There's a real doozy of a blizzard barreling toward the northeast. Consequently, many residents of the eastern seaboard received very urgent calls from their mothers this morning, asking about their commuting plans and battery stockpiles and wool socks and canned goods.
I am an expert in handling these calls, because I've lived in icy hellholes for a decade and I still receive them from my parents down in sunny Georgia. (Hurricane Sandy, by comparison, rated only a reminder to fill the bathtub, because once you've evacuated your flooded home in a boat, anything less seems pretty routine.) And so, drawing on many years of experience, here is a guide to reassuring your mother/father/grandparents/cousins/college friends/long-distance significant other—whoever just caught some apocalyptic graphics on CNN and now fears for your very life, because they love you.
Answer the phone. Seriously, have you watched cable news lately? They make it sound like cannibals will be roaming the streets by sunrise tomorrow. If you don't answer the phone, your mom will instantly assume you're already a goner and you'll spend the next three days reassuring her that really, everything is fine, you are definitely not barricaded inside your bathroom with a blood-spattered golf club, two Luna bars and a damp packet of matches. Radio silence is the worst possible move.
Keep repeating that you are fully stocked and prepared to ride this thing out in comfort and style. She doesn't need to know that your definition of "prepared" is two handles of leftover booze, a half-eaten bag of stale lime-dusted Tostitos, 33 percent battery life and a pair of ratty flannel pajama pants. Remain calm and continue to emphasize that you have a flashlight (somewhere? maybe?). That said, when you hang up you should probably run to the grocery store because Seamless isn't really an option this time. At least have a bag of pizza rolls or something.
Be proactive. Find that picture you took three years ago, touting your Halloween-party prep. Photoshop Campbell's soup logos onto the beer cans. Text it proudly to your mom.
Push back on the HISTORIC BLIZZARD talk. Come on, once it's more than a foot deep you're working from home, unless you're a paramedic or you live in Montana. Twelve inches, 18 inches, 24 inches—does it really matter unless you're a meteorologist?
Draw attention to your city's preparations. Utilities here in New York City are largely underground, thanks in no small part to an 1888 blizzard. Many municipalities have their own, specific storm preparation strategies. Make note of these measures firmly and constantly, sticking to the talking points like the absolute lowest-ranging member of the mayor's comms staff. Do not go off script. Or, if that doesn't work...
Divert attention by instigating a political argument. "Mom, Comrade de Blasio has assured me most confidently that everything will be fine. It's not like this is some national disaster in the hands of a George W. Bush appointee." [Put her on speaker and go inventory your cabinets. I'm getting really worried about you.]
Time your communications very carefully. I got a call last night but not today because my own mom busted her arm while dancing at a wedding this weekend and I'm pretty sure she's taken some serious pain medication. Now, I'm not suggesting you dose any of your nearest and dearest—merely noting that if your mom likes a couple of glasses of wine with dinner, maybe that's when you should give her a call.
Listen for any genuinely useful advice or information. Hey, just because this loved one is freaking out doesn't mean you can't treat this as an opportunity, especially if she has cable and you don't. Maybe see if she has a good chili recipe? Look, I'm just saying, you're running out of time and you really shouldn't leave the house in whiteout conditions even if you're only going down the block and you really don't want to be stuck eating peanut butter with a spoon. Hello? Hello? Are you there? HELLO? IS IT THE CANNIBALS?
Image via AP.