Many moons and hurricanes ago, when I was working for a small-town Virginia newspaper, I wrote an article about meteorologists and their lives. First, I talked to a faculty member at the University of Virginia (whose name I don’t recall), who regaled me with all kinds of irreverent stories. Exactly the kind of interviewee I always loved.
Then, I spoke to some big-time weather guy at one of the Washington, D.C. stations. He assured me, very solemnly, that he always wished for balmy, cloudless days in the 70s, with no rough weather and no community chaos.
Later, talking again to the UVA guy, I reported what the bigshot weather guy had said. The UVA guy was outraged.
“What does he mean — he likes calm, boring weather?” he screamed over the phone. “What a worthless fraud! Every meteorologist on earth lives for bad weather. Tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, blizzards, heat waves! We love the stuff!”
All of which is what I’ve been thinking about, watching the weather news about Hurricane Ike, which is bearing down on Texas’ Gulf Coast and may bring winds and flooding to Austin. The meteorologists on our local TV stations try to look properly somber and piously hopeful that this, too, will pass us by. But anybody with a double-digit IQ can tell they’re all wetting their pants with anticipation. Go! Ike! Bring us a bad one — one we’ll talk about for decades! Maybe this will do for me what Hurricane Carla did for Dan Rather!
My husband, who took an intro meteorology course when he was a freshman in college, fancies himself an expert on the whole thing and routinely criticizes the local weatherpeople. He screams about their “incompetent” arrows, whatever that means. I just watch, hoping for rain after this long, hot, dry summer that’s turned the grass brown and crispy and sparked nearby wildfires. Hoping Ike won’t turn out to be an impotent drip like that useless Edouard, who promised so much and barely brought us a sprinkle.
As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure there will be flooding in Austin. I know this — not because I took Weather 101 like my husband — but because I just bought flood insurance yesterday, even though my husband was shaking his head, telling me it was worthless. But I persevered and we have it now. Unfortunately, it won’t kick in for 30 days (I neglected to tell him this). To my mind, this just about guarantees we’re going to be doing the backstroke in our living room.
“Guess what!” my husband screamed, when he called me this afternoon. “We’re hosting three refugees from Galveston this weekend!”
Wow. Three refugees. A hurricane party, a sleepover, no flood insurance for 29 more days. The UVA guy was right: This is a lot more fun than some boring, balmy day.
(Copyright 2008 by Ruth Pennebaker)