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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Earthquakes and Hurricanes

I was at my local grocery store at 8 AM this morning, standing in front of four empty shelves where bottled water was usually stacked.

I kept thinking to myself, "Who would buy this much water? And, why?" And then I giggled as I thought, "Well, I'm sure the milk shelves are also empty."

It made me giggle because the same people who buy up all the water in anticipation of losing electricity are also buying milk and won't have the refrigeration to store it.

It. Makes. No. Sense.

Then again, people who eat the bread of anxiety as part of their daily diet tend not to bother much with logic or common sense.

Just as I was thinking that, since our wee cottage is right on the water, we'll probably have to evacuate anyway and my money would be better spent on making a motel reservation at the 'Sea Esta' for $45 a night (and, they take dogs), two of Lower Slower Delaware's finest came pushing their carts up the aisle.

They gasped as they looked at the unseemly sight of bare naked shelves. One woman, who was dressed in shorts and sporting a T-shirt that said, "Buzzy's Auto Repair and Hauling," slapped the handle of her grocery cart, turned to her friend and said, "See? Didn't I tell you? But, no, you had to finish that pot of coffee."

The other, her hair in the tight rollers - the kind that look like left overs from home permanent kits - said, "Oh, hush! They were probably out since last night. The boys in the stock room probably haven't stocked them yet this morning. We're not late. We're too early."

The lady in the tight hair rollers turned to me and said, "See, we're just too early, hon."

I said, "Well, it's always good to be prepared." Or, something innocuous like that as I tried to slip quietly away and get out to the Sea Esta to reserve a room.

I wasn't quite fast enough.

"You know what this is?" she said as she moved her cart in my path.

"Oh, Lord," I said silently to myself. It's eight o'clock in the morning. Spare me. But, my momma raised me up right so I smiled and said "Climate change?"

"Huh!" she said, "You believe that? Smart girl like you? That's just something the 'Lame Stream Media' wants us to believe."

"Oh, God," I thought to myself. "Here we go."

The Goldbergs
She shifted her ample frame and leaned on the handle of her shopping cart like Molly Goldberg used to lean over the window frame of her apartment on 1038 East Tremont Avenue in the Bronx to talk with her neighbors.

"God," she said, with great authority, "is always trying to tell us something through Mother Nature."

Her friend in the T-shirt nodded seriously as she winked at me to pay attention.

"In fact, I heard someone say - maybe it was Rush - you know, Rush Limbaugh. Do you listen to him? Oh, you should. The man is a prophet. Anyway, I think it was Rush - no, wait a minute, it was Pat Robertson - another prophet, God bless him! - who said that Nature is God's language."

The lady in the T-shirt closed her eyes and nodded as if to say, "Amen".

"That's an interesting thought," I said, as politely as I knew how, but secretly - and, admittedly, uncharitably - I was thinking, "These ladies put a capitol 'S' in the 'slower' part of LSD."

My outward politeness only seemed to encourage her. "Well," she said, "And, didn't we have an earthquake on Tuesday? First time in over 200 years. 5.9 they said. FIVE POINT NINE! My whole house just shook, didn't it?" she verified with her friend who again, solemnly nodded.

"You and your family okay, hon?" she asked with appropriate gravity and concern.

"Oh, me? Oh, yes, yes, yes. We're all fine," I said but I had been secretly counting how many six packs of flavored water one could stack on a grocery store shelf.

"FIVE POINT NINE!" she repeated as she shook her head in disbelief.

"Now, you think about that for a minute. Just think. This is what? August 25, right? What is going to happen a little over five months from now?"

"Um. . . . Christmas? No, that's four months away. Oh, my goodness. Really? Only four months?"

She shook her head sadly, glanced over to her friend, and smiled a sly little grin as if to say, "Oh, this one can't even do math."

"Look, August - that's one. September - that's two. October - that's three. November - that's four. December - that's five. And, what comes right after that?"

"Ummm . . . the New Year?"

"Good," she said as if talking to a very stupid six year old.

"And, what does the New Year bring?" she asked, her eyebrow raised in a crooked question mark.

My mind drew a blank. I had absolutely no clue where she was going with this, but something in the back of my mind kept screaming, "It's 'Teh Gay'! It's gotta have something to do with 'Teh Gay".

I didn't want to go there so I ventured a guess, "An election year?"

"Well, yes," she said, "I'll give you partial credit for that answer," she smiled at her friend. "But God wouldn't send an earthquake and now a hurricane about that. No, no, no ma'am".

She shifted her weight again, leaned over her cart and whispered loudly, "Civil Unions."

I almost broke out in a dance and sang, "I knew it. I knew it. I knew it WAS 'Teh Gay'!"

Almost, but not quite. Instead, I just worked very hard to keep from giggling.

"This... THIS... is God's warning," she pronounced with gravity and authority. FIVE POINT NINE followed by a hurricane on 8/26/11. EIGHT TWENTY-SIX ELEVEN.  Now, THAT's God talking."

"Umm . . . Okay, so I think I understand your meaning about the 5.9, but .... um.... I'm sorry, Ma'am, but.... I'm not getting the eight twenty-six eleven."

She rolled her eyes. Clearly, I was the dumbest person she had ever met. "That's when the hurricane is supposed to hit. See?"

"Ohhhhhh," I said. Right. I stood, nodding my head like I really understood what she was trying to say but I still didn't have a clue.

She seemed to sense this so, wanting to spare me any further embarrassment, she continued her lesson in Gawd-Talk: "So, do the math. 8+26+11 (stay with me now) +5 (That's the number of letters in Irene) = 50. Right?" she said to her friend in the T-shirt, who nodded in agreement.

"I was born in 1950 - the midpoint of the century - and everything changed in 1950, didn't it?"

"I suppose it did," I said, thinking of all the Molly Golberg and Father Knows Best and The Donna Reed Shows I used to watch on reruns on my parent's black and white Motorola television.

"Well," she said, "That's what I mean. It's all gone to hell in a hand basket since then. You just have to do the math that Nature gives you to know what's really going on."

At this point, I feel compelled to say this: "I am not making this up."

"But, what about the 5.9 earthquake?" I asked. "Doesn't that change the math a bit?" I was only trying to give her philosophy some credibility, which only revealed my real stupidity.

She stiffened her body and said, "You paying attention?" she said, angrily. "It's 5.9 months until the Civil Unions take effect in Delaware!"

"Right, right, right!" I said with enough seriousness in my voice as to convince her of her wisdom, realizing that I - only I - was embarrassed.

Apparently, it worked because she seemed quite satisfied with herself.

"Well," I cleared my voice and said, "Look at that! It's 8:26. Already! 8:26! Ha, ha, ha. Now that's something isn't it?"

"No coincidences," the lady in the T-shirt said, "Isn't that what you always say?"

"Yup," said she, "There are no coincidences. It's all according to God's plan."

I nodded and said, "I think I'm going to be okay with the half of case of water I have in my pantry. So, maybe I'll do some of my other chores and let you ladies get on with your day."

"Oh," she said, with noticeable disappointment, "Oh, right. We can't be sitting around waiting for those boys in the stock room. They're all so lazy, you know. 'That kind' always have been. Always will be."

At that point, I had reached the highest level of polite tolerance and, just as I felt my head about to explode -  lo and behold! - how good it was to see a few skinny white boys with stringy blond hair pushing a large dolly filled with packages of bottled water up the aisle.

"Ah," said the lady in the T-shirt, with a firm grasp on the obvious, "Here they are."

In the commotion that ensued, making room for the stock boys to do their work, I said my good-byes and thank yous and nice-meeting-yous and slipped around the corner to the next aisle, sped down it like a house-a-fire, then a quick trip up the next aisle  - praying earnestly with every step, "Help me, Jesus" - and then did a steady trot out the door into the parking lot.

Now, I am quick to add here that this is not the first time I've heard this kind of . . .um. . . theology. My mother and grandmother and aunts all talked this way. They were always looking for "signs and wonders" as a simple explanation for life's complexities.

If a baby was born with lots of hair, that became the reason the mother had such bad heartburn during pregnancy. If the baby was born with a birthmark on it's face or neck or hands, it must have been because the mother was scared by a spider. If my grandmother felt a sudden chill, she would always say, "Someone just walked over my grave," as she pulled her woolen shawl around her shoulders.

I get it. No, I don't actually, but I understand the impulse to see things happening in the environment and try to explain it as part of "God's plan" or as evidence of punishment for sin. Actually, there is evidence throughout Hebrew Scripture and the gospels to support such theology.

Even Jesus talked about the turning of the leaves of the fig tree as a sign of the beginning of summer, and yet, he said, "But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come." (Mark 13:32-34)

I've never been convinced of "God's plan for your life" - as if, all I or anyone had to do is to find the right drawer with your name on the right folder in that Great File Cabinet in the Sky, take it out, read it, and all will be right with your life.

I think God is way too busy for that and the angels are having so much fun teaching everyone how to dance that they don't have time for menial office tasks. Besides, I think God wants us to get on with the living of our lives and not get all tied up worrying about what may be in that non-existent file folder.

So, here's my philosophy: I think it's good to have a Plan B, but live Plan A for as long and with as much love and enthusiasm you can and then, when you can't switch to Plan B and do the same thing.

Or, in the words of my sainted grandmother: "Plan for the worst but pray for the best". That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

If you are in Irene's path and want to rush out and buy toilet paper, bread, milk and water, then I say, have at it. Me? If we're evacuated, you can find me at the Sea Esta Hotel for the night. I'm packing my bathing suit because I understand that the pool water is great after a hurricane.

As they say in my neighborhood, just because you live on the water doesn't mean every day is a day at the beach.  So, I'm putting on my big girl panties, taking in the umbrellas and deck furniture, making sure all the house vents are closed, and living Plan A for as long as I can.

Life is like playing the NY Lottery. "Ya gotta play ta win." BUT, "Hey, ya nevah know."

Be safe everybody! And, if you get a message from Mother Nature, well, keep busy. Do some math. Just don't call me, okay? I think my allotment card for "encounters with a Loony Tune" is full at the moment.

Besides, haven't you heard? There's a hurricane coming.


Wormwood's Doxy said...

So, here's my philosophy: I think it's good to have a Plan B, but live Plan A for as long and with as much love and enthusiasm you can and then, when you can't switch to Plan B and do the same thing.


And you are a far kinder, and more patient, woman than I am....

(I don't usually remark on word verifications, but mine--I kid you not!--is "doxysity"! I'm sure there's some kind of divine message in that! ;-)

Carol Horton said...

enjoy the Sea Esta

Muthah+ said...

We got a little rain this morning!!! VERY little rain but it did cool things down for a while.

Check with your neighbors about when to stay and when to leave. When I lived on Galveston I always headed to higher ground when there was a threat. Be careful ---high water often brings critters to visit--snakes, etc.

IT said...

It had to be Teh Gay. I laughed out loud, I did.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Doxy - Actually, I'm not that patient. I've just had lots of experience with Loony Tune types.

I LOVE 'doxysity". We'll have to coin that word and claim it for you.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Actually, Carol, it now looks like we are going to be evacuated on Friday, so I'm heading up to be with Ms. Conroy. Sigh. I'd much rather be at the Sea Esta, but looks like no one is going to be there, either.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Last time we had to evacuate, when we returned, the side of the house was COVERED with grasshoppers. It was amazing. I hope we get back AFTER they all leave.

Frair John said...

I sent some smart mouth co-worker of mine scurrying when I noted that the Earth Quake was centered in Eric Canter's district. I then started quoting the Book of Amos until I cleared the room of the neo-cons. Didn't even get to "Cows of Bashin."
Normally I wouldn't have done that, but they just worked my last nerve. Started quoting that bulling bore Robertson. Started Quoting Scripture. Started making God look just as tiny, nasty, and mean spirited as they. Started to damage the bridges I had built for another co-worker who is struggling back into the Church after abuse by a group that can only be called a cult.
I got to my "I can't stands no more!" moment, ate my spinach, and defended Christian orthodoxy.
I may need to go to confession, but I just reached my last nerve.

Anonymous said...

Safe travel prayers ascending for you.

We left Ocean City today. The mayor said all must leave by 5 p.m. on friday.


Will J said...

Travel safely and know that the prayers of many of us are with you.

PS If the earthquake was a warning, why was the epicenter in Virginia, a politically homophobic state? And the projected landfall for the hurricane?

JCF said...

Lisbeth, don't you ever just want to say "That's horseshit: God does NOT WORK THAT WAY!"

[I would have. Then again, if I were in "LSD", I'd just be passing through---wouldn't have to see them again. ;-/]

JCF said...

Stay safe, y'all!

Kirkepiscatoid said...

The empty bottled water shelf reminds me of going to the Kirksville Hy-Vee on the afternoon of September 11, 2001. ALL the bottled water was gone. Evidently several people must have decided Kirksville, MO was a major terrorist target.

I stared at the empty shelf a while and then walked over to the liquor section. There was plenty of beer. So I bought a case. There was plenty of Wild Turkey Rare Breed bourbon. I bought a supersized one.

When I got to the checkout with that and the groceries I had intended to buy that day, I looked at the clerk and said, "I saw there's been a run on bottled water. Shoot, if it's the end of the world as we know it, I'm gonna be sure I don't run out of booze. They can keep their water!"

I thought the clerk was going to pee her pants laughing!

MarkBrunson said...

None of them seems to notice that all this "punishment from God" seems to be settling around conservative areas and after the Tealiban managed to strip the budget of any aid to the actually needy. Of course, you make of "prophecy" what makes you look right!

This is what I mean when I say most people are not human - not some David-Icke-"aliens-amongst-us" nonsense. There's nothing mystical in it, or even necessarily related to religion. There's the simple fact that, having been given human minds, the most complex and wonderful animal brain going, capable of empathizing, drawing conclusions from correlations of observable fact . . . with all of that, these people behave like shrieking chimps, afraid of a noise somewhere and grabbing everything their greedy hands can get to before anyone else gets it - whether they need it or not. The only "higher" function they engage in is turning attention and sympathy away from reality to read imaginary messages in tea-leaves and clouds.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Friar John - Sometimes fighting scripture with scripture is a good thing. Sometimes, it just doesn't work when some folks have made up their minds.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Maria - I heard that OC was completely out of gasoline last night. Be safe. Evacuation at 5 PM tonight here in RB.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Will - great question but no one ever said that any of this made any sense.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

JCF - Yes, absolutely, but you know, I try to be kind. It messes 'em up when they see I disagree with them.