyfriend had to search her pockets for her while she cried about it. I don’t know! Because we were a little reluctant to say “Oh, see that customer there? We thought he was a mugger! How weird is that?” my friend and I quickly (and, again, awkwardly) assured the women that there was no longer a problem.
Although, unlike Robert Frost, I am not one acquainted with the night, I always feel relatively safe whenever responsibilities keep me out on campus late in the evening. With the exception of some of the sketchier corners of the Risley parking lot, most of the walkways are well-lit, and those lovely blue-light phones are there to assist if I feel uncomfortable.
Of course, there are many scenarios in which these phones could be absolutely useless; if an assailant has a weapon, for instance, talking to the student workers from the Blue Light Escort service isn’t really going to help much. Thus, I’ve arrived at the sadly cliche moral of this post–please, face the potential embarrassment and do something if you see anything remotely suspicious happening!
I’m reminded of that scene in The Incredibles: you know, the one where Bob/Mr. Incredible is in his fleshy-lipped boss’ office and that annoying little dude tells Bob that if he dares to leave the meeting to save the victim of a mugging outside, Mr. Fleshy will fire him from Insuricare. When the bad guy gets away with it, an enraged Mr. Incredible picks up his tiny supervisor and pitches him against the side of the office (damaging the building in the process because, obviously, he’s Mr. Incredible).
If I’d found out that the woman we saw at the mall actually had been in trouble (e.g. I read about her mugging/disappearance/etc in the newspaper the next day), I would’ve wanted to throw myself through six walls of an office. As much as I despise trite sayings, it actually is better to be safe than sorry. Until, of course, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and her helpless-helping consort Angel live in Ithaca and can keep everyone safe from normal and paranormal baddies alike, I’ll be watching for anything out of the ordinary, and hope that someone would do the same for me if I ever needed it.