My new temporary friends Ron and Rob and I were smoking our cigarettes and trying to figure out how we were all going to get home as we stood below an overhang in the torrential rain. I still don’t know exactly what caused the thing that happened next. Maybe there was water building up on the roof overwhelmed it. Maybe it was the force of the rain being tossed in from the bay. Probably it was just a weak sign on its last legs. Whatever the case, the sign of the record store three spots over somehow fell off, slid down the overhang, and crashed into a six-foot wide puddle in the parking lot on the ground. We choked on our cigarettes. Even in the middle of a hurricane, you don’t expect something like that.
The last semester of my college year and the summer before it, I lived off-campus. My ex-roommate Dennis and his friend Karl had gotten an apartment on the northwest side of town. It was about a half-hour drive (going the other way from rush hour), but since I was only taking classes a couple evenings a week at that point, it was no big deal. That was the summer when Hurricane Adrianne hit. The word “hurricane” confers a certain amount of force and wreckage that wasn’t really applicable to Adrianne. It was a hurricane for about half a minute after hitting landfall and then reverted to being a tropical storm and not a particularly strong one at that. What it lacked in forced it made up for in longevity. Meterologists on television were remarking that this was the slowest hurricane they’d seen in quite some time.
But the hurricane came and went and life went on. To wit, classes at Southern Tech University the night after the hurricane were not canceled. It was actually kind of disappointing because I had made plans with Evangeline for that night. I was taking a programming class and as much as I would liked to have skipped the class with the excuse that I didn’t know that they were having them, it was one a class for our collaborative project and I had to go. Eva and I agreed to meet after the class was out.
Three quarters of the class did not feel the same way about the importance of the collaborative project and class was canceled anyway. From the hallway as I was walking to the door I called Eva and told her that I would be over in half-an-hour. She expressed some concern about the weather and that it was raining pretty hard. I said that we didn’t have to go anywhere but that I just wanted to see her. She and I were going through one of our many rough patches and I wanted some downtime to rebuild. She said that she would keep an eye on the weather report and let me know.
When I stepped outside, I saw what she was talking about with the weather. In the thirty minutes I had been inside, the weather had gone from simply overcast to a torrential rainfall. Getting to Eva’s could indeed pose a problem, but so would getting home and her house was closer. Besides, maybe the rain would provide an excuse to stay the night. Even if I would be sleeping on the couch (and I would be, as she lived with her father and step-mother), it would mean some morning time in addition to evening time. Two for one!
One nice thing about the timing of the plodding, apologetic little hurricane that had introduced itself to our city was that it occurred while I was borrowing my parents van. I’d needed it to cart some furniture I’d bought at a thrift store for my first-ever unfurnished apartment. The thrift store was needlessly boarded up so I had to wait a bit longer to get the furniture, so I still had the van. I thought of the good fortune of that as I got into it at the Sotech parking lot. If I was in the car I might need to worry about flooding, but not in the van. Not even in this weather.
I was only a few blocks from the university when I saw a car stalled on Epsen Road. As was my habit at the time, I pulled over and knocked on the window to ask if they needed any help. The girl in the car was actually quite rude. She said that she was fine. I asked if she needed to make a call and waved my cell phone. She said “no” and promptly rolled up her window. In retrospect, she was probably afraid that I was a threat of some sort. She’d probably made her call and was waiting for someone to pick her up. I got back into the van and back on the road.
Instead of letting up, the rain was getting worse. Years later a couple thousand miles away I would learn that when driving in snow it was best to stick to the main roads because those were more likely to be plowed. Well you can’t plow water, but the same is actually true in a flood for different reasons. If your car gets stuck, you want to be where there are other cars. Sometimes they’ll help you out and usually they will lend a cell phone. More helpful, though, was that other cars told you where not to go. If a car smaller than yours was stuck in water, it was as clear a warning as existed that you needed to go somewhere else. Rude Girl’s car conveyed such a warning to me, so I decided to work my way to the Interstate that looped around the city. Most of the Interstate was actually elevated anyway, so once I got there I wouldn’t have anything to worry about.
The Interstate to the Loop was already closed, as was the access road accompanying it. I pulled out my map and charted a different route. I needed to find a quick way of getting to her house. First, because the more time the drive took the less time she and I would get together. Second, because I knew that I was racing the clock before she used this as a reason not to see me. Third, because the weather indeed was miserable and I didn’t want to get stuck out in it.
Unfortunately, everywhere I turned was a closed street or a boatcar warning that the street ought to be closed. This made sense as Sotech is in the lower part of town nearer to the water than Eva’s house or my apartment. If I could just get out of the immediate area, I’d be fine.
As I was doing so, my cell phone rang. It was Eva. I had a pretty strong feeling what she was going to say. Sure enough, she told me that the weather had gotten so bad and was only going to get worse and that she and I shouldn’t go out tonight. I lied and said that it wasn’t that bad and that it must be worse wherever she is than wherever I am and that it would probably be passing soon anyway. That’s when she told me that the news was saying that Tropstorm Adrianne was back and that it was unlikely to get better any time soon.
I rolled my eyes. She was always so good at coming up with reasons not to see me.
“Oh, Will, I have to get up so early for work tomorrow.”
“Oh, Will, my sister is sad for some really inconsequential reason and I better keep her company.”
“Oh, Will, my sister is sad for some vague reason and I’d better keep her company.”
“Oh, Will, my sister is sad for some completely indiscernible reason and I had better keep her company.” (her sister was a pretty dramatic person)
“Oh, Will, Dad seems vaguely bothered about something so I think he may need to talk to me.”
“Oh, Will, somebody somewhere may need to talk to me tonight and I’d better wait for that phone call in case it comes and they call the land line instead of my cell phone and I might miss it if I’m talking to you…”
“Oh, Will, there’s a frickin’ hurricane out there so you should be more worried about getting home than seeing me.”
This time she was apparently so thorough as to enlist the aid of Mother Nature. Color me impressed. In the three weeks she had been managing to dodge seeing me for anything more than a lunch or group activity, this was her best showing yet.
We went back and forth. She told me that she didn’t want to go out in this weather. I said that we didn’t need to go out. She said I should be worried about my safety. I told her that it would be longer and farther for me to drive home. She replied that she was getting sleepy (at 8:00?) and that she wouldn’t be able to entertain me. I said that she didn’t have to and that just seeing her would be fine. At that point, the only thing I really cared about was not letting her hide behind this whole “hurricane” thing as a reason not to see me.
The “Hurricane” was actually at this point a Tropical Storm, though once something is a hurricane (no matter how weakly and how shortly) it keeps the name even when technically no longer accurate. Adrianne had apparently passed through Colosse, spun out to the bay, regrouped, and set its sights quite clearly on Colosse again. It apparently liked Colosse a great deal not only for the return trip, but also because on its second run, once reaching the city, it just sat there. One hand in the bay grabbing water and the other throwing it at us.
When it was all said and done, it became obvious to me that she was as insistent about not seeing me as I was about not letting her use this historic occasion as a reason not to do so. Unfortunately, she had an army of meteorologists on her side. Once it became obvious that as convenient an excuse as the hurricane was she had one and that I wasn’t going to win this argument. I conceded and got off the phone before the cell phone battery died.
The concession actually allowed me to relax. Now I only had to worry about getting home and there was no time limit on that. the relaxation didn’t last long. I wasn’t in a hurry to get to Eva’s house anymore, but desperately needed some 151 and there was a flame-arrested bottle with my name on it at the apartment. The longer I was out there, the stronger the craving.
Unfortunately, just about everybody was headed to DeSoto so when I got there it wasn’t moving an inch. I decided to drive to the next street over, but less than a block to the west was a giant puddle, eight carboats (the last couple of which apparently weren’t able to heed the warning of the first six), and a couple of SUVs pulling cars out one by one.
One of the things that I learned in Deseret was that it’s great when you have a neighbor that just bought a new plowmobile. Not only do they take care of their own driveways and lawns, but they will go around town asking if you want them to take care of yours. No one is quite so ambitious as a man with a new toy. I think the SUV drivers in a flood are the same way and get a kick out of showing off their vehicle’s horsepower. Some accept tips, naturally, but some don’t and the only cost you will incur is a lecture about how heathen liberal environmentalists want to take their SUVs away but aren’t we glad that he had one right now.
I decided that it was as good a time as any to get out of the van, assess the situation, and smoke a cigarette. There were about four guys standing below an overhang apparently of a like mind. The Bacardi Batsignal emanating from my apartment across town would have to go unanswered for a bit.
The first guy introduced himself as Ron. Ron told me that he’d just paid $20 for a pack of cigarettes from Rob, who was snickering with one that he lifted prior to their transaction. There was also a guy named Todd there who was quite bothered by the smoke but wanted in on the strategy session going on. As it turned out, all four of us were west-bound.
I told them about my plans for DeSoto and the surprise about it being so crowded. I joked that everybody must have had the same idea that I did. Ron shook his head while Rob broke the news that DeSoto had collapsed. Collapsed? There’s no bridge on DeSoto, I commented. Ron speculated about some pipes below that were probably crushed. It was quite a surprise at the time, though over the next couple of years it would happen a few more times without even a hurricane to blame for it.
When the sign a few stores over collapsed, we decided that our position under the overhang was more precarious than we had initially suspected. We decided to caravan over to Moreland and see if maybe we could find something there. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to caravan in torrential rain and cars with drivers half in fear of their life and we soon lost track of one another.
From there it was mostly zig-zag and trying to find routes that had enough cars so that I wouldn’t be going it alone but not so much as to cause bumper-to-bumper congestion. I can’t even remember what roads I went on, but I remember the direction that I went because before I knew it I was in Evangeline’s neighborhood. Whatever her reservations, I determined, surely she would let me sleep on the couch. Maybe it wouldn’t all be a bust after all.
When I pulled into her driveway, I saw a familiar car that wasn’t hers. It had a Southern Tech College of Communication bumper sticker, though, and that was enough to job my memory. It was her ex-boyfriends. Most charitably he happened to be over when it was all starting, she didn’t want him to leave, and she didn’t want me to come over and find tha the was there even though nothing was going on. Well, nothing was going on at that precise moment in time, but that was about all of my speculation that was true.
In any case, I pulled right back out and decided that I needed to be alone. I had apparently overstepped my bounds by seeking refuge.
From that point it was more zig-zag and more search for the higher roads. From her house to my apartment is a blur. I hadn’t realized it, but up until that point I was actually kind of enjoying the adventure. The fact that I was in a high vehicle provided me a sense of invulnerability that was likely misplaced. The Bacardi that was awaiting me when I got home was actually going to be sort of a victory toast. I only realized these things when it became that they were no longer the case.
At some point I got home. I don’t remember it but since I’m still alive I assume it happened. I also assume that I did break out the rum.
More rain fell due to Adrianne than fell in my first two years in Deseret. A dozen or so people drowned that night, as did several thousand animals. Tens of thousands were left homeless. On the upshot, it was a good time to be selling cars and if you didn’t mind a little damage, it was a great time to need furniture.