Dorothy Wilhelm: Vacation turns into a trip into Tornado Alley
DOROTHY WILHELM; contributing writer
The cat had an accident in my carry-on bag before I even had a chance to start packing. This is particularly disturbing because I don’t even own a cat. A young relative who insists on anonymity borrowed the case and explained as she fled out the door after returning it, “The cat had an accident but I cleaned it up, and you can hardly tell at all.”
Hardly turned out to be the operative word. This was pretty bad news. Even the most devoted cat lover will admit that feline aroma will never come out, as long as Earth shall endure. I took the bag out on the front porch, thinking the fresh air might help. My neighbor went by and sniffed the air.
“Smells like cat pee,” she said cheerfully. “You’ll have to throw that bag away.”
“I’m not throwing it away. That’s ridiculous,” I snapped, but it was time to plan alternate strategies.
I had expected to manage my summer travel entirely with carry-on luggage. That way I could avoid the $25 checked baggage fee that many airlines are charging each way. In a summer with several trips, that’s an attractive saving. So I bought a wonderful soft and easily expandable bag that I could stuff with everything I own. But now it appeared that the bag was headed for early retirement and I was back to my legendary overpacking. This was disappointing but I paid the baggage fee at the airport and I was on my way. My ticket said Minneapolis but it turned out that my destination was really Tornado Alley (cue sinister music).
As most everyone knows, this has been the worst year for tornadoes and severe storms in more than half a century. Tornadoes usually skip Minneapolis, but only a couple of days before I arrived, a lethal twister tore through a residential neighborhood, shredding trees, flattening buildings, and shattering lives. Schools and homes held extra tornado drills. I wondered if my grandchildren and children were frightened. My son explained that they have storm drills at home often so their little boys will not be worried. They’ll know what to do.
“We don’t worry about tornadoes,” said my Older Grandson, age 10, “but we do take them seriously.”
The TV alerted us that a storm was coming and we went to a split screen so we could follow the ball game, and still keep track of the progress of the storm. “TV weather guys are rock stars here,” my daughter-in-law explained, “because at this time of the year, we’re with them all the time.” Sven, the TV weatherman, predicted hail stones the size of golf balls.
“Storm coming, let’s head for the bathroom,” my Younger Grandson, age 5, said with aplomb. “Nothing to be afraid of,” he assured me.
No sirens were yet sounding as he began to move every cushion and pillow in the house into the downstairs bathroom, along with a couple of large stuffed animals, a bear and a really big elephant in case heavy duty reinforcement might be needed. My son brought energy bars and foil pouches of juice. I was very brave as long as the family was there with me. We sat together, laughed and talked and waited for the all clear. The storm slid by to the south and the hailstones that fell were only the size of marbles. Younger Grandson collected a dixie cup full of the icy pebbles and put them in the freezer. “To cool my soup,” he explained.
Home again. I think the smelly carry-on bag must face early retirement. We used to own a Great Dane that would eat underwear and nylons then regurgitate them nicely rolled up. Now that would be handy for packing. We all have talents we’re not using.
It’s only June and it’s been an exciting summer already. My four sons are coming home for the Sound to Narrows; three of the brothers will be running. The rest of us will be there ringing cowbells and screaming encouragement. This means five of six offspring will be together for the first time in eight years. I think that makes me the automatic winner. I hope they pack light.
Dorothy Wilhelm is a professional speaker and humorist. You can see her TV show at www.itsnevertoolate.com
and email her at Dorothy@itsnevertoolate.com.