This last week I was selected to play a part in a movie of the week. At first, I refused to accept this so-called role. Surely, the Director, (AKA, Mother Nature) would come to Her senses and realize I didn’t have the personality to play such a serious part in her natural disaster movie. If she’d read just a page of one of my books, she’d know my personality and life lends itself better to comedy. “Call me when You have a different role,” I replied. Unfortunately, Mother Nature wasn’t listening. Ready or not, Ike was coming.
I wasn’t ready. So I went into this blissful state called . . . denial. Ike was not coming to Houston. It couldn’t. Because I had . . . deadlines. Deadlines encourage denial of anything that might try to pull your attention away from the task. So, on that Wednesday night when the news said we needed three days’ provisions of water and food, I looked at hubby who had no reason for his state of denial and asked, “Do we have provisions?”
He just shrugs. “We can get them later.”
“Later?” I panicked. So, at eleven o’clock on Wednesday night, we’re in a local grocery store. It’s here I become totally submersed in the surreal-Ike script.
Hordes of people, resembling zombies, push their carts along the aisles, grabbing hurricane rations. We headed straight for the water. There, on aisle four, are two women playing tug a war over the last six pack of H2-0.
I look at my husband, at the empty store shelves, at our empty basket, and ask the obvious. “Should I jump in and see if I could win?”
He sighs, “They’re bigger than you are.”
We moved past the screaming women. As we got to their carts, I saw dozens of cans of tuna filling their baskets. Feeling desperate, I snag a couple of cans and dropped them in our cart. (Hey, this is life or death.) And we run away.
We found most of the shelves empty, but we did get the last four cans of chicken, a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, and some crackers. As we’re about to leave, water arrives, and we, with the Zombies wait in aisle four. We snagged two cases, and got out before more fighting broke out.
Thursday morning, the air conditioner flowed, coffee perked. Life was normal. Hubby went to work, I went into my office and back into my blissful state of denial. I sent in my book. Thank gawd! When son got up, he stormed into the study screaming, “Mom, why aren’t you watching the news?”
The television was turned on and I’m thrown back into the script of Ike. The mayor was speaking to Houstonians. I can’t relate word for word, but it translates to something like this: “Put your head between your legs and kiss your arses goodbye.”
Okay, he didn’t exactly say that, but with lines of, “100 to 150 mile winds” “freeways jammed. Don’t try to escape.” “Leave work and go home to take care of your family” he might as well have said it.
I called my hubby and calmly informed him that the freaking sky was falling and he needed to come home. NOW!
Never one to enjoy panic, I turned off the TV, chased my son out of my office and returned to my blissful state of denial.
I enjoyed my bliss, until the phone calls started coming from out-of-state family. I can’t relate to you word for word what they said, but it went something like this: “I hear you need to put your head between your legs and kiss…” Seriously, my cousin asked if we had burial plots.
I practiced deep breathing, ignored my four felines who bounced off the walls acting as if the world was ending, (did they know something I didn’t?) and I waited for hubby --my hubby, the safety engineer. How lucky am I to have a safety engineer to keep me safe? (You know where this is leading, don’t you?)
Hubby arrived, armed with only a book on the Roman Empire, which by the way, didn’t they end in disaster? He plops down in his chair and begins to read.
I stared at him. “Baby, how much wind can our windows sustain?” Hey, he’s smart, this is what he does for a living.
“Baby, how much wind do they say we’ll get?”
“Probably 100 to 110.”
“Baby, why the freaking-frack, in gawd’s name aren’t you covering our windows?”
So we covered our windows. Okay, Hubby and son covered windows. I went back to my computer and backed up some of my files. Then I grabbed my backup drive and wondered where the safest place was to keep it is. Which one of the ten pine trees in our yard would hit the house, meaning which room would be destroyed? I even tried to fit it into my bra. Didn’t work. It went into my purse.
Meanwhile, stray cats are showing up in our backyard. Hey, they know we’re suckers. Hubby and son catch them and put them in the garage.
Hubby and son also pick up any loose objects that could be snatched up the 150 to 170 mile wind gusts and used as missals on the Craig home. Loose objects like one of our eight land turtles. (Hey, I’m not gonna be the one written up in the paper about being killed by a turtle.) What do you do with 8 turtles during a hurricane, when you have stray cats in the garage? You put them in the back of your car. (Oh, did I mention that Floppy Skivies, the family rabbit, was upstairs in my son’s bedroom, sharing space with his rats.)
I started cooking our last meal. With extras in case the mayor and my family was wrong and we accidentally lived.
While cooking, I noticed our hurricane rations have been depleted. I suspected the ladies I stole the tuna from, but then son confesses. Can anyone tell me how one eighteen-year-old boy can eat an entire jar of crunchy peanut butter in less than 24 hours?
We ate our last meal and I wrapped up the leftovers. We brought down our mattresses. My dad made me promise we’d bring down an extra mattress. So when the roof was being ripped off and debris flew inside, we could cover ourselves with the third mattress. Let me tell you, hearing things like that doesn’t make you feel better. But you bet your boots I had the third mattress.
Darkness strikes the Craig house around midnight. Son asks if he can now eat the hurricane rations. Something about hurricanes makes an eighteen year old hungry.
We curled up on the mattresses, and I saw it. Not Ike. Son was eating the leftovers from the fridge. “You’re eating our lunch,” I said.
“Yeah, but we might not live, so I don’t want to waste the pasta.”
Wind, the eerie sound of trees being delimbed and decapitated, filled our ears. We woke up off and on during the seven-hour storm. Morning arrived, no power, no air conditioner, no coffee, Ike still blowed. We braved a peek outside. Our yard was a mass of tree limbs and debris, and we’d been blessed with gifts from Ike, several new trashcans. Hey, we needed some new ones.
Many houses on our block brought a whole new meaning to tree houses. Thank God, no one is hurt. And our street was a river. Could anything induce one to brave that river? Yup. The water had backed up our neighbor’s sewage. Don’t get between a woman and a toilet when she has to go.
We ate crackers for breakfast, minus peanut butter, and snarled at son. Around noon, son asked, “What’s for lunch?”
I reminded him that he ate our lunch. He reminded me that it’s my maternal duty is to feed my young. I reminded him that some mammals are known to eat their young. Ike brought out the best in me.
Hubby dragged out the grill. Big man-- with grill-- about to make fire. A grill that hadn’t been used in two years, but he’d sworn we had propane. I emptied fridge of anything that might cook. Because of grills unclean state, I wrapped everything in foil and cooked hobo style.
We all stood around the grill, as hubby lit it. Hey, with no TV, this was the best entertainment there was. We had no idea how good the show would be.
Hubby discovered we have no propane. I sent him . . . The Look. “No, problem.” Hubby assured us. He found wood in garage, doused it with kerosene and struck a match. The explosion sent part of the bottom of the grill flying. Hubby’s eyebrows were singed. But fire was burning. Fire continued to burn. Grill suddenly caught on fire. Yup, the entire grill. Hubby became slightly concerned because the propane can was still attached to burning grill. Me, I became slightly concerned that the fire was spreading to the back of my house.
Hubby, safety engineer that he is, used our water rations to put out fire. House was fine with exception of bubbled paint and smoke damage. Lucky for hubby, the food came out great. Hey, son was about to die of hunger.
24 hours later, no air, low food (due to son) low water rations (due to fire) we decided to brave the freeways and escape Houston for Alabama.
Just one small issue. No gas stations. Just one big issue. No bathrooms. Hubby and son said, “We’ll just hang our lizards out for air.”
Oh, but no way was I baring my lizardette on the side of the freeway. (Hey, you need to maintain some dignity. Besides, Ike victims had suffered enough, they didn’ t need to see my arse.) Hours later, the need for a restroom was crucial. We stopped at several places, operated without power, but they’d locked bathrooms due to the lack of water.
Finally in an east Texas town we found a generator-operated hole-in-the-wall fish restaurant. No lights, but they were serving food. More importantly, they had water, they had a BATHROOM. I moved between the tables, to the back of the restaurant, blackness invaded the dark hall. The bathroom is where they said it was, but they hadn’t informed me where the toilet was. I shut the door and moved around the pitch darkness like a blind woman, a blind woman who really needed to pee, reaching out and thinking, “gross”, who knows what I’ll touch in a public bathroom. I found the toilet. With my foot, thank gawd. I unzipped, stripped and sat down in record time. I just got a healthy stream going when I hear . . . breathing. And I’m not talking about my own.
I had company and yes, this was a one seater. “Hello,” I suddenly wondered if I’d gotten in the women’s or men’s restroom.
A female voice answers. “So you found the toilet?”
“I hope it’s the toilet.” I laughed.
We shared Ike war stories while I peed. Hey, in really desperate times, modesty is thrown out the window. Who knows in a few more miles my lizardette might have been bared on the freeway.
Bladder happy, the Craigs hit the road again, our only concern was finding gas. We got lucky about an hour later. I went in to get a drink. When I get outside, hubby was waving in a panic and I’m told to get in the car NOW.
I jumped inside. “What is it?” I asked as he frantically drove away.
“That guy was smoking a cigar and filling up a gas can. That idiot is going to start a fire and blow something up.”
“Sort of like you did, huh,” my son said. We all started laughing.
I realize then how lucky we really were, we braved the storm, had no serious damage to our home, and survived with even our senses of humor intact. I think my son even gained a little weight.
Thank you, Mother Nature.