A Southern toddler could tell you exactly what the appropriate procedures are for a tornado warning. A Southern eight-year-old could tell you exactly how no adults ever actually follow said procedures. All non-Southerners think one late night viewing of Twister qualifies them to say “You know a tornado’s coming. Get underground!” Umm… no. We don’t. We know a tornado might come… sometime this spring or summer or maybe in the fall. There will be more tornado warnings this Tuesday and Wednesday, just as there were all last week… encompassing a third of the state. A tornado did not hit a third of the state. The sirens go off all the friggin’ time… and nothing happens. We can’t live our lives underground five months out of the year. This ain’t District 13, folks. We have to watch the news, wait, and determine whether or not it’s safe to get on the roads to seek shelter, because we don’t all have underground facilities, especially those of us in apartments. So this is what a real tornado experience looks like through the eyes of someone who jokes about everything, including those things that are scary as fuck.
Shetland: I gave my hometown a real name. This is the town I’ve lived in for the majority of my life.
Springfield: About 10 minutes north of Shetland, often merged with Shetland.
Fairview: About 20 minutes west of Springfield. I lived in a motel in this lower-income town for a few months when I was married. I hated it.
My best Facebook posts of Friday night and Saturday morning:
Scariest thought of the night: “That mattress is really wedged in there. Am I trapped in the bathtub?”
I can’t sleep without a fan blowing. There’s sauce all over my kitchen from using a hammer to open a can of Spaghetti O’s. My Kindle battery is draining. I am so over this Laura Ingles $#^+.
I would not even care about the zombies in The Walking Dead. Those people have no electricity. EVER.
Wait. What is all over the kitchen? Oh, yeah. Spaghetti O’s. Hammer.
Textersation With Gail Friday Night
Gail: Watch the weather.
Gail knows I don’t watch the weather unless someone calls or texts that I’m about to die.
Me: Rory Gilmore would be 30 next year.
Even then, I may or may not take it seriously. I just assume we’re under tornado watch March through October.
Gail: Turn on the weather if you haven’t yet and get to a house instead of your place.
Gail: Very bad storm in Fairview.
Me: I’m not in Fairview.
Gail: Heading east, as tornadoes do.
Me: I’m not east of Fairview.
Gail: Well, I meant so that if one occurs here, as they’re warning is likely, you don’t die.
Ugh. Here goes Gail again. This is just like the time she claimed that guy I met online wanted to “show me his hatchet”. He just wanted to watch Arrow. So, he didn’t have a T.V. That doesn’t mean anything. So fucking paranoid. – I called my dad, who works for the electric company and is therefore in the know. Then I called my Gramma, who along with Gail, works for the fabricate-shit-to-fear company.
Me: Everyone else said it’s not coming here.
Gail: Yeah, the current tornado isn’t. The storm is still developing. Channel 4 just said “If you’re in Springfield, take shelter now.”
Me: Ah. Cherokees blessed the town. I’ll be fine.
Me: I’m not in Springfield.
We have a heavy concentration of Native Americans in this state and a heavier concentration of ignorant, rich, white kids in Shetland. Last spring, while substituting under another tornado watch, I had a fifteen-year-old boy assure the class that we were fine, because Cherokee Indians blessed the town a hundred years ago. I tried to explain that’s bordering racist and also isn’t how weather works, but the class seemed calmed by the idea, so I left it alone.
Gail:*shrug* suit yourself. If you ever die of Belle-related causes, I’m letting your mother dress your corpse for the funeral.
That is exactly what that would look like, because to my undiagnosed/secretly diagnosed mentally ill mother, I’m frozen at age 11.
Gail: “This is a major tornado. It’s making a hard right and turning toward Shetland.”
I had actually heard this on the news and was headed toward my Gramma’s house, but admitting that was acknowledging my own fear, which is an emotion, so ew.
Me: *Picture of Cherokee* – Couldn’t find one. Typed the words.
Me: My grandparents left to “outrun it.” I don’t know what to do, but I didn’t go with them.
A drunken Southern child (that’s probably a thing) could tell you this is a stupid idea. You cannot “outrun” a fucking tornado, particularly with 2,000 other people on the road doing the exact same thing, because an idiotic weatherman told everyone to “head south.”
Gail: It turned toward Springfield. He said if you’re in Springfield, go south. Right now it’s headed down the highway.
Me: You might want to pray for me. No. Pray for my Gramma and my stupid grandpa, who decided they could outrun a tornado.
I didn’t tell Gail that I was on the road at this point, and would likely die if the tornado hit Shetland, because I was stuck in traffic. It wouldn’t have helped and where do we keep our emotions, y’all? That’s right. With the last fucking horcrux.
Gail: You shouldn’t have gone. You did the right thing. Now it’s more likely to hit my empty duplex, but now it’s just a circulating cloud. It’s off the ground.
Me: Shetland is fucking anarchy. People are driving on the shoulder and all over the roads. Police and ambulance sirens are constant.
Gail: It’s back on the highway. It destroyed one of the storm chaser vehicles. That’s why they thought it ended – they lost contact. Springfield and north Shetland. You’re probably okay by now.
Me: Yeah, the power outage is the biggest deal. It’s freaky quiet.
Gail: NO! There’s another similar storm right behind it.
Me: Fuck this. Wanna move to Colorado with me?
Where there is no bad weather.
Gail: They think another tornado is forming in southern Fairview.
Me: Knew I hated that place. The sirens are steady now. It’s eerie.
Gail: Yes. Looks like a small tornado is by my place. Figures I’d lose everything.
Me: Least you KNOW Terry didn’t do it. I hope no one finds my vibrators in the rubble.
Me: I love you.
NOOOOOO!!!!! LAST FUCKING HORCRUX!!!!!!
Gail: I love you, too. Are you okay? Where are you?
Me: I’m good. I’m home. Is your place intact?
Gail: I have no clue. I’m at my parents.
Me: Bad things don’t happen, Gail.
Gail: There are overturned cars and injuries in Shetland. The Cherokees could improve their aim.
Gail’s a little racist.
Me: Holy shit, there’s a telephone pole across the street in front of Wal-Mart!
Gail: Told you. Go inside!
Me: Ummm.. I did something stupid instead.
Gail: Do you have a flat tire? Dammit, Belle! You know there are nails everywhere!
You know, I grew up here. I should’ve known there were nails everywhere, but it totally didn’t occur to me. Neither did the fact that I practically drive a low-rider hatchback and it had been raining heavily for hours.
Me: Okay. Home.
Gail: Thank you.
I immediately left to grab ice from the gas station, though it was still pouring, there were down power lines everywhere, and the gas station was clearly closed… until they saw me driving away with their ice and started shining a flashlight through the window.
Me: So, Shetland is SUPER flooded right now.
Gail: Yeah, gotta conserve phone battery though, so please no more texting unless it’s pretty important. Sorry. 😦
Me: One last one. How much trouble can I get into for stealing two bags of ice from the gas station when they didn’t see my plates and I’ll totally pay for them when they’re open?
For realz, I had to keep talking myself down from a panic every time I saw red and blues (which was often) outside my window, because I was certain they were coming for me for looting $3 worth of ice, for which I did eventually pay. You know, because they didn’t have bigger shit on their minds.
When I woke the next morning, I realized I still didn’t have power and wasn’t surprised at my three hours of sleep. Seriously, if the power flickers and the fan goes off briefly, I will wake up. I texted my dad since there were reports I might not have electricity for days. Keep in mind, my dad works for the electric company. It’s gonna be a busy week and that started Friday night.
Me: Can I store some food in your freezer and stay with you until I have electricity?
Dad: Sure. You can have the front room.
Me: Thanks! I’ll be totally unobtrusive.
Me: I’m at your place with a flat tire.
What was that about nails, Gail?