It happened again yesterday for only the second time; I had to cancel a presentation due to illness. I had two presentations planned in the Springfield vicinity and I drove down yesterday morning and during my first presentation my voice started to falter and it was obvious the second presentation, had I given it, would have been rather quiet. This sucked! I know being a writer I should use a more eloquent term than that, but I was angry that my body had let me down a second time within a month. However, this set into motion one of the scariest drives I’ve ever had in my life.
As I neared Marshfield I called my sister and within minutes of talking to her it began to rain. This was odd because there was nothing on the radar when I left Springfield. What became odder was the intensity of the rain and it was raining so hard the noise made it impossible for me to continue my conversation so I hung up and drove on.
About a minute after hanging up the rain, somehow, came down harder. The term, “blinding rain” did not give this storm justice. I slowed, but stayed in the fast lane as the right shoulder had many cars stopped on it and I could just make out a semi truck’s tail lights about four feet in front of me and to my right. I tried to shake it from my mind, but the level of danger in this situation was great and my brain started debating.
Stop, Aaron, you need to stop!
I thought about stopping but two things stopped me from stopping. The first was that the slow lane had many cars in it and I couldn’t safely merge due to being blinded. Secondly, I have always feared stopping on the Interstates. Ask my dad, when I was really young and we had to stop I remember screaming. Maybe it’s because it’s against the rules, or routine, but also, had I stopped, I risked being smoked by a car or semi that was at speed and there wasn’t enough room on the left shoulder as the cable barrier was very close.
Keep going then, Aaron, but do so safely.
Thanks, brain, I knew that, but I ventured onward for another mile or so and time was now being felt as if everything were in slow motion. Perhaps it was because I was now doing about 10mph, but there was this sense of fear that at any point in time there’d be a road blocking crash, or people that had foolishly stopped in the flow of traffic. As I had these thoughts the road curved to the right and that’s when I saw it.
Go! Go! Go! This isn’t safe, go, go, full speed go!
I thought I was about to die. The rain which had been pouring straight down was now going horizontal. The pressure had changed and the trees on the side of the road were stretched to the max and that’s what I noticed that put me into this panic; there was a tree tumbling about 16 feet above me end over end. I can’t say if this were a tornado, but from the change in winds, to the rains, to the debris that I saw overhead I wasn’t going to wait around to find out and with the change in direction of the rains I now had some visibility so my foot went to the floor.
I had to put in a lot of countersteer to keep my car going straight as the winds wanted to push my car into the cables. My speed was racing and so was my heart as I was sure this was it. A rush to judgement? Perhaps, but after a close call with a tornado whilst parked under an overpass in 1999 I told myself I’d never put myself in this situation again. My eyes were focused on the road but my brain was thinking about what my last conversation I’d have was, and all the things I wish I had said but had been unable. These thoughts continued on and then I rounded a corner…
It’s clear… Wait, clear, that fast?
It was that fast. Around a corner and sunny! I called my dad to tell him and a few minutes into the conversation I looked into my mirror and that was no sign that there had even been a storm. My dad kept an eye on the radar and that storm had just popped up essentially in place and 15 minutes later it was gone. Unless you were at that spot at that time there’s no way for you to know how bad it got so quickly, and there were no watches or warnings with it so I can’t say it was a tornado or if it were just straight line winds. And really, it doesn’t matter because the result to myself was the same. I was scared, out of breath, and I shook the entire way home. I questioned everything; am I doing what I need to be doing in life? Am I doing it enough? What is happiness? I thought of the past three months and all the life changing events, and when I got home I was out of it and had nothing left.
Breathe, just breathe.
Last night wasn’t a long one, I was asleep by 8:30 but the time I was awake was filled with the fastest thoughts I’ve had in a long while. It’s one thing to know you’re driving into a storm if there’s watches or warnings, but it’s another thing all together to drive into a pop-up storm that carried that much pop and that’s what shook me; this notion that all is well and it can turn into something so bad so quickly. I do my best to keep my life in a stasis of sorts because change is bad. I try not to think about the change that could happen and to be reminded of it in the grandest of ways, well, yesterday’s storm I drove through, while only existing for 15 minutes, will live with me a long, long time if not forever.