Thousands of people are still recovering from Superstorm Sandy. Many are still without homes and electricity, and entire communities are just beginning to regroup and rebuild. New York’s storm of the century caused devastation that will take years to recover from, and disrupted the lives of millions.
I was fortunate enough to ride out the storm in the comfort of a powerless, but otherwise functional NYC apartment, making me one of the very lucky ones. Post-Sandy, my life returned to a relative normal. My power came back on, debris was swept up, and inconveniences subsided. But one area of my life continues to be noticeably affected by Hurricane Sandy–my dating life.
In a nutshell, Sandy has given single people hours of material to use on first dates.
Yeah, it was four months ago, but you wouldn’t know it if you’ve had or overheard any recent first-date conversations in the New York area. When you know nothing about someone, and aren’t sure yet if you like them, what’s the one thing you have in common? Why, surviving one of the century’s biggest weather disasters!
I’ve perfected my Sandy story into a well-crafted monologue at this point — allowing room for interjections from my date, of course. (“Yeah, I was sure the power would be back on the next day,” “You walked that far?” etc.) My story can be shortened if I like the guy and feel like we could safely move on to a different topic, or lengthened considerably if I’m mentally calculating how many minutes I have to withstand before making a (polite, but not a moment too soon) exit. On some dates, you can scrounge around for the usual conversation topics (favorite music? Years lived in the city? Opinions on the menu?), and it isn’t until Sandy comes up that both parties can contribute to the discourse with equal expertise and enthusiasm. Finally! A safe, mutual topic! One that, if I handle judiciously, can use up a good portion of the 40 minutes I’ve allotted for this fellow.
Oh, when necessary, I can talk about Sandy for hours.
Which is not to say that I’m a disaster freak, bringing it up in lieu of more mundane conversation topics. But I’ve found that if I don’t broach the topic (and I only have once), then more often than not my date will find his own way to it, asking me about my survival story, and then telling me how he spent that week.
Maybe the men I’m going out with have also found that Sandy is the best first-date ice-breaker since “Seen any good movies lately?” and are also trying, valiantly, to pass the requisite forty minutes.
Or maybe Sandy keeps coming up because it’s the ultimate first date boon — a shared experience that enables two strangers to connect. Sandy, for all her havoc, brought people together last October. Neighbors knocking on each others’ doors, people making conversation on the street, sharing payphones, chatting at candlelit bars. Suddenly, we had something in common with the millions of people we live with, but never talk to.
Four months later, on first dates, it’s the same phenomenon, replayed. A week that we spent, in some ways, together, without even knowing it. Something we both understand. Something we share, even if we never see each other again.