I'm good in an emergency, but first I have to know it's an emergency.
With Hurricane Sandy, I didn't.
The first problem was the name.
One of my best friends is named Sandy, and I love that name, so when I heard that Hurricane Sandy was on her way, I wasn't worried. If you want me to worry about a hurricane, name it Satan.
For Hurricane Satan, I'd move the porch furniture.
But for Hurricane Sandy, I didn't even buy a flashlight.
At the time, I was working around the clock to meet my deadline for the next Rosato & Associates book. I had a generator that would keep power to the computer and the refrigerator, which was all any girl needs.
Also I was working beside the puppies, who were in their fifth week of life, so I was encased in a furry cocoon of adorableness.
Hurricane Puppy Breath.
Sandy was due to strike on Monday, but the weekend before I still wasn't worried, even with all the hurricane reports on TV. Every time I looked up from the computer, the TV showed red swaths over Pennsylvania, but they looked like gift ribbons, and then the newscaster started talking about spaghetti bands.
If you want me to worry about something, don't call it spaghetti. I love spaghetti. Call it something that worries me, like Internal Revenue Service bands.
Or something I hate:
Independence Blue Cross bands.
Or that I dread:
Tech Support bands.
The only thing that started to worry me were TV reports about New York City, where Daughter Francesca lives. Increasingly, by Sunday, the TV news showed New York wrapped in tons of red ribbons, and I began to worry about my puppy.
Er, I mean, my daughter.
So I called Francesca, and we talked all Sunday morning because we couldn't decide whether she should come home. Her apartment was downtown near the Hudson River, but it hadn't flooded in the last hurricane. My thinking wasn't clear, either because I was preoccupied with my book, in major denial, or middle-aged in general. At one point, I remember asking her, "But is there really that much water around New York?"
Francesca answered, gently, "Mom, Manhattan is an island. And they call it the Eastern Seaboard for a reason."
But while we were dithering, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that her building was in a mandatory evacuation zone, and she had to evacuate.
So our decision was made for us, but by then, we didn't know how to get Francesca home. I worried about leaving the puppies for that long to go pick her up, and she couldn't take a train, since Amtrak doesn't allow dogs, even in a proper carrier.
Yes, dogs rule our lives.
But we'll blame Amtrak, for being anti-canine.
In fact, let's add Amtrak to our spaghetti bands list. After all, they call it the Northeast Corridor and there's no corridor.
The point is, words have meaning, people. Especially in an emergency.
But as luck would have it, my best friend, Franca, was in New York that Sunday, running in a race with her daughter Jessica, because that's the kind of cool girls they are. Franca generously offered to pick up Francesca and bring her home, and I took her up on her offer, so Francesca arrived home in a driving rainstorm Sunday night.
In the nick of time.
We lost power an hour later, and for the next four days, but we could rely on the generator until it ran out of propane. We had no Internet, TV, or phone, so we were cut off from the world, like an involuntary writer's retreat. We worked and met our deadlines, and when the power returned, we switched on the TV and learned how very lucky we had been, and how many people were suffering in New Jersey, New York, Delaware, and so many other places, having lost their possessions, homes, and businesses, and some even their lives.
But we also saw police, firefighters, EMTs, the National Guard, and neighbors helping each other, and we talked about how lucky we were in Franca, who had gone so far out of her way to bring Francesca home.
And we thought about the true meaning of words. Not words like Eastern Seaboard or corridor, but like friendship, gratitude, and love.
Thank you, Franca, for being such an amazing friend.
And thank you to everyone who has gone out of his way to help someone in need because of Hurricane Sandy.
You're all invited over.
Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella's new book, "Meet Me at Emotional Baggage Claim," will be in bookstores Tuesday. Go to www.scottoline.com for tour dates.