I was getting ready for work last weekend when the tornado sirens started. I’d heard sirens before, but I couldn’t remember hearing the robo-announcement to seek immediate shelter in the lowest level of the building.
“Well,” I thought, “That sounds serious.”
When I lived in California, there was an earthquake. It wasn’t a very big earthquake, but it lasted a long time and damaged a couple of buildings. I’d never been in one before, so when it ended I ran (more like monkey-wobbled, I was pretty shaken up) down the hall to my boss’ office.
“Was that a fucking earthquake???” I yelled.
Everyone in the office seemed to think it was no big deal, but it scared the shit out of me. It’s one thing to practice earthquake drills in school, but it’s another story when all your files are spilling out onto the floor and you realize that all the doorways are made of shitty drywall and will probably collapse just as quickly as your shitty IKEA desk.
(Note: This was in 2002, and IKEA has gotten much better since then. I ❤ you, IKEA.)
“Don’t you have tornadoes where you come from?” a coworker asked.
“Not really, but if we do there are warnings.”
Only I’d never heard the “immediate shelter” warning, so as I dashed around the house turning off appliances and thinking about how many windows should be cracked so as to alleviate atmospheric pressure, my hands were shaking. I scooped a cat under each arm and dragged them 2 floors down into the basement. The Cat, who loves attention but dislikes being held, pushed at me with his Hulkamaniac arms until I was hanging onto him by his fat head and not much else.
“Knock it off, shithead,” I said, “I could be saving your life!”
I dropped the cats in the basement and sprinted back upstairs to grab…fuck, I don’t know. I just took a quick look around and decided that I needed my laptop, my camera, my phone, and my glasses. Thinking back, I probably should have grabbed my purse because my wallet and iPod were in there. Also some sneakers since all I was wearing were flip flops. But I was only thinking about what cost me the most, and a pre-adolescent obsession with reading Night of the Twisters caused me to panic.
By the time I got back to the basement, I realized what I was doing. I hadn’t yet gotten my laundry, so I was wearing pajama pants and a tank top (it was 5pm). My hair hadn’t been straightened, so it was doing that “I’m a scarecrow with a white girl fro” thing it hasn’t done for long stretches of time since the 6th grade. And I was sitting on the floor of a mildewy basement with nerd things and my cats.
I was being a failure. At. Life. Pretty much the only thing I could congratulate myself on was that if a tornado did rip the house of its foundation, at least I’d had the foresight to put on a bra.