I'm not afraid of spiders or bugs or standing on the observation deck of The Empire State Building. Or going to the doctor or owning a black cat. I will eat Oysters in a month without an R but the flavor is not there. I never met a stranger I didn't like because you can always count on the kindness of strangers. Crowds can be iffy but necessary. Absolutely, my least favorite things are the dark and fast moving storms behaving poorly. Living on the curb of tornado alley all of my life, spring is usually very dark and stormy.
The disquieting fact is tornadoes can occur in any month of the year. My first experience came on a warm, sticky December day. With sirens blaring and the wind kicking up, my new employer, who was with a client, told me to go outside and check the weather.
I've always wondered why people stand in the yard looking. But all of my twenty-two years didn't prepare me for looking away. I just stood there watching a churning black green cloud go straight for the hospital. Cars were still driving up and down the busy thoroughfare. And then a complete 90 degree turn to the north turned the funnel cloud away and up across several neighborhoods. But not into the hospital. My knees were wobbly for the rest of the day.
I know the color of the sky, the heavy air, the ache in the bones, the smell of the rain. When it is "tornado season" I plan my trips according to the expected weather. On this day, I even called ahead before starting my tour northward. But it is the little bits that just blow up unexpectedly.
After a quick Coke break, I noticed a slight grey green tinge to the sky. The air was heavy with moisture. But the cars headed east did not have their wipers on. A good sign. I continued west. Maybe the sky was getting darker. Then a large flash of nearby lightening caught my attention. Surprise.
I have travelled this interstate a thousand times in my life. Every pocket of civilization is blazed into memory. I know where old barns leaned sideways and then into the ground. The never ending construction of a house built in odd sections with gaping siding, loose insulation and pocked paint, with a rusty playset and bikes littering the abandoned life once lived just yards from a busy interstate. A meat processing plant - deer, cattle, hog - now just tumbled bricks after a fire. A religious cult living on a hilltop ridge just miles from the cult's gas station where unsuspecting college girls stop to get gas and are amazed by fancy painted leather jackets and friendly conversation. Evidently, Jesus never got the cult's peculiar message. A sparkling new subdivision erases former owners.
Even with all of my knowledge of this highway to the Pacific (almost) I pause too long to ponder and pass the last exit for 13.85 miles - an eternity in a horrible storm. Just a nice stretch of land for farming and cattle. Hunkered down cattle are never a good sign. And trees bending near the earth and a lack of highway traffic except for the few idiots who miss their exit.
And wind. Big time wind, shaking the car. And swirling clouds almost overhead dancing "maybe we are, maybe we aren't." I kept waiting for broken trees to go flying across the road. Did I mention that funny light which sometimes has a tinge of pink.
But that is not all that is shaking. Somehow I have managed to call my navigator for a weather report. But I can hardly hang on to the steering (loose term) wheel at this point and talk so I have put the phone down and I'm yelling in the car. My body starts shaking with the most physical fear I have ever felt. I never want to be that scared again, ever. I don't want to pull off the road because I think heading forward will lead me out of the storm at some point.
My hands are gripped on the steering wheel but are shaking so badly it feels like I'm hanging on to the handle bars of The Runaway Mine Train at Six Flags. The body shakes are only adding to my fear as I scream out to my navigator everything I'm feeling. I'm sure it wasn't easy having to listen to the sheer terror in my voice.
Navigator shares his info which is not good for me. I'm driving right into a horrible storm.
Then I start bargaining with God. We are closely related and I'm not always a quiet prayer lady. Especially when sharks are in the water when I'm in the water or a storm is imminent. Thank you, Jesus and Hallelujah are not usually light utterances.
Of course, I am now screaming prayers. Maybe He can't hear me over the storm. Asking God to help me breath because it does make a difference. Asking for protection and please not to roll into the median. Asking for my body to quit shaking so I can drive better. And then I hit the big thought.
All in quotes and caps. Dear Lord, please stick this car to the ground. For the first time in my life, use my weighted body to hold this car down. God, I'm not skinny! For once, use this to my advantage. Make all of those Butterfingers worth their weight in gold.
Butterfingers are my favorite candy but only as a candy not as an ingredient. I lost a lot of weight over 15 years ago and have kept it off. But occasionally, I treat myself to a Butterfinger because I love them and I have done better not living in deprivation than dieting in starvation dreaming of denied foods. Just knowing I can have one takes away the obsession. But I have eaten plenty in my time.
So this is why I declare Butterfingers are sticking the car to the road, making it heavy, heavy, heavy. Obviously, it did the trick and God heard my prayers. Maybe pause to think about his crazy child confessing to years of eating the candy. Duh.
The handy navigator is encouraging me along each mile and finally announces the much hoped for, blessed exit. I drive straight to the liquor store and run inside. I am still shaking from top to bottom. The men inside are casually watching the weather on t.v. but aren't too concerned, however, they are solicitous of this wild woman screaming for a Butterfinger. After thirty minutes of walking the aisles, nerves are calming and I find a nice bottle of Kahlua, a thank you purchase for the shelter.
This week, storms are already predicted. We are right in the bulls eye as an "area of concern" on Thursday. I intend to stock up on Butterfingers. I figure when the storms cross the state line (I live in the middle of the state), I'll pour a nice dollop of Kahlua over my vanilla ice cream, crumble the candy over the top and head for the storm shelter (bathtub).