September is National Preparedness Month. Its purpose is to raise awareness of the need to prepare for disasters and emergencies.
I have plenty of disasters and emergencies, so I prepared to write a column on preparedness. Then I lost my notes, so I wasn’t prepared to write the column at the beginning of the month. This created an emergency, which just reinforced the fact that I am something of an expert on disasters and emergencies.
I do believe in being prepared, though. When I go shopping, I cut out all my coupons and plan my route and make a list of what I’m looking for. Unfortunately, I often get distracted by a pair of cute shoes on sale and forget the other stuff. But I’m trying to get better.
When I invite somebody over for a meal--which often creates either an emergency or a disaster in my life--I have learned to prepare by calling a restaurant that cooks things and I order and pick up those things. Disaster averted by preparation.
I was a Girl Scout. Our motto was “Be Prepared.” Or maybe that was the Boy Scout motto. Well, I was always prepared anyway, with my first aid kit and my dry matches and my map of atomic blast shelters that every Scout carried back in the Cold War days. And I was always dressed to meet any cute, prepared Boy Scouts, in whom I was very interested at the age of 11 or so.
As a student I was always prepared. Or most always. I wrote down my assignments, did my homework and studied for tests.
The only thing I was never prepared for was a math test, which loomed before me like an oncoming Cat 5 hurricane. Where did they get those questions? They never looked like any of the problems I had done for practice. Or maybe I had done them wrong in practice. Or maybe I was in the wrong chapter. But at least I tried.
I also tried to be prepared when I began to teach English. But every day presented an emergency that first year because I didn’t yet understand timing. A test I thought would take up the period would take the students 10 minutes to complete. Then 30 pairs of eyes would point my way, waiting for what I planned for them to do for the next 50 minutes.
I would try to get a scintillating discussion going. “Uh, what questions do you have about the English language?” Surprisingly, they didn’t have any questions about English, though none of them spoke it very well.
I would go into a long description of how important English was in life. Thirty pairs of eyes would roll back in 30 heads.
Test length wasn’t the only thing that indicated my lack of preparation that first year. The sheer volume of work kept me from doing everything I had to do in the afternoon to be prepared for the next day.
I would come in the day after a test that didn’t last long enough and say, “Now we will do a worksheet on adverbs.” Then I would start groping for that worksheet on adverbs. It wasn’t on the desk or in the desk or in my briefcase. I would do a quick mental review of the previous afternoon’s preparation activities: swept floors, emptied waste basket, graded six sets of tests, wrote six notes to parents; filled in 125 forms, reviewed adverb chapter...and...didn’t make out worksheet on adverbs.
“Sooo,” I would announce, stealing a glance at the clock that informed me that I had 50 minutes to kill, “before we start this worksheet on adverbs, are you sure you don’t have any questions about language?”
In my defense, I learned to prepare for class, and I got good enough at being ready that I hardly ever had to ask if they had any questions about the English language.
The last two disasters we prepared for were Hurricane Katrina and Covid-19, not that the preparation did us much good.
For Katrina we bought instant coffee and water and granola bars, and I filled up the bathtub with water, though I didn’t understand why until I tried to flush a toilet. That stuff helped, but unless you want to invest in a $25,000 full-house generator, there’s really no way to prepare yourself for two days without running water, ten days without electricity and three-hour waits in line for gasoline.
Even the phone numbers I had written down to call my gas stove-owning friends to invite myself over for dinner didn’t do me any good without phone service.
As for our preparations for Covid-19, storing up 4000 rolls of toilet paper did not prevent me from getting the virus.
I know it’s the end of September as I write this column about September being National Preparedness Month. But that doesn’t mean I was unprepared. I got the column in by the end of the month, didn’t I? It just means that you and I are prepared early for next year’s Preparedness Month!