Two weeks ago, my family and I went to Michigan for the weekend. The weather forecasters were predicting Hard Rain. Having been burned before, my husband and I set about preparing our basement for the inevitable flooding. It probably wasn’t bad form to do so. The first time we ever got water in our basement, we were up in Michigan; so, for symmetry’s sake, our basement would probably flood again while we were in Michigan. Because I live in a novel and everything happens for a reason.
Yesterday, I made the mistake of turning on the WGN news at noon while I was folding laundry. And there was Tom Skilling, gleefully predicting that Chicago would detach itself from the rest of Illinois, float up the lake for a while, and become part of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. He warned of basketball-sized hail and winds that could take down a 50-year-old oak tree like a five-year-old pushing over his toddler sister.
And I bought into it. Of course I did. Because I was writing most of the afternoon and had Twitter open and saw people posting about “derechos*” and battening down their hatches. So I battened down mine.
Based on the weather reports, I wasn’t sure exactly how to batten my hatches, though. Was I going to get the flooding, or was the dead tree on my parkway which I’ve reported to the city of Chicago THREE TIMES in the past nine months going to come crashing through my roof? So I did a combo battening. I rolled up the rugs in the basement, made sure that nothing perishable was on the floor (except for the rocking horse I’ve been trying to get rid of for some time now). Then I turned a laundry basket into a survival kit, complete with a radio (with EIGHT new C batteries; this thing must be powerful), canned food, can opener (foresight), bottled water, bandages, paper towels (they’re always useful), dog biscuits, and (for Mom) Pirate’s Booty and a fully charged Kindle.
Things started to get really eerie looking around six o’clock. The kids and I ate dinner and then I shuffled them down to the basement to do some puzzles and play with the Photo Booth ap on my computer. I kept running upstairs to look out the window. There were a few drops of rain, then a lot more rain for about five minutes, then nothing. It started to get lighter. But I knew it wasn’t over yet because TWITTER.
So we went back into the basement. We watched The Middle, yes, The Middle. I laughed once, I think. And then the scroll across the bottom of the screen said that the severe weather watches for Cook County were pretty much over. We had survived the brutal onslaught of…about fifteen minutes’ worth of precipitation.
Now, I know that there are areas of Chicagoland and its exurbs that got it a lot worse than we did. I know there were tornados and big-ass (technical term) hail. But I had spent half the day worrying for a bit of rain and a couple claps of thunder.
So, next time, sure I’ll be prepared. I won’t scoff at the weather reports, because, like I said, I live in a novel and everything has a purpose and the time I don’t take precautions is the time I have to row away from my house in a canoe that I will buy this weekend for just that inevitability. I will continue to roll up my rugs because that’s easier than carrying them around when they’re wet (and they’ve been wet three times in the past five years; hundred years rain, my ass).
But I’m going to stop freaking out. Many years ago, in the dark ages before Twitter, we got rain and we went about our days. We hid in the basement when the sirens went off or when the National Weather Service broke into our favorite shows and told us to “Get the hell downstairs.” Basically what I’m saying is, I’m going to try to start worrying only when there’s something to worry about.
*Do we really need another weather term for something that basically never happens? It’s the equivalent of sportscasters making sure we know that this is the first time two original six hockey teams that start with B and whose cities have large Irish populations have met in the Stanley Cup since the Middle Ages.
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