"driving around in a lightning storm"



Relaxing in a beach chair, a faint grumbling can be heard in the background.  Oh my gosh, Lakeland has been nuked.  Yeah!  But unfortunately, no, that is not the case.  No one or no place has been nuked.  Contrary to many out-of-towners' side conversations, as I have overheard many Canadians on their beach towels mutter in disbelief, everything is okay.  I myself can easily understand the misgivings of our northern friends. For, I too notice the grand, apocalyptic looking wonder, slowly crawling westward.  The blacker than black skyline is well defined, stretching endlessly from Georgia to Cuba.

An eerie calmness goes through me as the barometer slowly starts to drop.  The rumbling in the far off now turns into more distinct bangs and booms and for some reason everything around me has become more surreal. The cries of the seagulls have stopped in time.  Everything and everybody seems like it is portrayed in Technicolor. Wow! I have never seen the sky above me, so vividly blue before in my life.  All of these reactions may be due to my heightened state of awareness.

My feelings of impending doom and anxiety start to lead me away from this flat, lightning prone beach, to a better place for security, my car.  To the untrained eye, my blue bomber, a 1975, 2002, faded blue BMW, admittingly, does not look like much of a place of refuge.  However, it is well equipped to handle any jolt from above.  That is, it is well grounded, unless, of course, I have any dangling wires coming from the belly of my vehicle.   However, if any loose-wires were contacting the ground, lightning could then probably strike me down and I would become tomorrow's news headline.  I can see it now "Local Boy Put Out of His Misery."  As the bones in my knees and back crack, double checking my car's under-carriage, I notice that all of the wires and any other loose viceroys are intact.  Opening my car door, a sudden flash of heat hits me, built up from my own little greenhouse.  No time to let the inners of my car cool off.  I am thinking, "One lightning bolt and the next thing I would know is that I could be playing cards with Plato or I could become Hitler's little house boy."  Yes I could die at any moment.  Lightning is nothing to wave a stick at.  But now, my engine and the engine of other 4-door hardtops, convertibles, RVs, and motorcycles sound, as the dark sky slowly engulfs the Technicolor, cornflower sky.  The cannons are getting louder.  A traffic jam quickly ensues the beach coastal highway of Clearwater Beach as everyone jolts for route 60.  As I leave, I notice a few sleuths just lollygaging around.  Do they not know that lightning can kill.

            Trekking through Clearwater, I see other vehicles coming from the opposite direction: from the blue skies that are no more, from a pissed off sun god throwing a tantrum.  Most of them have their car lights on, reminding me to do the same.  I also notice some newly waxed, newly painted, or just new autos carrying around fully formed water droplets, as opposed to the water droplets that would bleed off of an oxidizing, needs a MAACO paint job now, car like mine.  The sky now is becoming darker and the sound of the cannons are getting louder as I gage my immediate surroundings.  I must remain vigilant during my drive for many things,( including low, fast-flying clouds in one direction )can meet up with low, fast-flying clouds in the other direction, to form twisters.  These twisters can twist you and your car into something never imagined before, never wanting to be imagined.  Some steam rises from the hot roadways as well as from the roof of my car as monster water droplets start to fall from the unholy, darkness above.

            As the rain now trounces the pavement, the smell of hot smoldering pavement, mixed with the oil and gas etched into the pavement reaches my nose. The air is filled with swishing sounds of tires pushing water to the side.  My Goodyear, Tiger-Paw Tires, are inflated to factory standards to ease my concern of hydroplaning.  However, applying too much pressure to my brakes could still be hazardous to my health.  My wipers, set on high, and the defroster, set on melt, are faintly heard over the shalaka-boom, shalaka-boom baby, and crackling of the lightning happening around me and only ten feet from me.  Mixed in with the deafening thunder is the torrential downpour. From inside my car, the sounds of many tiny thumps, bumps, and thuds are barraging my metallic casing from above. My windows are rolled up tight so that the most clever of water drops will not get in. Trying to see anything outside my windows is like trying to look outside of one of those stained glass windows. In my rearview mirror, I can barely see the horizon to the west, as it starts to get swallowed up by the darkest of all gray matter.  Using Rain-X in these situations is almost a "god-send", for it holds magical rain-repellant properties. Headlights and breaking taillights, in these dangerous driving conditions, are a little too close to one another since visibility is close to zero.  A few cars have pulled off to the side of the road.  Other people are driving twenty miles per hour in the right lane and fifty miles per hour in the passing lane.  I remember that a rather high deviance of speed, mixed with the severity of any summer afternoon storm, can cause a higher proportion of accidents.  So I slow slightly, avoiding an anonymous Joe's, slower than my dad's driving, grand parents from Canada, while simultaneously avoiding an anonymous Al's, I have only two speeds(  fast and faster ), black, dingy, Ford pick-up truck. 

During these life threatening, lightning storms, I have noticed one may flip off another driver or lay on the horn for ten or fifteen seconds longer than need be.  So, at these moments, before I put my urges into actions, I would like to search out for anything that may distract me from the chaos outside.  One idea includes searching for a good tune, like anything from "Guns n Roses," as I blindly reach for the radio control knobs.  Another thought is to break out my emergency cigarette, which will help to ease myself in this, nobody is going anywhere, fast, traffic.  Yet another idea, is to ease off the side of the road, like a few others, but instead of idly waiting for the downpour to ease up, I might go through a drive through and grab a BigMac or two at the nearest McDonald's restaurant.  Now, some may think, that a fast food junkie, like myself, will die anyway from the fine food served at these fine, national establishments.  Fine!  I would rather die with a Big Mac smile on my face then to be splintered in half like an unsuspecting oak tree.

I can take some relief knowing these storms leave as quickly as they come.  As the storm disappears, I can still hear the swishing of tires.  The sound of the defrost motor has taken over the pounding sound coming from the roof of my car.  Quite a few sirens fill the air.  Some side street flooding is always known to occur, however, some bad drainage areas may prolong this nuisance.  In either case and in less than an hour, the hot, hot sun will evaporate most of the water not taken by the city's drains.  However, the evaporation will just add to the already humid conditions.   Cars, from waiting out the storm on the side of the highway, have begun to file back into the traffic.  Continuing my drive home, I see the sunny skies in the east and through my rear view mirror, the billowing of black clouds in the west.  However, these casual observations are only trivial details compared to my thoughts of escaping death.

I feel fortunate, not because I remained dry throughout this ordeal, but because I am still alive.  I am alive!  Along with the feeling of abounding joy, comes a sense of anxiety, since I know, in these summer times, thunderstorms are a re-occurring theme and I will try to cheat fate one more time.  So, thank goodness I can always count on my blue, German bomber to get me through these trying times.