There is news of a tropical storm today. It’s named Andrea, and it just popped up around Florida. The weatherman expects it to pass over this area sometime today or tomorrow. I saw the news about it last night as I sat in here enjoying my computer. (Those of us who did not grow up with modern technology appreciate and enjoy it perhaps more than those who did. But that’s another story.)
This story is about a tropical storm. The news last night reminded me of another tropical storm that popped up when I lived and worked in another county. It was just a few years ago, and at the time I was beginning to realize that I was no longer the spry chicken I had once been.
My youngest son has been after me for years to quit work. Just quit work and write! Change professions. Do something that is easier on me physically. He thinks I do not listen to his pleas and do not take him seriously. Well, the tropical storm reminded me of a time when I stood alone refusing to do what was expected and what I thought was dangerous.
That morning, a few years ago, when a tropical storm had been predicted for the area, I got up to check to be sure school had been canceled. It had not! We had a new superintendent who obviously was not familiar with tropical storms and their fierceness. I looked out the window after seeing the news that school was open with no delay, with no special consideration at all. I saw the wind blowing the trees, making them sway among the pellets of rain that were barreling from the sky. I watched leaves and flower petals dance across the highway that ran in front of my house.
My oldest son, who was living with me then, was also checking the weather outside. I told him, if I was going to work that day, he would have to drive me. The car hydroplaned when it rained hard without a tropical storm. I had no idea what it would do in that weather. The storm was just beginning. I’d seen tropical storms before. It would get worse.
He looked at me as he turned from the window and said he couldn’t drive in this mess! Well, I sure couldn’t drive in it either. So I went to the phone and called the school secretary to let her know I was not coming in . She needed to find me a substitute teacher to take my class.
As I heard her phone ringing, I tried to think of the reason I would give for not going. If school was in session and others were heading out, surely I should brave the elements and go too. My grandmother’s words swirled in my head as I thought about it – “if they all jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?” Well, Nanny, not today with this storm. So I had nothing planned when the school secretary answered her phone. Out tumbled the words, “I’m going to need a sub today. I’m calling in too old to drive in this mess.” She didn’t laugh. All she said was her usual, “Ok, I’ll find you a sub.” I felt so guilty that I asked if anyone else had called in? She said one other person who lived far away from the school and had to cross a certain bridge to get to work. The bridge was closed due to the weather. But she assured me not to worry. She’d find someone to take my place that day.
I kept an eye on the news and saw in a couple hours that schools were closing early – almost immediately. When I did go back to work, I asked how it went that day, before they did close the school. I felt silly by then for refusing to drive in the stuff, if everyone else had. (See, Nanny, they all jumped off the bridge and survived!)
The teachers said by the time everyone was coming into the school the rain was blowing sideways and everyone was soaking wet. The superintendent had seen how much worse the storm had gotten, and it was predicted to get even stronger as the day went on. Bus drivers were told not to leave when they dropped off the children. Specialists who had no classrooms to watch were drafted into kitchen duty. The lunchroom staff was not there, and by then no one thought they would be able to get there. So the specialists made lunch – peanut butter sandwiches and fruit and milk, so that the children could eat and it be considered a full day of school. As soon as they ate, the children were hustled back to the buses and driven home. She looked at me with envy and said, “I wish I had called in unable to drive in that mess!” She told me how much harder it was to get home than it had been to get to work. I listened, for I do enjoy hearing about the interesting experiences of others.
My oldest son, on the other hand, said under his breath (but I still heard him), when I asked my youngest son, if he had heard about the time we had a tropical storm and school was not canceled . . . had I told him about the day I refused to drive to work because of the weather? (His oldest brother was in another room, but I heard him whisper, “say ‘yes’, say ‘yes'” . . . for he had been there and has heard me tell the story to others) . . . but my baby boy turned and looked at me and said, “no” . . . so I told him about the day his mother used her own judgement and refused to drive to work in a tropical storm. Nothing happened to me that day or about that day, except my peers were jealous that I had avoided the wet, nasty rain and the strong wind that they suffered through to get to and from the school, that should have been closed in the first place.
And this whole story has been told because I realize that I repeat stories now, and I realize my sons get tired of hearing them more than once, but one day they will wish, as I now do about my grandmother, that I was here to tell them the same old boring stories just once again.