Sunday, December 14, 2014

Not-So-Perfect Storm

I waited for the water to rise. I listened for the wind. I battened down the hatches and brought the livestock in from the north forty. This was Stormageddon, after all. A gully-washer of epic proportions. Eventually, we all assumed, George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg would be called upon to depict the true heroes of this disaster: TV reporters sent out into the mess to get video of the rain that was coming down across the Bay Area.
I was safe inside my home, looking out on the streets of Oakland, strewn with debris, not as a result of the storm but rather because of the fifth straight night of protests. The wind and the rain had more of a cleansing effect. It was a relief. So was the day off work. I have worked for the Oakland Unified School District for more than seventeen years, and have never once experienced a "snow day." I went to school on September 11, 2001. I rode my bike, just like most every other day since I started. I rode my bike on dark and cold and windy mornings for all those years, until this one. The powers that be in the administrative offices downtown took their cue from the National Weather Service and a number of other adjacent districts and decided to close the schools in anticipation of what was anticipated to be the worst storm in nearly a decade. Since I have been employed by the district for nearly two decades, I couldn't find it in me to get that worked up about it. Before the recent drought, we have all endured a number of days of steady rain and though street flooding and a number of umbrellas have been wrecked as a result, but since kids have been making it to classes before, during and after earthquakes, fires and yes, even rainstorms, who would have guessed that a week before Christmas break we would all get an extra day off?
I would not have guessed that. I grew up in Colorado, and spent a couple of hours after the initial announcement of the closure announcement crabbing like the old man that I am about how when I was a boy we used to walk to school through drifts of snow in minus twenty degree temperatures and still go outside for recess. That was the excruciating part: getting all bundled up in boots, hats, mittens and scarves in just about the time it takes to go outside and hear the bell, just to turn around and go back inside to hang it all up again in the cloak room. I do remember a few extreme cases when school was called on account of blizzards in those days. My brothers and I would crowd around the radio, listening to the listings of school districts that were closed, cursing all those who came before us until the cheer went up because at last we were told that Boulder Valley schools would be closed as well. Which meant that we ran to our boots, hats, mittens and scarves to get dressed to go outside to play in the snow.
And that was essentially what I did on the morning that Oakland schools were closed: I watched a little of the forecast on TV, caught up on a few episodes of "Parks and Recreation" with my wife, who complained bitterly that the rain was so loud that we had to turn the television up. When that was done, I put on my running shoes and my rain jacket and went outside. I got wet. I want to thank my bosses for that opportunity.

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