INSIDE FRANCES: NO GAS, FREE ICE AND COLD, COLD CUTS
by Mark Scheinbaum
American Reporter Correspondent
Boca Raton, Fla.
BOCA RATON, Fla., Sept. 7, 2004 -- (Editor's Note: AR Correspondent Mark Scheinbaum weathered Hurricane Frances at his home in Lake Worth, Fla., near some of the hardest-hit coastal communities. Here is his piquant report).
Some notes from storm central:
- With no traffic signals
working, drivers were told to treat any intersection with a dead traffic
light as a four-way stop. I noticed while driving down Atlantic Avenue in
Delray Beach very early this morning, that this advisory has caused great
confusion among the local crack dealers, who had to leave their usual
corner and scurry to all four corners to accost potential customers.
FEMA obviously has a self-directed pension plan heavily weighted with
BP-Amoco and ExxonMobil shares. Why else would they make people wait in
line three hours burning up a $30 tank of gasoline to get a $1.28 bag of
government ice for free?
- Outside the Super Wal-Mart at 7 a.m. an
assistant manager came out and gathered the 300 folks waiting for the door
to open around her.
She shouted: "Listen up everybody. I've got between six and eight
registers up and running and ready to go. We can handle any Visa or
MasterCard as a credit card, but we cannot process debit cards and the ATM
machine does not work. Of course we'll take cash and checks with proper
"Now, before we let you in: remember, we have no dairy products
or frozen items. The ice machine is working but I don't know how many bags
we've been able to fill, and a truck load of ice has not arrived. There's
plenty of water, and all of the cases are piled up right in the front of
the store - no limit. Thank you for your cooperation."
Two hours later the lines had gotten longer and she had still not
opened the store to customers.
- Macabre humor, or just plain cruel?
A silver-haired retired gentleman and his Gucci wife drove up to the
Wal-Mart line in a pristine black Mercedes sedan, a few minutes after the
above speech. He leaned out the window and asked, "Is this where we get
the free bags if ice?" (FEMA's distribution center was a few blocks away).
I bit my lip, but a few guys in front of me rolled their eyes,
looked at each other with the slightest grin, and one turned towards the
driver and said - with a straight face - "Yup! Right here. Free ice - all
you want. Just park your car and get on the back of the line." They did.
- My office is in the BankAmerica Building in east Boca Raton. Along
with electricity and cool A.C., one of the guys surprised us with lunch
for the five folks who showed up to work. He opened a bag of cold, cold,
cold cuts, fresh whole wheat bread, spicy mustard, and cold cheese. We all
"oohed" and "aahed" at the simple pleasure of a cold meal. All of
us had been eating warm or propane/charcoal warmed canned goods and thawed
frozen items. Crisp, cold, fresh food was a treat.
- Most employees
called in to see whether or not the office would be open today. But one
member of management chuckled that the exception was a particular employee
who "called in to see if we would be closed." No, he didn't come to work
even when he heard we were open.
- A Martian landing in Florida, in the
dark, at midnight, on a street with no electricity, could ascertain that
most of 18 counties had no power. Yet, three days after Hurricane Frances
made landfall, Florida Power & Light announced it would send investigative
teams to Miami and Fort Lauderdal - the least damaged areas - "to make a
full assessment of" the power needs.
- Special orders do upset us:
the Burger King store at the Lake Worth Florida Turnpike Service Plaza was
plastered with signs: "Limit Five Meals per Person, Please, No Special
Orders." What they meant, of course, was that it would not be fair to
drive up and order 30 meals for the neighborhood while other folks were in
line and food was in limited supply. I asked the clerk if, besides "hold
the pickle, hold the lettuce" they were also sold out of anything on the
"Oh, no," he assured me, "We have everything on the menu available
... except Meal Number One, Meal Number Two, and Meal Number Three."
There were only four meals listed.
- A neighbor tossed some of her
fallen coconuts onto my lawn. Picking one up it sounded full of cool,
sweet coconut milk. I grabbed a chisel and hammer from the garage, cracked
it open, and poured about eight ounces of fresh coconut juice into a
A few hours later I whipped up fresh pina coladas for everyone,
substituting real coconut milk for the canned variety. My daughter and her
boyfriend screwed up their noses and said it tasted funny, "too sweet and
too fresh or something." Back to the canned mix!
- Hardly to the
chagrin of most residents, Palm Beach County Sheriff Ed Beiluch (not
running for re-election) warned potential looters from other counties, 'If
you are even thinking about looting here, you better bring your teddy
Since curfews had not yet been announced, nor martial law, his
reference to putting suspects in jail overnight was challenged by a
reporter, who asked on what grounds the suspects would be held.
"Who cares?" the Sheriff answered. "The courts are closed and
there will be no arraignments for three or four days."
Mark Scheinbaum, who has reported from Panama and Bosnia for The
American Reporter, appears daily on the Doug Stephen syndicated radio
show and is chief economist for Kaplan & Co., a registered investment
brokerage based in Boca Raton.
Copyright 2006 Joe Shea The American Reporter. All Rights Reserved.