I think we can all agree that the most tragic instance in any natural disaster is being caught with nothing decent to wear.
Dressed for success. My chosen nighttime attire leans toward freebie T-shirts advertising beer or quickie lubes paired fetchingly with my husband’s cast-off sweat pants. J.Lo, eat your heart out.
Yet, as the deluge of storms seemed bent on washing our region from the planet earlier this week, I bolted upright in bed with one thought foremost in my panicky mind. I cannot die in this outfit!
As gale force winds hurled trees at the house and lighting blasted from the heavens, it was all too clear that something had to change. Namely, me.
Clearly, I don’t want to end up on the evening news wandering the rubble in a T-shirt that advertises a brewery.
Scurrying about sans electricity, stopping only to scream like a ninny and cower in fear when another limb came crashing down, I had to remember the first rules in any emergency: Remain calm and avoid hasty decisions.
Better to wear something touting my selfless participation (or, OK, that of the friend who gave me the shirt) in the Relay for Life, or a charitable miracle walk.
Aiming to be the philanthropic soul that rescue crews could feel good about pulling from the ruins. I’ll be darned if they’ll catch me strapped to a backboard wearing something tacky!
Be prepared. Properly attired I could turn my mind to other issues. Namely, how I could have married the only former Boy Scout in America for whom “be prepared” means nothing?
We own something like seven flashlights. Not one of them operable.
Our weather radio lacked back-up batteries, and the basement door was blocked by a pile of picnic coolers we’d neglected to put away.
So Mr. Eagle Scout can fashion a hut from twigs but can’t be bothered to leave a couple of D-cells for the flashlight? Some survivalists we’d make. Huddling around our apple-pie scented tea light candle for warmth.
To whom do I write to rescind this man’s badges?
I doubt I’m unique in inane thoughts at inopportune moments. Who among us has not thought, in the face of dread and danger, “Well, thank goodness I didn’t waste my afternoon at that teeth cleaning.” Or, “If I’d known this was to be my last day, I would’ve touched up my roots.”
A friend who is among the most meticulous people ever recently faced her own personal frontier when a particularly vicious storm caught her inside a restaurant. As the manager assured them that should the tornado touch down, the patrons would be herded into the bathroom for safety, she realized that even her very survival had limits.
As she puts it, “I have no intention of spending my last moments on earth huddled next to a public toilet.”
Choosing instead to meet her maker (if it came to that) with her head held high, and in a wall-mounted-hygiene-products-dispenser-free zone.
Uncommon sense. Of course, having a complete lack of common sense is an immeasurable help in coping with disaster.
I spent a considerable amount of time huddled on our front porch with my cellular phone trying to reach the utility and telephone companies. All the while giving not a thought to how unwise it is to stand outside in a storm with a telephone in your hand.
If only I had a golf club in the other hand to wave around. It turns out that I am the person those disaster programs warn you about.
Never mind how the power company failed to understand the dire straits I was in. I had a jumbo box of superhero popsicles in the freezer melting even as we spoke!
If we have learned only one thing from our recent experiences in family disaster planning, it is that a plan is a mighty nice thing to have. Failing to plan, as the old saw goes, is planning to fail.
And while I don’t know if it is true that life is what happens while you are making (or not making) other plans, I do know that standing around in your underwear is.
(Kymberly Foster Seabolt has a lovely Red Cross tee on hand for her next emergency. She welcomes comments c/o firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460.)