Thursday, September 01, 2005

Update from New New Orleans

I just went down to the Cajundome (our college basketball arena and Ground Zero for evacuees) to volunteer my time. It took me a considerable amount of time to weave my way into the right place to sign up. Within that time, I got to see for myself the multitude of people who are now calling Lafayette home. At this writing, there are still lines of people snaking through metal detectors, presumably for processing. This did not prevent me from using a side entrance to breeze right in, but moving on...

I took a phone call from my friend, a social-services worker in Abbeville, who was asking me about rumors that people were carjacking and vandalizing at the Lafayette Wal-Marts. I told her I wasn't sure, but that a lot of rumors were floating around. Several officials were on the radio earlier assuring everyone that, isolated incidents aside, people were not looting Lafayette or starting gang fights at your kids' schools. My friend said she didn't believe that. After hearing it three times in an hour, I'm not sure I do either. Still, avoiding the rumor mill probably is the best course of action at this point.

After the call, I looked around and found myself among several families and an elderly woman on a cot, chatting happily with a police officer. Saying these people need a place to stay is like calling the Grand Canyon a hole. In every concourse I saw people lying on sleeping bags, blankets or whatever else they could find to separate themselves from the polished concrete floor. The main entrance was a hotbed of vertical bodies, milling about as if a basketball or hockey game was in town. I was a little surprised at how much...calmer everything seemed than I'd expected. Yes, there was a lot of frantic action, as well as almost continuous unloading of new arrivals from school buses. At the same time, the pervading sentiment was that these people were just content to have somewhere to go. I don't doubt this feeling will restlessly erode after a period of time, but for now everybody seems to be cooperating. At no time did I feel particularly concerned about my safety.

The only somewhat questionable experience I had was, ironically enough, when I got up to the volunteer table. The table was manned (humanned?) by several women and girls, most representing the Red Cross. Here's what went down:

Coordinator: Can I help you?
Me: I want to sign up to volunteer.
Coordinator: Okay, sign up at one of these schedules. [Pointing out the obvious] This one's packed, this one's full, this one is too, and this one looks better. [Annoyed] We are just swamped with volunteers right now! Fill out this form and we'll call you.

As I filled out the form--and signed up for a graveyard shift on Saturday--I overheard her say to someone else, "Yeah, everyone's volunteering now, but they're going to lose interest and no one's going to want to do it later!" With that attitude, yeah. But for the sake of the people of Old Orleans, I hope not.

On my way home, I heard the press conference where city officials are assuring us that the apocalypse is not upon us (in other words, lying). I sat and listened to snippets, getting out of the Ian-mobile only to see that my bank has shut down its lobby. Not being a big fan of drive-thrus, I instead used the secluded ATM outside. Thanks for keeping us safe!

I stopped at my neighborhood Subway afterwards, only to see that their food supply has been cut off. They're all right now--they had my chicken breast, dammit!--but who knows what's going to happen down the road. A perfect analogy for what we're going through.

All I know is, we're not in Kansas anymore. Kansas doesn't get many hurricanes.


The Goblin Slayer said...

Glad to hear from an eyewitness that things seems to being going "ok".

Keep yourself safe and out of trouble, Ian.

Ian McGibboney said...

Thanks, Goblin. This is crazy stuff.