So, some nutcase got a bright idea and called the University of Texas at Austin last week to say he’d planted several bombs on campus. The university evaluated the threat, then sent out thousands of texts to tell faculty, staff and students to evacuate.
“Listen to this,” my husband said, reciting a text that ordered everyone off the campus and to get “as far away as possible.” He’d been working at home and was about to leave for his office at UT.
Wasn’t that fortunate, I thought naively, that he wasn’t even there yet? At that presumably dangerous place?
Then I started hearing the kind of racket my husband routinely makes when he’s about to depart. You know, papers rustling, items being dropped, swearing at higher rates.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
He looked at me as if I were a large, lamentably slow-witted child. “I’m going in, of course,” he said. “I don’t want to miss this. I study traumas.”
Oh, yes, of course, how could I have been so dense?! After all, this is the guy who:
* combed through the ash-strewn landscapes around Mount St. Helens after the volcano blew its top;
* still regrets and whines about how our family left Northern California only a few weeks before the big 1989 earthquake and missed the whole damned crisis;
* was recruited by the Discovery Channel to witness and comment on a building implosion in downtown Dallas (the Discovery Channel, presumably so tickled to find a pyromaniac with a Ph.D, also allowed our two kids to come along. The three of them could be seen, covered with dust and grime, in countless reruns for several years until September 11, 2001, when building implosions took on a more sinister effect);
* is happy when we’re on a flight that’s rough. “I like turbulence,” he explained to me once, when our plane plummeted alarmingly and I turned chartreuse. “Isn’t this fun?”;
* and once got tracked down by our local fire department after I had written a newspaper column one of my friends referred to as “a cry for help” about his and other neighborhood husbands’ homemade fireworks that sent some shrapnel through a neighbor’s window. Every year after that, a police cruiser would circle our house on the Fourth of July.
So, he took the bus to the UT campus, and I went to the building gym. Bulletins were flashing on CNN about the bomb threats and evacuation. Everybody I ran into asked where my husband was. I told them he’d headed to the potential disaster site, since he studied disasters.
“It’s like being married to a first responder,” I explained.
Later that afternoon, my husband told me he’d hung around the edges of the evacuated crowd for a while, taking notes about the formations of groups. Then, he got bored. So, he sneaked into his office, where everyone had been sent home.
“I got more work done than I have in ages,” he said placidly. “There was nobody around to bother me.”
The bomb-calling nutcase still hasn’t been found. It’s quiet at our place. Too quiet for one of us, just right for the other.
(Copyright 2012 by Ruth Pennebaker)