“A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water.” – Carl Reiner
You guys, it snowed! Yesterday! October 6th! Alright, so it melted the second it hit the ground and lasted less than 10 minutes, but still – snow!
Western weather is the most ludicrously schizophrenic thing you’ve ever seen. It barely turned into Fall, I watched a leaf fall a mere four days ago while walking to my car, and all of a sudden the mountains look like a pastry chef dusted them with confectioners sugar.
I turned on the heat for the first time when I got home from work, only for an hour to warm things up a bit. Last night it was far too cold to sleep with the window open like I’ve been doing for a couple of weeks now – certainly without a nice warm husband to cuddle up against. I’ve got the beginnings of a cold tickling the back of my throat. My stomach is campaigning vigorously for steaming hot stews and soups. The signs are all here, but how did we skip Fall and go straight into Winter?
Western weather being what it is, though, I expect Fall to come back at any moment, clutching its chest and panting, “So sorry, everyone, just popped round to the store for a minute, what did I miss?”
Also, and far more enraging, guess what I saw at the grocery store yesterday? Christmas decorations! Honestly, people, it’s early October, we haven’t even had Halloween yet! Let’s all calm down, shall we?
“It’s a wonderful piece of classic literature. It not only has a cast of thousands, it also has a typhoon and a flying balloon.” – Richard Hopkins
It’s been funny for me to listen to how many people on the East Coast are complaining that they overprepared for Irene, the Hurricane That Wasn’t, and that things weren’t as bad as advertised. It’s equivalent, in my mind, to saying, “That wasn’t nearly as catastrophic as you said it would be. BORING. I want my money back!” A more proper response, in my point of view, is, “Thank Jupiter, Odin, and Quetzalcoatl it wasn’t worse,” or even perhaps, “Had we not taken the precautions we have, it probably would have been worse, so it’s time well wasted.”
This self-righteousness on my part, and I do acknowledge it, dates back to that miserable little island we discussed in last week’s natural disaster post (PS – my family is still feeling aftershocks. Amusingly, Snickers was caught in the shower when another one struck, turning bathing during earthquakes into a family tradition). See, apart from earthquakes, we got the pleasure of multiple typhoons and tropical storms every year. These storms would rip the island to pieces – schools would be closed for weeks to months (one year the school board had no choice but to allow our school year to be shortened because there was no way we could make up missed time without going over into the upcoming school year), services would all but stop, power would be out for weeks/months, harbors would be closed and the airport shut down, and the dirt roads in the jungle would be completely trashed and new ones had to be cut.
Prepping for a typhoon is a monumental chore. Children scour the neighborhoods picking up coconuts, debris, and anything else Mother Nature can transform into a projectile missile. Food, water, batteries, first aid gear, and dinky generators have to be stocked up on. Bathtubs must be filled with water to flush toilets (and in extreme cases boiled for drink). Everything that is at all feasible must be moved indoors, including bikes, lawnmowers, trashcans, toys, gardening tools, lawn furniture, and any other paraphernalia, which makes things rather a tight fit indoors.
The houses on this island (we got the privileged of living on a US military base) were single storied, small, and made entirely of concrete and steel, built to withstand all of nature’s fury. Yet despite the touted airtight quality, a typhoon manages to get in to the damnedest places, so anything valuable must be covered up or stored in watertight containers. Bookshelves are covered in tarps, carpets are rolled up, knick knacks are boxed up with jewelry and family papers and photos, and fingers are crossed.
In other words, it’s a big freaking deal. It takes days to prepare for a storm and weeks to months to recover from one.
The real question is whether or not you’re going to prepare for it. Because typhoons, in addition to hurricanes, are tricky biscuits. They have the tenancy to fizzle out without warning, or up several categories overnight. A storm that is heading straight for you may, without noticeable provocation, decided to head off to batter South Korea instead. And since prepping for a typhoon is such a massive task, no one wants to do it unless they really must. (The governments have the added angst of deciding whether or not to mobilize whole fleets of ships and planes to get them out of the way – which can cost millions to billions).
So, when a storm is coming your way, you play the waiting game. The trick is to wait as long as you can to pack up and prep, but not so long as to fall prey to the typhoon’s growing power and speed. My father, the Boy Scout, does not believe in playing the waiting game past reasonable certainty that a storm is coming. When a typhoon was barreling down he, Mum, and all four kids mobilized.
One year that we lived there, we had (as memory serves) five storms that brewed in the deep pacific and headed our way. Each time it was a 99% certainty that it was going to land right on top of us, and so each time the entire island prepared for it. And every time, the storm fizzled out just before it hit us.
So by the time the sixth one started swirling on satellite images, not many people took it seriously. It headed toward us, but stayed small. Most kept their eye on it, but went about their business with unconcern. Which meant that when it morphed into a Category 5 typhoon practically overnight, much of the island was caught – meteorologically speaking – with its pants down.
Dad was ready. The children were settled in my mother’s walk in closet with supplies and strict orders not to come out. Mum, Dad, and I were doing out best to mop of the water that was pouring through the supposedly sealed door and window cracks. We worked at this (in almost total darkness) until a large palm tree was broken off and hurled into the house just above where Mum and I were working and Dad dragged us away thinking the wall could collapse.
It was the worst storm in recorded history and the island was devastated. When I finally did get back to school, it was still covered – inside and out – with a layer of shredded foliage that looked like a thick green carpet. We had plywood for many windows for the rest of the year. The entire island lost power and communications, the water wells were inoperable, and the main gas tank in the harbor caught on fire and burned for five days.
My long-winded point? A storm is never bad. Until it is. By which point it’s usually far too late to prepare for it. If you’re lucky enough to be on the receiving end of advanced warning, count your blessings. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best. If the worst happens, you’ll be so much better off than had you done nothing (heck, you may even be alive with food, water, and shelter!), if the best, you’re out a few hours of time and energy. It’s a pain, I get it, I’ve done it. But do it anyway, and don’t whine about the inconvenience of it all when you are spared the worst. Others, just a few states down from you, have not been as lucky.
“Anyway, I liked autumn. Autumn – the season of new boots.” – Marian Keyes, Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married
I am of the of the few, the grumpy, the Perpetually Meteorological Unsatisfied.
In the depths of a Western winter, when I have to dig my car out every day for weeks at a time, I long for spring. When spring shows up, I tsk at its lack of purpose in waffling back and forth between blizzards and broiling. As for summer, well, Small Dogs were not meant to be heated (I’m stupidly susceptible to heat stroke and exhaustion). By all accounts I should be equally aggravated with fall for its schizophrenic weather, but I’m oddly indulgent. I love fall. I love the holidays, the new clothes, the cool weather after the sunburned, blistering baking I get June through August.
But I don’t love when Fall teases me with glimpses of cooler weather (relatively, seeing as how we were pushing triple digits here recently) before vanishing until at least October.
It sends me mixed messages. The temperature dips (for a week) and my brain starts firing. Sweaters! Pumpkin in every baked good ever! Boots! Halloween! Hot chocolate every day! End of summer clothing sales, buy all the things! College football! Actually working out regularly because I’m not overheating and getting sick! Nutmeg!
Then a couple days later I’m literally knocked backwards by the thump of heat that surges inward when I open the door in the morning to go to work. My brain, which was already planning pies and outfits and pre-winter projects swivels around on itself yelling, “Abort, abort!”
“It was luxuries like air conditioning that brought down the Roman Empire. With air conditioning their windows were shut, they couldn’t hear the barbarians coming.” – Garrison Keillor
It is a truth Americanly acknowledged that lack of air conditioning makes all other problems, including those of moving to a new country when said country has enacted new visa laws, pale in comparison. Whiny? Yes. Wimpy? Undoubtedly. But the fact remains, kittens, that C.’s and 100 degree weather simply do not mix, and the effects on J.’s isn’t too much better.
The air went out sometime Thursday night and the repair guy has been over several times to. The first time he inspected the cupboard where all the machinery is located and said, “The problem is that your unit is 30 years old, and that some of the wiring’s loose.” So he tightened up the wiring, the air became cooler, and he left.
Thirty minutes later the heat was back and so was the repairman. This time he climbed up to the roof and checked a couple of other flats’ units. “The problem,” he declared, “is that your unit’s 30 years old, the coolant is about 2 gallons beneath what it’s supposed to be, and the wood holding up the roof unit is has rotted out from under it. And the fan just exploded when I looked at it.” Oh. Goody.
Apparently he came back a third time to check out some other flats again and the real underlying issue is, “The unit – all the units – are about 30 years old.” No one saw that one coming. In any event, the cold (ha!) truth is that the only permanent solution is upgrading everything. He’s going to fix our fan, hopefully soon, so that we can at least get some air moving through the flat, but it’s only a band-aid solution over the bullet hole.
We tried to hold out, we honestly did, but Saturday afternoon when the thermostat was at the end of it’s ability and incapable of reading any higher, we called my in-laws and begged to be allowed to sleep in their basement that night. And like the wonderful people they are, they said yes. Last night the blessed clouds rolled in so we went home and opened every window in the flat, regardless of rain and managed quite well, but if we don’t get this fixed soon there will be dark, dark consequences. Or I may just throw in the towel, park myself on the bed with a glass of iced tea and a fan, and start speaking in an exaggerated Southern drawl. You know. Whatever comes first.
“Let’s just go walking in the rain.” – Billie Holiday
I only wish I was snoring, dumplings! Spring has really lingered this year – which I don’t mind in the least. I hate that the American West catapults from blizzards to blazing several times in the same week. If we can put off broiling heat for another month, I’ll enjoy the downpour. It’s been going for three days now with little sign of stopping.
The only thing that I don’t like about rain is that I’m an adult and can’t go play in puddles, I have to be responsible and sit at a desk that’s nowhere near a window so I can’t even get a whiff of that fabulous rain smell. Rainy days should not be spent at work, they should be spent at home in comfy pajama pants with a cup of tea or hot chocolate and a book.
“I’m watching the Weather Channel more than I’ve ever watched it. I’m scared to death it’s going to rain.” – John Elway
For nearly a year they lurked in the back of my closet, biding their time and growing in dark power. Watching. Waiting. And today their moment came. I was rushing around this morning and needed a pair of flats, so I reached into the dark depths and dragged them out.
And true to form the morning poured down rain for hours before turning into snow, making everyone’s thoughts of Spring die with the crocuses and budding leaves.
Worst of all, everyone knew it was my fault. I walked past Sav’s desk and, with a raised voice and condemning pointing finger, she declared, “This is your fault! You wore them!” Susie said something similar. Even J. burst out laughing when I met him for lunch, scampering to our car holding my trousers aloft and snarling profanities under my breath as my feet sunk into the slush. “Haven’t seen those in a while. Thanks for the rain, hon.”
While I’m flattered that my shoes have reached the level of apocryphal legend, I was determined to chuck them in the bin as soon as I got home. Surprisingly it was J. who stopped me.
“Why not?” I demanded, holding them above the bin threateningly.
“Because they’re pretty,” he insisted.
My eyes narrowed.
“And because in the summer when it gets really hot, you can wear them and cool the day down.”
“You want me to keep evil shoes just so you can run experiments on them?”
So weigh in, minions. Do I chuck them? Will that be enough to break their power? Or do I need to get the priest to sprinkle holy water on them before burning them in the backyard? Should I keep them and use their powers for good? Advise me.
“I was so cold the other day, I almost got married.” – Shelley Winters
There is a strange American phenomenon that has yet to be satisfactorily explained to me: the wearing of coats, or rather lack thereof.
Even when it’s freezing there will be hordes of people in shorts, opened toed shoes, and mere t-shirts, shivering in the biting wind. When the rain pours down, I seldom see umbrellas, just lots of people with their collars turned up against the torrent or huddled in on themselves in misery.
It’s far below freezing throughout most of the country, certainly in our University town – why on earth are these children wandering about half naked?
“Getting an inch of snow is like winning 10 cents in the lottery.”
– Calvin and Hobbes, Bill Watterson
For the love of chocolate, kittens! Yesterday there was a lovely covering of white muffling everything. Today there is a sprawling death trap of white, hell bent on destroying your elders and devouring your young! J. had to dig out our car this morning and I was over half an hour late because we could only move at a crawl through unploughed streets. Wise was an hour late. Lots of people still haven’t showed up, several probably just won’t. Cars are getting stuck all over the place.
In spite of the weather we are throwing Wise’s baby shower today, but if it keeps coming down, I wouldn’t be surprised if the administration orders people home early.
The practical upshot in this mess is that trying to climb in the car from the wrong side, carrying Christmas presents and baby shower gifts, using my heels as ice picks for traction, and J. having to drop me off in the middle of a parking lot to wade through a foot of snow and slush…means that I finally got up the gumption to buy a decent pair of boots.
“Nature’s all well in her place, but she mustn’t be allowed to make things untidy.”
– Cold Comfort Farm
Of course, summer is moving towards its inevitable end. Though not quite in her death throes, she’s sensing that they’re not far off and so is looking to have a last fling with a boy a third of her age, wear skirts that are far too short, and spend all her money rather than let her grasping nephew Fall get a penny of it. In other words, generally behaving badly.
The other day J. called me up.
“Are you coming home for lunch?” he asked.
“Wasn’t planning on it. Why?”
“Because you need to go to the store.”
“Because you need to pick up ant traps and spray.”
Augh! Apparently ants had descended on our flat. They were crawling in from a closet runner, bent on global domination (For the record, Mum, our flat is in no way in a state to attract the wildlife, please don’t wring your hands and bemoan anything). Anyway, I dashed home armed with chemicals, J. vacuumed everything, sprayed and booby-trapped our closet to the point that those famed nuclear-resistant cockroaches of lore couldn’t survive, and we waited with baited breath to see if it had worked. So far, nary a six-legged fiend has been sighted.
However, marshalling the ants to send them indoors was only Old Lady Summer getting drunk at her granddaughter’s wedding. She finished the night by climbing up on the buffet table, shaking her bon-bon, and collapsing spectacularly into the punch.
That night we had a massive lightning storm. I read later that in a half hour period we had nearly 150 lightning strikes in the area. And unlike normal storms, where the flashes and rumbles are spaced out a bit, this was explosion after explosion for hours. Neither J. nor I slept because every few seconds our whole room would light up and it would sound like someone had cracked a whip right next to our heads. And this sort of weather has continued, with varying degrees of intensity, for the last three days now. The power was knocked out yesterday, making getting home from work a nightmare.
Summer and I have a middling relationship. Round about February of each year I whine and long for sunlight, but as soon as we’ve made it through July, I start glaring at bank signs along the road with their publicly displayed roasting temperatures and start mumbling things like, “October sounds good. I could do October right now.”
*Photo of cracked old biddy, from mygutinstinct.wordpress.com *Photo of the vile insect invader, still from the 1954 film Them!
*Photo of my approximate face come mi-August from: findavet.us/blog/2010/04/how-to-keep-your-dog-safe-in-the-heat/
“There will be a rain dance friday night, weather permitting.”
– George Carlin
I have an extraordinary pair of shoes. Not in the Christian Louboutain sense, or even the “By Jupiter, what on earth is she wearing on her feet?!” sense. I mean truly out of this world, inexplicable, baffling-to-science bizarre.
They were discovered at Target, sitting prettily on a shelf and on sale. “Purple flats with a J. Crew like ruffle?” thought Small Dog to herself, “Sold!” I happily tossed them into my basket and continued shopping, little knowing the fate that lay ahead of me.
The first time I wore them, it started raining on the way to work and I had to make a mad dash for the office, carefully holding my trousers at my calves to minimize water damage. They are suede-like and therefore absorbed at least a couple of deep puddles as I crossed the parking lot, and didn’t let a single drop of moisture escape. I had the squishy, uncomfortable sensation of walking around in sopping moss all day long.
Undeterred I wore them again a few days later and it started raining while I was at work and didn’t let up until late in the night. Which meant that, due to running errands for the department and fetching the officers’ laundry, my feet were soaked for several hours before I got to go home.
Mere coincidence, surely! All the same, they were regulated to the back of my closet for a couple of weeks to be on the safe side. But the next time I wore them I still came home looking like a drowned duck (and that time it managed to both rain and snow), so they were unceremoniously flung back into the closet to learn how to behave better towards their patient, shoe-loving mistress.
However, this morning in the scramble to get ready, the inevitable happened. It was the day that I’d be assigning dozens of students their security gear for the 4th of July festivities and I knew better than to wear heels. I could only find one half of the pair of flats I intended to wear and so, at a loss, I pulled them out again, gave them a quick talking to, and popped them on. The day passed without incident and scorching desert summer temperatures until late afternoon when the clouds rolled in (seemingly from nowhere!) and unleashed a torrent. Lacking windows I hurried to Susie and Wise’s office to see for myself, just in time to see a river of rain come rushing down a walkway from the quad and a broken branch whiz by. A boy was walking against the wind, which was so fierce that his umbrella had wrapped around his head and shoulders, and nearly blew him off the sidewalk.
It was also time to go to the laundry to pick up the officers’ laundry. The three of us watched in dismay as it got worse and worse while it got closer and closer to closing time. Susie was a dear and said she’d help me as soon as we saw a break in the clouds and finally one came and we sprinted down the hall (much to the shock of a couple of officers who managed to dodge out of our way). We threw bags of laundry over our shoulders, pushed past two sets of doors at a dead run, and were halfway across the parking lot when the skies reopened. I managed to hit the unlock button on the key chain and yank open the van’s door and we both catapulted into its relative safety. And then, because she was wearing a white skirt that had been soaked and didn’t want to make the situation worse by walking through an office entirely of men, we both climbed over the seats (without a lot of dignity) and headed off to the cleaner together. By the time we got back the storm was over, though the city was littered with leaves and shattered branches. And I still had to go to dinner and do a presentation in dripping shoes, and shudder when Susie mentioned some sort of infection or other that she knew of that came from wet feet and was nastier than Athletes Foot.
Anyone suffering from a particularly bad drought? Because I have the perfect footwear for your next Rain Dance.