Last night was one of those nights where freaky things just happen.
It reminded me of a night I had about a year ago, when I was driving home at about 9PM after a 12-hour work day. I was on I-66, watching what I thought was heat-lightning flash its way across the sky miles ahead. I had just got off the phone with Clare, who had just left for home from her mom's. It wasn't long before I realized that the bolts illuminating the mountaintops were not heat-lightning at all, but the real thing.
When I made this realization, I called Clare back immediately and strongly urged her to return to her mom's and spend the night. Instinctively, I knew I was in for it. The storm, about 5 miles ahead, was moving very fast, with its black clouds looming ominously in the distance. I considered turning around, but I didn't think I could outrun or outmaneuver the flashing behemoth that rumbled before me. No place seemed quite appropriate to hold up, I thought, as I passed mile marker 27.
Mysteriously alone, with the wind buffeting my Jeep, I stopped and threw her into 4-wheel and then continued on my way. When I rounded the corner by Delaplane, the I was confronted by the monstrosity before me, and found myself staring straight into the face of a dark and angry Leviathan. With the wind howling profusely and leaves scattering everywhere, I told my wife I loved her and simply said, "I gotta go." I dropped the phone and then gripped the steering-wheel with both hands for dear life, just as the next gust of wind slammed into the Jeep.
What followed was one of the most spectacular and frightening nights of my entire life. Lightning flashed everywhere at one-two second intervals with bolts of lightning striking hapless and hitherto unsuspecting objects to my left and right. I waded into the storm as into the valley of death, while sheets of endless rain threatened to crack my windshield and derail my vehicle. I must have said my Act of Contrition about 8 times, and figured if God was going to take me, he was going to take me right now, or in a few minutes.
Still the Jeep--my fast moving faraday cage--carried on.
I have never been so proud of my vehicle or thankful that I drove a Wrangler 4x4 as this night. The flash flooding that ensued on the highway was outclassed by the vehicle's impressive 31-inch Mud Tires. As the light show intensified, I dropped her into 3rd or 4th and took up residence in the fast lane, passing those few poor bastards unfortunate enough to be on the same road with me in their little sedans, hazards blinking. In Linden the flashing became so intense I was blinded and deafened by the roar of thunder crackling all around me. The SHIT was HITTING the FAN. And it was a big fan at that.
Still the Jeep carried on. And led.
When I made it all the way through the pass to the valley beyond, the worst of the storm was clearly behind me. I breathed a sigh of relief. I was alive and intact. That was all that mattered.
Arriving home, I found I was still shaking, partly from holding the wheel to keep the Jeep straight while tilting against the wind and rain, partly from fear. It is an experience that is now emblazoned in my mind, like an indelible mark on my soul.
So yesterday, when I was driving home and saw the lightning passing by me to the south, I was thankful it was not the same storm--almost a year ago to the day--that was gathering to descend upon me. I was fortunate to bypass it.
Hours earlier, Clare had texted me that the power was out in our area and that a Medivac had landed nearby. I arrived home to find that the power was still out, but I was grateful for my preps in the areas of readily accessible water, candles, flaslights, and, of course, my sidearm. The whole place was unusually quiet and there was no rush or subconscious anxiety to update the blog or check out facebook or read the news online. Just darkness.
Oftentimes one is tempted to fantasize about a life post- or sans-technology. One might find peace and solace in such a reverie, but while that is powerful consideration, the reality is I still want to be able to run my table saw and turn on the air conditioning.