Thank you, Marc Weinberg

Aprile Rickert

Most people that know me are pretty familiar with my irrational fear of tornadoes. I’m not saying that they’re a joke by any means, but there is a bit of sentiment among some that living in the Midwest should give one a sort of desensitization to them.ApeFINAL

You know these people, the laissez-faire folk who go on swimming or watching T.V. or otherwise remain above ground, despite cheeky and excited Facebook updates from Marc Weinberg, air-raid sirens or eleven calls from their mothers.

What happens to me: I am eating or sleeping or doing whatever and I get a text or call from my mom.

“Bad storm’s coming,” she’ll say. She then promises to call me back if it gets more serious or closer, but I usually just start in on my own.

The radar itself doesn’t mean much to me; I know that red is bad and purple is really bad, but I don’t understand the way it moves. What gets me is the staticky hiss of the National Weather Service alerts. At first I am calm, but then the frenzy builds up until I am running around, shoving cats in their carriers, getting water and food in a backpack.

By the time the sirens go off, I am already in the cellar.

For an hour or so, or until everything is clear, we sit in the dank hole below the house, where spider crickets and other unspeakable horrors lurk in the crevices.

I am wearing rain boots and several layers of clothing, and have brought every important thing I own that I can carry. I have a helmet and a headlight. I am having brief and dramatic phone calls through spotty service (storm cellar) and every time the conversation is cut off, I panic.

My cats are nervous and arguing, I am not eating the peanuts or apples or whatever I’ve brought to survive. My husband is monitoring the situation from several devices at once and trying to not look scared, despite the motorcycle helmet.

During a seasonally normal rash of tornadoes last spring, we were doing the usual thing: pretending not to be scared and then going insane for a few minutes trying to get everything together. (You would think we would have a kit prepared or something.)

When it came time to rush into the cellar, we discovered the landlord had padlocked it. No good. We knew that there was access through our downstairs neighbors’ bathroom, but it was 3a.m. and they were new people we had only met briefly the week before.

I hid behind the couch while he bravely and politely inquired if we might use their bathroom.

A freshly awoken and completely unafraid guy answered the door, and with some reluctance, said we could come in “if it gets any worse.”

Ok, I thought, at least we will survive. I imagined that I stood absolutely no chance on the second floor.

Suddenly, everything got crazy again and, in a flash, my husband was already downstairs banging on the door, and I do mean banging.

Use your head - wear a helmetI was a little behind because he was already on the stairs but they opened the door just in time for me to storm in wearing a helmet, pink pajamas tucked into rain boots and carrying a box with three surly cats.

Once inside, it was if we had warped to some other world. Here there was no fear, no running, no caged animals or protective gear—just a calm dog and three sleepy people (one of whom had a microbiology test the next day) who may have decided their new neighbors were lunatics, or at least trouble.

We made small talk and I tried to casually sneak my helmet off, but there was no forgetting that I stormed their apartment wearing it minutes prior.

When the area was clear according to Marc Weinberg, we went back upstairs and unpacked the peanuts and cats. I always have a sense of relief that everything is ok; he always says he will never get dragged into tornado frenzy by me again. On this day, we both agreed to avoid the new neighbors indefinitely.

 

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