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Suzanne Tobias: Storms offer opportunity to ‘hunker down’

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, at 11:35 p.m.

I love the phrase “hunker down.”

It means, of course, to settle in at a location for an extended period of time.

“To take shelter, literally or figuratively,” says the TheFreeDictionary.com. “To assume a defensive position to resist difficulties.”

To sit on one’s haunches.

To ride out the storm.

Millions of Americans hunkered down this week as Hurricane Sandy slammed into the East Coast. We heard politicians and forecasters encourage folks to hunker down. Social media sites were full of updates and snapshots of people’s storm preparations and hunker-down supplies.

And although Kansas was experiencing sunny skies and temperatures in the 70s, it was tempting to play along.

Out of some self-imposed storm solidarity, I wanted to rush to the grocery store to stock up on canned tuna, bottled water and snack foods. Perfect timing, too, with all that Halloween candy on the shelves.

A little red wine. A pot of chili. A stack of books, board games, a blanket and a flashlight.

I don’t know about you, but to me that sounds every kind of delightful.

I balked when Jack’s soccer coach decided to go ahead and have practice Monday. What was he thinking, having those little boys play soccer DURING A HURRICANE?! Sure, the storm was thousands of miles away, but I wanted to hunker down, dang it.

We don’t get enough chances to do that.

Perhaps that’s why so many people park themselves in storm-threatened areas, against everyone’s better judgment, instead of packing up and driving away. Maybe it’s not ignorance, laziness or bravado at all. Maybe it’s a subconscious desire to huddle with loved ones – or just a good magazine – and get off the grid.

Couldn’t make it to that meeting last night. Couldn’t check my texts or e-mails. Didn’t catch the last episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” or “The Amazing Race.”

So sorry. We were hunkered down.

My parents, who live on the South Carolina coast, are used to hurricane watches and warnings and have perfected the art of storm preparation. For them, the practice usually includes grilling up every piece of meat from the fridge and delivering burgers, chicken and slabs of ribs to the neighbors in a festive and gluttonous prelude to power outages.

Eat up, hunker down.

We do that here before severe spring weather or impending blizzards, as the long lines and empty shelves at grocery stores often attest.

I recall an ice storm several years ago when our old house somehow dodged widespread power outages that had left many friends without electricity or heat. My friend Annie slept and showered at our place, hostel-style, and the children, much younger then, asked when we could have another slumber party.

Too bad it usually takes an act of God.

Because hunkering down, even amid disaster, seems a godsend.

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or stobias@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @SuzanneTobias.

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