We spent part of the weekend watching TV hurricane commentators struggling to find a puddle big enough to stand in and trying not to look to disappointed when the number of deaths and amount of devastation didn’t warrant all the hoopla. They furrowed their brows and waded deeper in the water and claimed to be “relieved” Hurricane Ike hadn’t been worse. Oh, sure.
Here in Austin, we were all pissed off because we’d been anticipating a deluge and a lot of excitement — so much so that the University of Texas actually called off a football game on Saturday. (You don’t call off football games in Texas. I lived in Abilene on November 22, 1963, and the big cross-town football grudge match was scheduled for that evening. After JFK was assassinated only 150 miles away, the city fathers got together and huddled. It took them a good 15 seconds to decide that “JFK would have wanted us to go ahead and play.” So, they did.)
“I can’t believe it. We didn’t get a drop of rain,” one of our neighbors grumbled yesterday, as she walked her dogs past our house. “Not a damned drop.”
So, we were all feeling a little bitter about the whole Ike experience and canceled football game. But now we’re better. My husband and I have finally scored a couple of hurricane refugees from Houston, so we’re now feeling involved and empowered. The refugees look pretty familiar, since they’re related to us (my husband’s brother and his wife). They came bearing wine and most of the contents of their power-free refrigerator. Also artificial sweeteners, since we can’t stand the stuff, and breakfast cereals, since they know we never eat breakfast. We value that kind of thoughtfulness in our refugees.
They also brought along their two mostly housebroken refugee dogs, Blue and Bitsy, who seem very traumatized by their storm experiences. At least that was the explanation given when they vomited in the car on the drive up here. The refugees told us about how awful it had been to live without air-conditioning and working toilets, and we told them how tough we had had it, too, with our bitter disappointment about not getting any rain at all — even though our local idiot meteorologists have just about promised us we’d get drenched.
Then our cat, Lefty, came inside. He clearly had very little idea about being a good host to the two refugee dogs. Lefty hissed and Blue and Bitsy growled and barked, and finally Lefty departed in a huff and hasn’t been seen since.
Then, to cheer up the refugees, we made them watch one of our favorite movies, The Big Lebowski, with us. Since my husband and I have seen the movie about 25 times, we were able to clue them in to some of our favorite lines like, “the rug just brought the room together” and “in the parlance of our times” and “the story is ludicrous.”
Then, after pulling together during this disaster and doing our part to help, we all went to bed. We were still disappointed with Hurricane Ike, but we managed to get to sleep. Even knowing we hadn’t gotten one damned drop of rain. I did mention that, didn’t I? Not one damned drop of rain.
(Copyright 2008 by Ruth Pennebaker)
I lived on the Outer Banks of North Carolina for 11 years and am more than familiar with the deplorable tactics of the media when it comes to disaster coverage. During one such instance – some hurricane whose name I have long forgotten – my father called to make sure I was OK because he saw a report on the Weather Channel that showed pouring rain on the Outer Banks. I had just returned from driving around to check out the storm surge and there was not a drop of rain falling. Yet when I watched the video, which had been shot only minutes before, the reporter appeared to be standing in driving rain. The video clip became the talk of the town, so to speak. Locals decided that this reporter must have found a spot where the wind drove the sea spray back at him or discovered a convenient hose.