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November 4, 2011

Random Acts of Rudeness and Kindness

by Anne Paddock
Connecticut was slammed this week with a record-breaking early snowfall that resulted in trees bringing down power lines across the state, especially in the central and northern parts of the state. The story began last Saturday at noon when snow started to fall  – big beautiful fluffy white flakes.  Eight inches were predicted – but by 3:00 am on Sunday morning, more than 17 inches had fallen at Bradley – the nearby airport serving the Hartford/Springfield area.

Power started going out on Saturday afternoon when the tree branches still with leaves started snapping from the weight of the snow and water.  Late Saturday night, while walking the dog there was the eerie silence of a snow storm in full swing punctuated by snaps coming from the forest every few seconds which seemed unreal.  As often happens after a horrible storm, the sun shines the next day and the road beckoned me so I went out for a run and was shocked at what I saw – huge trees snapped in half laying across power lines, streets covered in tree branches, large tree limbs laying across cars, houses, and sidewalks.  There was no power and everyone was outside walking around staring in disbelief.  This must be what shock looks like (as illustrated above, my dog, Daisy seems to wonder why the trees are covering the roadway five days after the storm when warm temperatures melted most of the snow).

Within a few days, frustration set in.  Record low temperatures at night with no heat, grocery stores, or gas stations open can bring out the worst in people.  On the fourth day, we went in search of fuel and drove 15 miles to a town we heard had gasoline stations open. With 2 lanes merging into one lane to get into a gas station, tempers were close to the surfacewith one woman getting out of her gas guzzling SUV, walking to my passenger window, tapping on the glass and telling me that she was going in front of me and if I tried to stop her, she would hit my car. Really.  I told her that if she was threatening me, I would call the police, to which she told me “to go for it.”  Really. In retrospect, I should have taken her plate number and called the police because her behavior was not acceptable but at the time, my instincts were to flee, not fight. The computer in my car told me I had enough gas to go 115 miles so I didn’t need the gas as much as other people.

My husband was trying to direct traffic but he returned and we decided this effort was not worth it and so we left. The next morning, the papers reported that fights including the throwing of snowballs broke out at that gas station which resulted in the police having to control the angry crowds.

We decided to find a hardware store and purchase a gas container which after stopping at 4 places, we found. While waiting for my husband to come out of Ace Hardware, a car pulled up to me. I sensed the driver wanted me to roll down my window but after the event earlier in the day, I chose to ignore.  The driver was persistent so I rolled down my window, preparing myself to get yelled at again and this smiling face said “I noticed you have out-of-state plates…are you ok and is there anything I can do to help you?”  Really.  What a relief..there are kind people out there.  I thanked her and apologized for my hesitation by explaining that I was afraid she was going to yell at me like everyone else seems to be doing. She graciously understood and then moved on after I reassured her we were ok.

Traffic signals are not working but people are driving with caution and consideration taking turns with each other to make turns.  But, when it comes to resources, a different mind-set comes into play.  We drove 40 miles to the coast of Connecticut yesterday to get gasoline as the coastline was reported to have plenty of gas. We were the 5th car in line and waited 40 minutes because trucks were filling multiple 20-gallon gas containers in the back of their truck beds.  There was no consideration for other drivers in line – only their own desire for a resource in short supply.  Kids were screaming in minivans, people were staring in disbelief and yet, the gas hoarders didn’t care. They felt entitled to stay at a gas pump for 15 minutes and pump as much gas as they could out of one working pump.  When questioned, one pick-up truck driver said he worked for the DOT although everyone clearly noticed that his plates were not government issued plates but instead a personal CT state license plate.

All of the schools in the area are closed for the week. My daughter’s school has their own generator system and this past weekend was “Parent’s Weekend” which resulted in close to 1,000 parents descending on the school. Most left by Saturday because of the storm but there were hundreds stranded in local hotels with no electricity or food source.  As a result, my daughter’s school opened their cafeteria to everyone that came in search of warmth and a hot meal.  This random act of kindness was a gift – one which most of us will never forget. A warm mug of coffee never tasted so good and the sincere welcome in which they extended restores my faith in human beings.

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