Each morning, Mason and I drink coffee and read the news. We do not have TV, and turn on the radio only when we leave, so that our parrot can listen to music. The news is so depressing that I want to jam a pen as far into my eyeballs as I can. After much heated discussion, I decided to share my dumpster diving fail story for a little comic relief.
I have one phobia and one passion. The other day, March 2, they met each other.
I am tornado phobic. This is not a light thing, it is absolutely terrifying, and I have had recurring, almost nightly nightmares about tornadoes since I was five or so, and I think it was related to an incident where a tornado passed over our home in Sedalia, Missouri. I awoke in my father’s arms; he was carrying me to the basement, and I remember hearing a train, only there was no train nearby. I have the nightmares so often that I now just mention them in passing, “I had another one last night. Again.”
We live in Western Kentucky, as you know, and the area is often under tornado watch during tornado season, which I consider to be every single day of the year, so for this and various other reasons, I live in terror much of the time.
Since we have moved here, my phobia has evolved into a sick fascination that I do not really understand, but for example, I follow all the weather people and storm chasers, and I read all the FEMA stuff and watch all the twister videos, and I have adopted a strict fatalistic belief that if a tornado touches down, you are fucked.
I think that hiding in your apartment bathroom is exactly as effective as hiding under the school desk with your head between your knees in the event of global thermonuclear war, like they told us to do in the sixties. What a load. We actually did drills, back in the day. To my utter horror, my son told me that not only is he not afraid of tornadoes, he would like to see one, and after much discussion I even decided that seeing one might be interesting, if it was really far away.
By the way, FEMA says, hold on, let me get this because it’s counter intuitive…Do not get under a freeway overpass during a tornado. Here is FEMA: http://m.fema.gov/tornadoes.htm. Their first bit of information is a massive understatement: “The following are facts about tornadoes:
They may strike quickly, with little or no warning.”
So there’s the phobia.
Then comes the passion. I love dumpster diving and looking for junk. You guys probably know where this is going. Mason and I were at a dumpster on tornado day. Yes. And we had just a ridiculous philosophical argument about life and death right there at the box. At the time, there was just a little light rain, nothing more. Remember, we have no TV, so I had not seen any warnings, but he had. He had seen the warnings on his computer weather bug, which, for some odd reason, I had ignored.
“This is serious,” he says. “This right here. I’m not kidding. It’s everything you are afraid of, and it’s coming at sixty-five miles an hour.”
“Uh-huh, okay,” I say. “And if it touches down right here, I’ll die doing something that I love doing. Have you seen those drapes? They’re beautiful.”
“I am not messing with you. This thing is really dangerous. I swear. I’m taking cover.”
“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate. This box, that bathroom, none of it matters and we won’t be having this conversation if the thing touches. There is one safe place in this town. The hospital basement. And we don’t have time to get there. End of story. Come on, son.”
“I’m not gonna die with you in a goddamned dumpster. I’m outa here.”
“Enjoy your Darwin bathroom!”
And with that, Mason was gone.
When a natural disaster hits, there is some sort of animal instinct that takes over and tells you exactly what it is, I think, because this is what I learned from the LA earthquake in ’94. BOOM!! And you go, “Shit, that’s an earthquake.”
Well, this tornado did not touch down here, but it passed over, quickly and violently as tornadoes do, and it started with a similar BOOM, where it slammed the door of the dumpster so hard you would have thought a bomb dropped. This was about the same time as the sirens. As I was running through the hail back to find Mason, the animal instinct kicked in and I found myself oddly looking for ‘it,’ like “Where is it?” But then, I remembered a couple of things, like they can be invisible or rain-wrapped or whatever. Others were not so fortunate on that fateful day, where the tornado outbreak was deadly.
Here is FEMA, what to do during a tornado:
A sponsor once told me, “Don’t do anything you think of.” I think she was right on that one.
The deadly EF-4 Henryville, Indiana tornado of March 2, 2012. Absolutely terrifying, my heart goes out to victims of these tornadoes.