I’m holed up in my neighborhood Starbucks as I watch torrents of rain sweep over roads, cars, grass, tables, unfortunate umbrella-less pedestrians.
I just came back from my own mini adventure earlier this morning trying to meet a friend for lunch in Arlington Heights. Most of the Chicagoland area is experiencing flooding of some variety, with the ground saturated with rain water and ponds, rivers, streams, creeks overflowing. I spent about an hour trying to navigate through side streets, being turned away from flooded underpasses and joining the throngs of drivers trying somehow, someway to make it over the Des Plaines river. Every main street, Dempster, Golf, Oakton… were massively flooded.
There were some smaller streets that had a lesser degree of flooding… maybe a foot or two. I would drive up to the water’s edge and it would be like I was in the Oregon trail… should I ford the river…construct a raft… WHAT THE HECK DOES A GUY HAVE TO DO TO GET ME AN INDIAN GUIDE?!?!!?
Being pretty resourceful, however, I left the masses trying to take Golf and went south taking my chances on the Touhy trail and going through the wild, frontier land of Park Ridge. And to my excitement…. I could pass! The few underpasses near downtown Park Ridge were relatively dry… there were a few ominous accident sites I had to go through, but I could continue and was able to cross the bridge, where the normally docile des plaines river was raging, just about a few feet from spilling onto the bridge.
Now by this time, I was starting to get pretty darn hungry. It was 11:30pm… I only had a cup of coffee and OJ for breakfast and the idea of a forthcoming bento box lunch special brought me great pleasure and anticipation. I thought about stopping to hunt (Who doesn’t love to do that?) But after being informed that I would only be able to return with 200 pounds after killing over 1,500 LBs of game (2 bears, 3 bison, 15 rabbits and 3 squirrels)… I said SCREW IT and left it all in favor of raw fish. So I called my friend, informing him I would be late, but having passed the des plaines, was now in the clear and would be there soon.
Yet immediately after I hung up… I noticed there were no cars in oncoming traffic and the cars in front of me began to stop. Bad news, I thought to myself. Many impatient drivers in front of me began making U-turns. For me, I couldn’t face doubling back for the third time without seeing for myself what was up ahead. Was it a police barricade? Was it just a little flood that scared people off? Or heaven forbid, an accident? Because of some trucks in front of me I couldn’t see anything… until I suddenly stopped, having at once reached the waters’ edge. I looked ahead. The sides of the road were covered with flood water and there was a narrow strip of dry land right in the middle of the road, right where the yellow dotted line would be. There were some cars in both directions trying to fight for that space, but most others were making U-Turns.
Withouth thinking twice, I immediately turned around. Something in my gut told me I wasn’t going to meet my friend today. I didn’t know what to feel… I felt kind of relieved because I was scared that the river would completely flood and I’d have a ahrd time returning back. I was kind of scared because I knew I had to again weave through suburban flooding and traffic yet again. And very sad that I wasn’t going to enjoy some japanese food.
And getting hungry and getting sick the monotonous pace of driving, as soon as I crossed over the river, I pulled into some generic Mexican restaurant, Taco Burrito King.
I had some of the worst mexican food of my life. I forever will call this place Taco and Burrito Serf. I got the daily special, combination platter, a taco, tamale, quesdailla and rice and beans. It was disgusting. The taco was supposed to be al pastor, but I was eating a scoop of sour cream wrapped in a tortilla. The tamale was bland. And the quesadilla tasted like it was basted in butter… A MILLION TIMES. I didn’t even finish half my plate before I started getting sick. I think I can count on my fingers the number of times I haven’t finished at least HALF of my food at a restaurant. That’s just not in my nature.
So I left the place in one of the worst possible states for a diner… dissatisfied and wanting desperately to eat something good, yet not hungry because I just ate. I didn’t know what to do and had nothing else to do so I just pulled over into a starbucks and did some work and drank a cup of black coffee (I was so grossed out and quasi hungry, I couldn’t even get my normal drinks…)
Anyways, I guess days like this, my mind can’t help but wander into cliche, larger than life allegories of human nature… should I have just gone through the road? Even with all the obstacles? Then I wouldn’t have to eat this awful food, have this gaseous churning feeling in my stomach… my day would have gone the way I watned to and maybe all this rain wouldn’t be affecting me like it is.
What made me decide to turn back? Was it the fear of damaging my car? The fear of not being able to get back when the rains continued all afternoon? Or did the rain even take away my desire to hang out that day (we had originally planned on golfing… which was now obviously out of the question)? I dunno… I guess the storms, both literal and figurative, can make people less thoughtful and just react and maybe its our task– or obligation– to reflect on why we make the choices we do… and if at the end of the day, if we’re in a better place than we were when we started.
I’m sure the people down in Galveston or those in New Orelans had to make lots of choices during these incoming storms. If I’m really honest, I look at pictures online of folks who are being rescued by helicopter from their cars on the street and I’m at first totally judging them. “Hey punk lady getting rescued by the coast guard,” I say to the screen. “You knew about this hurricane for days… you were told that staying was “certain death”… and yet now you need to be rescued from your CAR? You’re putting these rescuers in danger and preventing htem from rescuing people who actually had no choice but to stay in their homes, the elderly, the disabled, the sick… what did you think you were going to do, get in your car and out drive the hurricane…” yea, those series of thoughts go through my head.
But I guess… those people maybe aren’t too different from me. When storms come, people like me just react, they don’t think, they don’t rationalize, they just do. And Lord only knows the handful of subconscious or external forces that shape their decision making… and hence the need for the Coast Guard to send helicopters and lift our big butts out of the storm surge.
I told some of my friends that I’m going through a quarter-life crisis. Maybe that’s actually true. Maybe I just like to sound dramatic. But you know they say (I actually don’t know who “they” is… the all-powerful, all-knowing “they”), its in the storms of life where you find out what you’re made out of. I think there’s truth to that, but not everyone who goes through storms makes it far enough to the actual point of self discovery… some people are stranded in their cars on a flooded expressway. Some people just hole up in their houses. Some people never learn and are doomed to make the same mistake when Hurricane Francis or Freddy or Fernando or Feng Shui hits in 10 months. And some people sitting in a crowded starbucks, futilly trying to digest awful mexican food.
WHAT THE HECK DOES A GUY HAVE TO DO TO GET ME AN INDIAN GUIDE?!?!!?