Metaphors of Life Journal: Hurricane Sandy, Caution Lights and Contagious Behaviour

Filed in Gather Writing Essential by on November 3, 2012 0 Comments


Hurricane Sandy, Caution Lights and

Contagious Behaviour

Hmmm, perhaps we need to stop at that yellow traffic light for reasons much more important than obeying the law.

I was at a Men’s Group breakfast this morning at the church I attend. At one point, the conversation turned to aggressive driving habits. Chief among our concern was people who choose to believe that a yellow traffic light means hit the gas and barrel on through – even if the light is red by the time you reach the intersection.

There is a glaring selfishness about this behaviour. I’m more important than anyone else so everybody should just get out of my way. Trace the psychology a bit deeper and you arrive at an underlying apathy. I can’t be bothered to worry about anyone else. I just want to get home, close the door and shut out the world.

Increasingly, it seems we live in a survival of the most selfish society. And survival means looking straight ahead all day so we don’t risk seeing someone who might need our help.

But occasionally we get reminded that, as the saying goes, no man is an island. There are times in life when we have no choice but to pull together.

Many of us were glued to our televisions earlier this week as Hurricane Sandy charged up the east coast and took direct aim on New York City. Hurricanes don’t often find their way this far north so we find it hard to believe we’re really at risk – or at least we used to.

Hurricane Hazel did take a mighty swipe at this area back in 1954. But aside from signposts at a nearby conservation area, showing how high flood waters rose at the height of the storm, she is mostly just legend to anyone in the Baby Boom generation or later.

To be honest, my first concern was that Sandy would keep barreling north and unleash some of its fury on me. I even went so far as to buy some extra canned food and put candles out in case I had to make do without electricity. Fortunately for me, the city I live in was largely unaffected, although an hour south in metro Toronto she did wreak some minor havoc.

As we watch the news coverage from New York and realize the full extent of the damage, it becomes apparent that recovering from a natural disaster just doesn’t work on the every-man-for-himself philosophy. People have to pull together to make the long journey back.

So there is a silver lining of sorts in the Hurricane Sandy storm clouds. It reactivates the dormant sense of community which brings out the best in many people. But it’s a shame that it takes hardship and tragedy to make us do what really should be second nature to us.

The me-first bug is highly contagious. I’m by no means immune. Occasionally, I go through a yellow light that I had time to stop for. I feel guilty as all hell when I do and resolve to nip that behaviour in the bud. My wish is that community behaviour could become equally contagious.

The yellow traffic light can be our metaphor for community. It means caution in the conventional sense: The light is about to turn red. But it can also mean caution in a metaphorical sense: Life is about to get another degree tougher if we neglect our responsibility to live in community with one another.

~ Michael Robert Dyet is the author of “Until the Deep Water Stills – An Internet-enhanced Novel” – double winner in the Reader Views Literary Awards 2009. Visit Michael’s website at or the novel online companion at

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About the Author ()

I am The Metaphor Guy. Novelist, closet philosopher, chronicler of life’s mysteries – all through the lens of metaphor.Double award winner in the Reader Views Literary Awards 2009: 1. Canada East Region Winner 2. Writers in the Sky Aw

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