Monday morning came early for me, though not as early as it usually does, when I rolled off my friend’s couch at 6 a.m. and headed to practice. I picked my way through fallen branches and across icy sidewalks as the complaints of my friends echoed through my ears. They couldn’t believe the school would have classes; just look at campus! These complaints echoed in Cheney Hall and Facebook as well, as students fretted over Monday morning classes. What about the commuters, they cried! What about the professors!
Well, this commuter is pretty glad there were classes that morning, and I have a feeling more than one professor is not complaining. Take a trip off campus and look at the lines at gas stations, assuming they have any gas left, walk through the supermarkets with no perishables, lights running off generators. Or drive down streets with power lines and tree branches draped across the roads, fences, cars and homes of the people living there. Walk into a home with no heat, no lights and possibly no way of heating up food.
Imagine making a phone call only to be told that you won’t have power for a week.
Shame on us. We have dorms that never lost power, hot showers, electricity to charge our phones and laptops, power our TVs and Xbox and meals prepared for us. As of Monday morning, there were over 600,000 people without power in Massachusetts alone. Over 115,000 were without power in western Massachusetts.
Now these are just numbers, so let me tell you what this really means. My best friend Bob and I spent Sunday afternoon trying to find gas for his Jeep and somewhere to charge his phone. He had spent the entire morning cutting up and clearing branches that had totaled his neighbor’s cars and narrowly missed his own. We drove by gas station after gas station with signs proclaiming no gas. We finally found gas and waited in line for close to half an hour to fill up. As we drove towards our houses in the dark, there were patches of electricity here and there. But a half mile from our homes, the street was plunged into total darkness. No street lights, no bright windows, not even traffic signals.
We spent an hour with Bob’s mom and sisters, who had the burners on their gas stove lit to keep the house warm.
We then drove to my house, dodging power lines along the way. My parents thankfully have a gas stove as well and therefore had hot food, but the house was cold and dark.
Little things that we take for granted suddenly become far more difficult.
I’d walk into the bathroom to brush my teeth, flip the switch and realize I’d be brushing in the dark. A walk into the basement to feed the cats suddenly requires a flashlight to avoid banged shins. And to be honest, my experience was a good one. I know people whose homes were severely damaged or destroyed by falling trees.
So before we start to complain about going to Monday morning classes, let us put this in perspective.
There are thousands of people in the region that are just starting to recover from the effects of the June 1st tornado and now have no power. It is sometimes too easy to forget that we are part of a larger community and that Springfield College is part of Springfield, Mass.
We are lucky. Students stayed safe and warm. Enjoy it.
If you’re concerned about commuters, offer them a hot shower, a heated room to sleep. I’m indebted to my friends who are willingly letting me crash on their floors and futons.
Just remember that there are many people around us who are not so well off and are going to be spending a cold, cold week shoveling snow and cutting up tree branches. Just think of that before complaining about the tree branch that is blocking your path to the library.
Be thankful for what you have.
Josh Ernst may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org