When I was young (hold on, I’m about to date myself), cable television was the new convenience that everyone had to have. That was, until our neighbor invested in the next newest thing, satellite television. I remember the huge black satellite dish perched behind their home and aimed to the heavens. I used to look at which direction it pointed, and wonder if that was line-of-sight to the satellite.
I mention all of this because it was one more thing that my father was anxious about in certain situations. To this day, my father won’t let appliances such as washers, driers, or dishwashers operate while the house is empty. He’s concerned about flooding, and fire, and so forth. Fortunately, that’s a concern I’ve managed to leave behind. What still haunts me, however, is his anxiety about thunderstorms. You see, when a thunderstorm occurred during my childhood, everything except lights had to be turned off by Dad’s decree. If you were in the middle of your favorite program, the first flash of lightning meant you were out of luck. The television was turned off, and the coaxial line that connected us to the outside world (which, let’s face it, is what cable was then) had to be unplugged. Not only did it have to be unplugged, the end had to be placed in a glass jar. No, I don’t know why. I just remember that Dad did not want anything being cooked by stray lightning.
The thunderstorm precautions didn’t end there, however. While everyone else in the neighborhood had to stay inside, we were instructed to stay away from windows, as well. Only lights and other essential functions were to remain on. Fortunately, we all enjoyed reading. But, oh how happy I was when we purchased our first VCR, and the pangs of leaving a favorite program mid-episode were no longer to be felt.
In my father’s defense, he experienced some unusually dramatic things during thunderstorms. He spent a career in the telecommunications industry, and for part of that career he was the guy perched atop the poles at the side of the road. He literally had a white fireball of lightning shoot by him as it traced a line once. He’s seen the effects of thunderstorms more than most of us urbanites, and holds a healthy respect for their power as a result.
Also as a result, I’m held as sort of odd by most of my friends. I’m thinking and writing this as some relatively severe thunderstorms skirt our area, and I keep looking outside at the darkened sky. Most of my friends love thunderstorms…absolutely love them. They’re entranced by the majestic displays of lightning that split the sky, and when one passes over us, the local Twitterverse is always alive with exclamations of how “epic” and “amazing” the natural light show is as they sit on their decks and patios and take in the view.
Me? I’m sitting inside, away from windows, shutting down the freshly-backed-up computer, and considering unplugging everything from the wall…just the way my Dad would have. Honestly, I think he still does.
To this day, because of the example I grew up observing, thunderstorms make me all kinds of nervous. I wonder if I’m missing out…if they really are as beautiful as all of my friends claim, and if I would be able to appreciate that were I to somehow move beyond the anxiety I feel rumble in my stomach to echo the first rumble of thunder that is audible. No rational explanations help (Karen counts the seconds until the lightning flash, and tells me how many miles away it was…and I just picture the white fireball racing down a telephone or power line and into something valuable, or striking our apartment building outright).
A close friend recently lost some valuable and antique audio equipment during a particularly nasty storm. I took this as justification for my anxiety, although his equipment was not routed through a surge protector, as (you guessed it) all of ours is. I can thank my years as a sound engineer for that precaution. Still, I wish I could sit back and appreciate those awe-inspiring displays of power as they surge overhead as my friends do, free of fear and worry.
And, as for tornadoes, don’t get me started. Watching Twister remains one of the worst mistakes I’ve ever made.
Photo Attribution: moonsheep