Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Storm Warning!!

Friday we had a gathering of family and friends at our house. This was proceeding as such things do, i.e. the food was running a bit late, when we heard sirens. My first reaction was to check my watch. Air raid sirens seem to go off at round number times. But the time was 6:34, not a round number in my book. Was I mistaking a lot of fire engines at once for an air raid siren? I looked outside but could see no suspicious activity.
Well for those of you who don't keep track Friday was the Jewish New Year. So the next thought to cross my mind and that of one of my guests was that there could of been some sort of terrorist action. Attacks on Jews have come on major holidays before.
Fortunately for my paranoid side, a more experienced mid-westerner observed that it was likely to be a tornado warning. Like all good geeks, I turned on the TV and the computer simultaneously and surfed both. And tornados it was.
In 23 years in Chicago, I have never heard a tornado siren; I also had no idea that there was such a thing. As a west coast kid in the 60's and 70's we had bomb drills (basically get under the desk and kiss your ass goodbye) and earthquake drills. In LA we even got out of school on smog alert days. But no tornados.
My first inkling that Chicago was closer to Kansas than LA was when I discovered that many of my anxious patients are afraid of tornados. In LA anxious people lost sleep about earthquakes. If a truck rattled the chandelier, they would look for a doorway to stand in. I always thought earthquakes were sort of exciting. Of course I never had a freeway fall on me. A number of years ago, my grandparents were forced to relocate after a big earthquake fatally damaged their apartment building. But that's the worst that anyone in my family ever experienced. This never stops people from being phobic. I sometimes think if Southern California fell into the ocean, the world's cultural IQ would rise but I couldn't condone the loss of life.
But I digress. What I didn't realize was that the two youngest children at my party would be so scared. Here I am jumping up and down and saying let's go outside and look and they all wanted to hide in the basement. Logical statements such as "The house is 120 years old and still standing. I doubt the risk is too high," and "Major cities tend to prevent tornado occurrence; it's something to do with the big buildings," did not help. Maybe it was unempathic of me to grab my camera and take some pictures.
To make a long blog short, they called off the alert less than 10 minutes after the sirens. The storm blew out over Lake Michigan and the excitement too blew over.
To my untutored eye it did look like tornado weather though. It reminded me of watching the Wizard of Oz as a kid. It starts out in black and white in Kansas, but Oz is in technicolor. In contrast, our many colored world went black and white for a few minutes. Eerie.
But no storm and no terrorists. Amen.

No comments: