Yesterday was lightning and thunder, hail-storms and wind howling through the open spaces we’ve tried to patch-up in the closet and under the doors.
I went out in it, late afternoon to retrieve my daughter from those hallowed halls of study and bubonic plague. Judging from the lilt of her step, the feel of the wind whipping my hair about, I knew that neither one of us were in a ‘Let’s go home and have cocoa’ kind-of-mode.
Something about a storm makes me feel heightened. With the exception of three dark days a month ago, I usually love a storm because it makes me feel so alive.
We decided to drive north and hunt down a snack in that crazy, windy, tangled seaport of tack they call ‘Lincoln City’.
Unbeknownst to the common taffy-tourist, Lincoln City is not a city. Lincoln city is a string of small coastal towns that someone had the marvelous idea to compile into one big, ungainly entity. For this reason, it’s a common feeling to be driving in Lincoln City and get the feeling of, ‘Holy crap. I’m still driving in Lincoln City? That can’t be right… where’s the map.’
This is particularly true in summer-time when it takes 45 minutes to get from one end to the other. That doesn’t sound impressive, a lot of cities take that long, but when you’ve covered a distance of 8 miles in that time, you begin to see the dilemma.
But it was a storm, see? The tourists went home, many in August, the stubborn, belligerent ones in early November. We had the wide swath of storm-laden highway to ourselves and some other cars which we could hail with the congenial warmth of the native hailing the native. You know the feeling:
“I don’t know you, you don’t know me, but if you’re in Lincoln City at 3:15 on a weekday, you likely belong here.”
Anyway, we stopped for gas at the Shell station, and the harried fella who was running back and forth between cars and storm, taking a nice patch of frigid rain in-between times asked me, “So you think the hard stuff is gonna come down?”
I regarded the rain gusting sideways across the street and into my face, and said, “This isn’t the hard stuff?”
Now here’s the part where it gets dodgy. It’s easy to say in hindsight that our exchange bore the pearly tenor of prophecy, but I’m not just pulling drama out of my ass. There was… in his laugh particularly, a resonance. I felt something shift, and though it was probably, to some degree, the darkening sky, you hafto understand- the sky was ALREADY dark.
The very moment, the very nanosecond that I pulled slowly forward and out of the gas-station lot, the hard stuff began to fall with the vengeance of a cranky, hungry, Viking husband. Hailstones.
Not big, huge monster hail; tiny, staccato cruel hail. Little warrior hails that hit all over the road, the window, the world; and they hit hard. It was deafening in the car. We were stopped at an intersection, and my daughter who had been murmuring the numbers and words from nearby signs grew quiet. I felt the hair move around my shoulders like a waking mink.
In such situations you don’t think, exactly. I felt an instinctive need to evacuate, and pulled the car around the indecisive truck in front of us to make a right turn onto the road and get away from where we were.
We were no sooner on the road then FLASH!
It was not flash… 1, 2, 3 *Boooooom* (that cracking sound like the world breaking)
Listen, i know it’s hard to convey with words but it was- blinding-flash-and-BOOM!
Right on top of us.
Not even a blink’s pause.
I don’t know where the lightning came up from, it was blinding for a moment, everywhere at once, then not. I would hazard a guess that we were in the immediate circle of its atmospheric debut. Highest ground was hard to figure. I was tempted to look behind as we drove, to see if Rome was burning (or at least the Shell station), but I kept to that instinct to exit, and at the next flash-and-boom there was a one and a half seconds pause between the light and the crash.
I started to talk immediately, telling Sierra, “We’re okay, it’s fine, honey, we’re alright.”
The hair was standing up along my arms, and I felt the tiny electrical impulses inside my skin that indicate touch amplified where my hands gripped the steering wheel, where the back of my thighs touched the seat.
I glanced back and saw Sierra’s hair was raised in parts, just a little, like she was ever so slightly floating in the back-seat, instead of just sitting there.
We were… awake.
The mind goes, at these times, to the ‘What-ifs?’ What if we had gotten struck by lightning? In a car? What would it do? What if we were that astronomical number, that statistic that everything gets compared to.
“You know my dear, it’s more probable to be struck by lightning four times than to win the lucky power-ball jackpot.”
“Well guess what, genius… I’ve only got three times to go!”
Trouble is, I’m not sure lightning strike people generally survive it. What I’m wondering is could you turn into a comic book character that way? Is there the potential that it would change you (aside from in a charring black death kind of way?)
Does all that electricity amplify anything, or just screw-up the wiring?
I don’t know.
For our part, after experiencing the charge of a *near* lightning experience, we drove to the edge of town and shared a basket of chicken strips, played some games at the arcade and then drove home.
But I smiled at my daughter, getting out of the car to go face the more mundane aspects of possible power-outage and candlelit homework, and when she smiled back at me, all imp and mischief-
it was a little electric, for sure.