A few weeks ago, I was alone at home with my three dogs when the weather abruptly began to change. I stepped outside and looked to the skies, unease skittering down my spine. A dark bank of clouds rapidly skirted across the sky, blocking out the sunlight and turning the late afternoon to a false twilight.
Wind rattled the trees and kicked up little whitecaps on the lake, and the air temperature noticeably dropped as the first raindrops hit the ground. Behind me, the dogs fussed and wined, dancing back and forth in front of the door.
I wasn’t quite worried yet—it is summer in North Carolina after all, and we know a thing or two about thunderstorms. I took a few minutes to hurriedly secure the furniture on the dock, to tuck away a few gardening tools, and to tip over the wheelbarrow so it didn’t turn into a birdbath. But as I brushed off my hands and started to head inside, a sound arose that stopped me in my tracks.
The tornado sirens.
I have lived in my neighborhood for eight years now, and I have never once heard those sirens outside of the once a year scheduled drill. Now, as they wailed into the growing darkness, dread pooled in my stomach and I raced to the house. There, I grabbed my computer, my purse, and a lantern and herded the dogs into the basement.
The reality of the moment hit me as I watched the unsettled skies churn through the basement windows. What if this really did happen? Did I have everything I needed? No—I needed a few more things. I was dressed in a tattered denim dress from high school that only came out when the doors were locked and there was no threat of company. It was sleeveless and short—was this what I wanted to be stuck wearing if everything else was destroyed? And my flip flops would be treacherous if I had to navigate a debris field.
After another look at the skies and a moment of listening for anything unusual, I sprinted back up the stairs. Once in my closet, I snagged my tennis shoes, a pair of jeans, and a sturdy t-shirt. I started to leave when I thought about the possibility of being wet and cold if anything went drastically wrong. So I grabbed a hoodie. But right next to it was a pretty, lightweight gold cardigan that may be a comfort if I had nothing else. And the sleeveless navy and white polka-dot top that goes with it was hanging nearby, so I snagged that too. Oh, and yoga pants were a must—I couldn’t sleep in jeans, if worse came to worse! With the sirens still ringing the alarm and with my arms now laden with appropriate clothing, I grabbed my favorite coral flats (they don’t sell them anymore!) and dashed back down the stairs.
When I hit the main floor, it occurred to me that I didn’t want to be without food in the event of an emergency. Bundling the clothes and shoes in a big ball in one arm, I quickly added bread, peanut butter and jelly, and the new box of This Bar Saves Lives granola bars to the stash. Oh, but there wasn’t any water in the basement! A water bottle got tucked beneath my chin.
As I lumbered toward the basement doors, struggling not to drop anything, I spotted my photo album from childhood, filled with all the irreplaceable Kodak moments of yesteryear. Biting my lip as I peered out the living room windows at the angry heavens, I shifted my armload of stuff until I could grasp the album between my elbow and ribs.
As I struggled down the stairs with the things I would need to start a new life, a certain scene from a certain Steve Martin movie suddenly came to mind. And then it hit me: Oh God—I was The Jerk!
"Well I'm gonna to go then! And I don't need any of this. I don't need this stuff, and I don't need *you*. I don't need anything. Except this. [picks up an ashtray] That's the only thing I need is *this*. I don't need this or this. Just this ashtray... And this paddle game. - The ashtray and the paddle game and that's all I need... And this remote control. - The ashtray, the paddle game, and the remote control, and that's all I need... And these matches. - The ashtray, and these matches, and the remote control, and the paddle ball... And this lamp. - The ashtray, this paddle game, and the remote control, and the lamp, and that's all *I* need. And that's *all* I need too. I don't need one other thing, not one... I need this. - The paddle game and the chair, and the remote control, and the matches for sure. Well what are you looking at? What do you think I'm some kind of a jerk or something! - And this. That's all I need.[walking outside]The ashtray, the remote control, the paddle game, and this magazine, and the chair. And I don't need one other thing, except my dog.[dog growls at him]I don't need my dog."
So yeah – I totally failed the emergency response drill. Thank goodness all ended up being well, though a tornado was spotted 5 miles north of me. In the future, I’ll remember that all I need is my healthy self and the dogs. And my computer. And those coral flats.
SO what would YOU grab if your house were about to be destroyed? And be honest – I can’t be the only one who wanted a PB&J!