In 2004, I got a crash course on hurricanes. I learned a storm on Florida’s west coast can also impact its east coast when Charlie ravaged Punta Gorda before it crossed the state to put a tree down on our manufactured home’s porch while we were in the house. Jeanne visited just weeks later, and – due to my refusal to stay in the house during another hurricane – we evacuated with 5,000,000 of our closest friends to points north where we spent much of Labor Day weekend letting Jim Cantore ratchet up our anxiety level via TWC. The return trip was terrifying; power was out everywhere on the last 100 miles of state highway that we drove in total blackness. Shortly after Jeanne, Frances turned from blasting through the Bahamas toward Florida, and we waited her out in a local pet-friendly shelter, sharing our designated piece of “camp space” with our 80-pound Rottweilor and 40-pound Corgi.
After those adventures, I diligently prepared for possible evacuation each season for some years. Then, in 2016, just when I was feeling we’d had our lifetime share of hurricanes, Matthew roared up the east coast. We opted to check into local motel for brick-and-mortar safety since shelters and traveling were not practical options for my nonagenarian parents. The following year Irma visited, and back to the motel we went, a bit savvier as to what we might need in a motel should it lose power. This week my mom - now widowed - and I moved into the local motel once again while Dorian decimated the Bahamas before choosing her path up the coast.
Each of these hurricane experiences was distinctly different from the others, but they have a common denominator: WAITING.
When the tree hit our porch during Charlie, the power also went out. In the inky darkness we could see parts of the tree and rain coming in on the porch, but not much else. We spent the night waiting for the winds and rain to stop, waiting for daylight. During Jeanne, we waited in traffic as we inched north, waited in the hotel room for an indication we could return to Florida, waited in traffic as we crept back south. Staying locally in the shelter or motel was equally wait-intensive: wait to be able to check in, wait for storm to arrive, wait through the frightening noisiness of stormy nights, wait to be able to go back home.
It occurs to me that waiting is an on-going component of daily living, a state-of-being thrust upon us in medical facilities, check-out lines, application processes, and numerous service industries. Whether we are complacent or resentful, the requirement of doing it is not going away. Someone should create and market a course called The Art of Waiting Well. I’ll be waiting for that one.