Catastrophes point out just how good we have it

Suburbanites rarely suffer like those who live in other parts of the world. This column reaches into our plush lives to find a shred of common ground with the folks affected by the Myanmar cyclone or China earthquakes. The best way to maintain our humility and thankfulness for our good lives is to realize how crappy it can be for others.

  • Friday, May 30, 2008 12:39pm
  • Life

Suburbanites rarely suffer like those who live in other parts of the world. This column reaches into our plush lives to find a shred of common ground with the folks affected by the Myanmar cyclone or China earthquakes. The best way to maintain our humility and thankfulness for our good lives is to realize how crappy it can be for others.

For starters, the next time you’re waiting patiently because a road crew has shut down one lane of a two-lane road, think about how long people have to wait when a natural disaster completely washes away their roads. We sit there praying that the 45-year-old woman with the blond hair and the half-eaten Subway sandwich on the curb behind her gets the magical message from her walkie-talkie to flip her sign from “stop” to “slow,” so that we can pick up the pieces of our lives and put the car in drive.

That’s nothing compared to the delay experienced when the interstate’s been washed out to sea, and you’ve got to put your kids in a rowboat just to get them to soccer practice.

Earthquakes are not uncommon in the U.S. But thanks to our building standards, it’s rare that we’ll have to climb out of piles of rubble the way people might in other countries.

Think about how lucky you are to have such standards the next time you reach into your refrigerator and accidentally knock down a stacked tower of yogurts. Or perhaps you topple a ketchup bottle, which then knocks over the mayonnaise, which in turn slides the lid off of last night’s turkey-meatloaf. It can frustrate you to no end to have to rebuild the food infrastructure of your refrigerator. Just imagine if it were a flimsy skyscraper instead!

Perhaps one of the most tragic aspects of a disaster is when a country’s government prevents food or medical care from reaching its own people.

Last week, when I was at Trader Joe’s, I couldn’t get anyone to check in the back to see if they had more fruit leathers. I desperately wanted them, but the members of the military junta who control the place in eerily matching Hawaiian shirts kept saying, “All we’ve got is what’s on the shelves.”

The next time you have to sit there and be lied to by some shelf stocker who is too lazy to go pull out your favorite dried-fruit snack from the back, because it would mean having to unpack everything else that came in with that shipment, just think of how tough it is to get a military dictatorship to send a few boxes of rice to your province.

I don’t think we’ll ever truly know the suffering of those affected by such disasters, but if we look a bit within our own lives, we can at least kinda feel a bit of empathy … sort of.

~Jeremy Greenberg is a writer, comedian and resident of Kirkland. He is the author of the forthcoming book, Relative Discomfort: The Family Survival Guide (Andrews McMeel). Learn more at www.jeremygreenberg.com.

More in Life

Courtesy photo
Entering the winter real estate market – what to expect

Over the last five months, there has been more inventory than in previous years previously.

Kirkland road closures set for half marathon on Saturday

The event will benefit Cascade Challenge, a nonprofit dedicated to providing leadership and outdoor adventure opportunities to youth ages 14-20.

Greg McClellan (center) talks with friends at the release party for his 48 hour album, “Listen2Daze,” at Vortex Music & Movies in Kirkland. Madison Miller/staff photo.
Kirkland man releases 48-hour album

McClellan released his 48-hour album, “Listen2Daze,” at Vortex Music & Movies.

Volunteers help Kirkland commemorate Arbor Day

The city hosted a celebration and forest restoration event on Oct. 20.

The Locke family gathered to officially name the pavilion in honor of Kirkland’s first City Manager, Al Locke. Photo Courtesy of the City of Kirkland.
Marina Park Pavilion named after Kirkland’s first city manager

Community members attend ceremony in honor of former city manager, Al Locke, on Oct. 13.

Viva Volunteers! Fair on tap Oct. 20

Attendees will learn about opportunities to make a difference in their community.

Kirkland hosts second City Hall for All

The event focused on diversity, inclusion and city issues.

The panel included Dr. Joseph Castleberry, Megan Nakanishi, Brian Gawthrop, Marianna Beetham, Sally Otten and Walt Yeager. Photo courtesy of Kirkland Chamber of Commerce.
Town Hall hosts symposium to discuss Kirkland Now and Then

Kirkland Chamber hosts symposium on Sept. 25.

For a healthy dessert, try baked apples. Courtesy photo
Fall into wellness

Simple tips for staying healthy this season.

A photo of Kirkland Police’s customer service desk that was used to initially promote the animal services program. Photo courtesy of the city of Kirkland
Kirkland Animal Services goes door-to-door for pet license renewals

Kirkland Animal Services took over city-wide licensing in January and is asking locals to renew.