The 5:00AM emergency alert was not a welcome sound this morning. I was aware that a storm was brewing. I could see the lightning flashes dart across my closed eyelids, hear the distant rumble of bowling angels and the soft tippity taps of raindrops on the sky light. I have always rather enjoyed thunderstorms and in the snuggly comfort of my bed with the harshness of reality held at bay by the closed door of my conscience, this storm was particularly pleasing. But then a significantly brighter flash of light followed by a much louder, closer clap of thunder startled me awake and left me feeling discombobulated with a twinge of fright jolting up my spine.
And then my iPhone started screaming at me with an emergency alert. Tornado warning in this area. Take shelter now. Check local media.
I continued to sit on the edge of the bed, trying to breathe and calm my nerves. The rain started picking up but there was no wind and the thunder still seemed pretty far off. I decided to lie back down and try to go back to sleep. But my brain would not turn off. I thought about how to wake Shelby and gently convince him to sleep in the tub downstairs for the next 30 minutes or so. I watched the lightning through the newly hung curtains. I stroked the cat which was clutching my leg as if she knew something was brewing and did not want to be separated at any cost. I have little puncture wounds in my thigh.
I got out of bed and paced around the window for a while. I feared I was being overly dramatic but still couldn’t convince my imagination to simmer so I took my pacing to the much larger window downstairs. Admittedly not the ideal location for sheltering from a storm, but given that the bathroom was 15 feet away at most, I rationalized that it would be fine. And then I felt guilty for thinking of how to protect myself if I saw the funnel coming rather than how to be with and protect my peacefully slumbering family upstairs.
Seeing nothing in the sky but the hint of daybreak and a few streaks of lightning, I gave the whole going back to sleep thing another shot. I snuggled in and grabbed my phone just to check the time really quickly. It had only been 15 minutes. I still had so much time before the warning was lifted. That was all I needed to start the mild panic once again. Was that daybreak? Or was that the green tinge I’ve always heard is the precursor to a tornado? Isn’t it supposed to sound like a train when it gets close? Is that the sound of a train? Or is that the fan? What about the curtains, are they moving because of the wind through the open window? Or is that also the fan?
The rain was really heavy now. And just then, the screen door fell over in the backyard with a loud clang. Images from the Wizard of Oz started flooding through. This is when I decided to check the weather online, my local media. Biggest mistake of the night. I was directed to pictures of destroyed houses, headlines of multiple deaths, abandoned animals that survived what their owners could not. The rain started subsiding, the wind started picking up, and the thunder went from loud claps nearly simultaneous with the lightning to several seconds off (if thunder ever rumbled at all) back to dangerously close to the bright flashes with no rhyme or reason, the rain picked up again. I surmised that my tiny house was on the very edge of the tornado and that within minutes it would tear through my neighborhood. I laid quietly but tense in every muscle. I stroked the Huz’s back and the cat’s belly, whispered my “I love you”s and then “I’m just a little scared”. And then, after what felt like an eternity, I looked at the clock. The time frame for the Tornado Warning had passed. Fear poured out of me, fatigue set in, and I let the purring cat, the pitter patter of rain on the sky light, and the echo of the fan all around me lull me back to sleep.
There are times when the iPhone is a handy thing. It’s nice to get a text message with an address and be able to click that address and immediately get driving directions to that location. It’s nice to be able to include my whole family in group messaging and riff off each other as if we were all in the same room. It’s nice to have something to play when you’re bored or something to take videos with. But there are large portions of time when I regret ever making the upgrade. Is it really better that Shelby and I can sit next to each other on the couch and never say a word to each other each night? That we spend hours absorbed in Words with Friends, Tetris, Simpsons Tapped Out and a variety of other games which we play against each other, but hardly look away from? Having an iAlert and weather updates at the swipe of my finger didn’t change the path of the storm, didn’t provide helpful information on the path of the storm, didn’t change my husband’s approach to the storm, and did nothing but rob me of an hour of peace and sleep. I would have been happier not knowing.