Facing the tropics and the lies I tell

The words I typed and posted this morning are still very fresh in my memory. I said something to the effect of staying inside and watching it rain as a favor to others and for the safety of all those who associate with me.

I said that.

That lasted an hour and fifteen minutes.

Until I decided to go to Walmart for storm supplies. At least this time I drove my car.

I took Lilian with me because she needs to know about Walmart. Lilian is an exchange student from Holland who is here on an internship for two weeks. She is supposed to be working on her English and learning more about the culture. Well, her English is just fine, let me assure you. She laughs at very subtle humor in TV shows that most people wouldn’t get. And as for her culture immersion, where better to do that than ghetto Walmart? Field trip!

As we pulled into the parking lot, I launched into a meaningful explanation about the difference between uptown Walmarts and this Walmart. Sure, uptown Walmarts are nice. But this one is close. Proximity wins over refinement every time. At least with me. I was just finishing my thought…

“So, you’re going to get culture here,” I promised. And a man walked up. “Oh, here we go,” I finished. I hadn’t even cut the engine.

I lowered my window to talk to this man, because I’m stupid like that and he looked like a super nice guy. He was wearing khaki pants, a matching khaki golf shirt, and normal shoes. He had a pair of glasses hanging from his collar and had an almost-empty can of Mountain Dew in his hand. He had most of his teeth. He did not smell of alcohol or smoke one bit. No one’s nose picks that up better than mine.

At this point, he began his story.

“Hello, ma’am, I need to ask you a question and I mean no disrespect by asking it. I am a 67 year old veteran of the Vietnam War (took out a very nice wallet to show me his ID) who is technically considered homeless at this time. I am two weeks from Government housing, but I have to make it until then. I have congestive heart failure, a pacemaker (yeah, he pulled his collar aside to show me that bad boy), and I’m on 9 different medications to regulate all of that. Now ma’am, I’ve been in these clothes for 6 days without a bath and I smell like my own bottom. (Ohhhhhh Kaaaaaaaay) And I mean no disrespect in asking, but would you by chance have $8.50 so that I can get a room tonight at the Salvation Army?”

I’m not going to tell the ending of that conversation because I don’t want to be judged OR congratulated. You’ll just have to fill in the blanks with what YOU would have said to him or what you think I did. I will say this. He was sweet and believable.

And I couldn’t have explained our Walmart to Lilian any better than this incident did. There are very few homeless people in the Netherlands. Interesting.

Once inside Walmart, I bought the essential tropical storm items: 3 pounds of bacon, 5 pounds of roast beef that we apparently did not need because Todd bought 5 pounds last night (10 pounds of beef will go a LONG way even in Armageddon type situations), au jous gravy packets, tortillas, Rotel, 2 family packs of Double Stuf Oreos, a 6 pack of Diet Mountain Dew, some yogurt, yellow bananas, and 2 gallons of Infant Water jugs, because that was all that was on the way to the checkout. I guess if the water is purified enough for an infant, then it will work for me, too.

Boom. Prepared. Bring on the tropics.

And then we came home and resumed life as normal. I bailed the fishing boat after lunch and was checking email when the wind began kicking up. At that moment a text came through.


Oh, man. I thought. The wind was howling and the rain had begun to slap against my windows in earnest and now I was receiving a text saying that Lewis was releasing kids early due to the storm. I looked at my watch. It was 12:30. I debated. Should I get them now? Get in car line? Walk up to rainy dismissal at 1:15? Ultimately, I decided to just go check them out. Lilian and Brady decided to come, too. Because why not? It’s a tropical storm. Go have an adventure.

The wind turned my umbrella inside out when I stepped out of the car to get the girls. The walk across the school lawn was not unlike the meteorologists who film from stupid locations as they nearly blow away. It was something. Apparently, there were about 30 other parents who decided to pick their kids up early also. It was nothing short of a fiesta in that front office. There wasn’t even standing room for the two I brought with me. When the girls were finally safely in my care, we walked out into the howling storm…which had actually stopped for the moment.

“Why did you get us early, Mama?” Lucy asked.

“Because…” I said pointing around the sky, “THIS.” She made an effort to follow my wild gestures and jump on board with me. But I guess she just couldn’t get there.

“It’s not that bad,” she replied. “And I was IN LUNCH.”

“Sorry, babe, but when I got the text that they were closing school early because of it, I just felt like I needed to come on and get you.”

Lucy actually stopped on the sidewalk.

“Mama,” she said with emphasis. “They didn’t close school early for this storm. It’s MONDAY. It’s early release day.”


Well, so it was. Huh. They get out at 1:15 EVERY MONDAY. All year long. Been doing this since August.

“You would’ve forgotten us today, wouldn’t you?”

Yes, yes I would have. I mean, but we have meat. And infant water.

The end of this completely unnecessary story is that I’ve gotten up from my laptop 3 or 4 times because of the power going out. I’ve heard 4 transformers blow in the area (sound carries across the river…very disturbing noises) and the trees are flopping back and forth like wind socks.

This is a little worse than Hurricane Georges.

Wonder where I put that propane lantern…


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