Sunday afternoon, 30 hours before the hurricane is scheduled to hit Manhattan, there are cars with garbage bags taped to them. The subways are preparing to shut down. And I’m walking around looking for brunch past dozens of restaurants that are “closed for the hurricane.” That evening, the streets are empty and the East Village’s usually bustling nightlife is reduced to nothing, with half the bars closed and the other half empty.
My cell phone pops up multiple “emergency alerts” — text messages sent to my phone without my request from the local government, telling me of “mandatory” evacuations, flooding, and to “Go indoors immediately and remain inside.” Business contacts, friends, and family are exchanging messages of “be safe!”
So naturally, I went out exploring in the hurricane and enjoyed the night.
The city that never sleeps was — and still is — shut down now for over 48 hours by a Category 1 (the smallest category) hurricane centered almost 100 miles away. The “death toll” in this city of 8,000,000+, which has over 100 natural deaths on any given day, has reached about 12. Yet people were so afraid that they went out and bought weeks worth of food and water and then holed up in their apartments… unless of course they were asked leave their homes by their governments, in which case they happily obliged.
“Out of an abundance of caution.”
That phrase is uttered by the TSA any time they do something stupid. It is their personal motto — that if there is a one in a billion chance that their actions might be useful, then they should act even if there is a certainty that they will violate people in the process. This is why they take your child’s juice box, why grandma has to explain her Depends, and why we should spend $1B on machines that digitally strip you naked, even if they don’t really work too well.
It seems we are increasingly fearful of everything, and I dare say that New York shut down for the same reason many put up with the TSA. It’s the same reason why we tolerate the NYPD stopping-and-frisking innocent people on the street for no reason. “Anything for our safety!”
How utterly stupid is that expression? Would you truly give anything any time someone comes along and says, “If you don’t, there’s a chance it might not turn out well!” The time has come for us to collectively grow some balls. Spending your life worrying about remote possibilities will not make you a happy person, and the cost in life opportunities is far outweighed by the chance that your time is up. “Playing it safe” always has a cost associated with it. If current TSA nonsense takes just 5 extra minutes of each air traveler’s time, every year the TSA wastes 7,000 man-years, or 90 lifetimes worth of time. …and after all, the man who hides in his home may be killed by a falling tree, just as the man who insists on thorough airport security may find himself blown up in the security line.
Life is about evaluating risks and making reasoned decisions about when to move forward. Tip the balance too far to one side and you die; too far to the other, and you never live. You’re never going to get the perfect balance, but why not choose to err on the side of living your life?