Squawk Radio

Friday, April 07, 2006

Liz on the Rites of Spring

It’s springtime in Kentucky. That means weird weather, and lots of it. When my friend Barbara Freethy, who lives on the west coast, wrote a book a while back, part of which featured the Kentucky Derby, she e-mailed me and asked, “What kind of weather should I have?” And I said, “Let’s see, that’s the first Saturday in May, so barring a blizzard, you should be okay with anything. And even if you need to have a blizzard, I doubt any native Kentuckian would even raise an eyebrow.” I probably should have told her that if she really wanted to make the book authentic, she should include at least one tornado in there somewhere.

Yep, tornados are the stuff of spring around here. My friends who’ve never lived with the threat think I’m nuts to be so cavalier about them, but when you’ve grown up with tornado drills as much a part of your school experience as fire drills, you just learn at some point not to freak out about it. “Sirens going off again, dear? Gee, I guess we better go ahead and move the cats to the basement. Is 'CSI: Miami' a rerun tonight?”

I used to work in the china and crystal department of a local department store. Now, no place is really safe when there’s a tornado bearing down on you, but a china and crystal department is REALLY not the sort of environment you want to be in. Anyway, one day at work, there was an especially serious threat--a tornado had actually touched down within a mile or so of the mall where I worked. So they hustled all of us, shoppers included, into an emergency exit stairwell and told us to sit tight.

There were a couple of shoppers in the group who were visiting from someplace where they don’t have tornados, and they were visibly wiggy about the whole thing. So when one of the employees who wanted to use the opportunity for an unexpected smoking break propped open the door at the foot of the stairwell to ventilate, the shopper said, “Is that such a good idea?” The rest of us, who were enjoying the opportunity to chat, said, “Oh, that’s okay. You don’t have to worry until the sky turns this weird yellowish-green color.” The shopper looked out the door and said, “The sky is a weird yellowish-green color right now.” To which we replied, “Well, you might want to just crack the door then,” and went back to chatting.

I guess if you’re expossed to a certain danger often enough, it loses some of its threat. My friend Laurie, who lives in Los Angeles, has been through enough earthquakes now that when I frantically call her after one, she says things like, “Yeah, I woke up falling out of bed and onto the floor this morning. Beats an alarm clock every time.” My brother in Ft. Myers has been through enough hurricanes now that, during the last one, he went outside and videotaped it for a while. Me, I know to keep irreplaceable things like photos stored in the basement, along with extra bottles of water. And I keep a memory stick with all my works-in-progress in my purse at all times, and hang my purse near the basement steps. When we do retreat to the basement, the other thing I grab is my jewelry box. Not that I have lots of expensive jewelry, but I have a lot of inexpensive--and irreplaceable--pieces given to me by my grandmother, aunts and mother.

Tornados are scary because they're beyond our control, come out of nowhere, wreak their havoc and then go away, uncaring of the damage they've wrought. But that's true of so many things in life. We just have to prepare for them as best we can and hope they never threaten. And if they do, we retreat to the safest part of our home (or ourselves) and wait for the danger to pass. And if our worst fears are realized, we cut--and mourn--our losses, and then go about rebuilding.

I hope I never have to face a tornado. But then, I hope I never have to face a lot of things. If I worried about all of them, I'd be paralyzed with fear everyday. So I just hope for the best and stay prepared for the worst. So far, so good...

So how about you? What potential danger freaks you out the most? Or what danger have you faced often enough that it’s lost some of its threat? And provided the family and pets were already safe in the basement, and you only had thirty seconds to grab something important to take down there with you, what would that one thing be?
Elizabeth Bevarly, 8:12 AM