“You pray for rain, you gotta deal with the mud too. That’s a part of it.”
— Denzel Washington American actor (b. Dec. 28, 1954)
Had Noah worn running shoes while constructing the Ark, he might have dodged a lot of early raindrops. Maybe not 40 days and 40 nights worth, but a lot.
Sounds deep, I know. Perhaps even nonsensical. Nike probably wasn’t even making sandals back in those biblical days. Had they been, athletes still would ponder the wisdom of trying to run in such casual footwear. And using them for construction work boots? I can’t imagine.
Yet I admire Noah. The current TV commercial in which he asks “What’s an Ark?” says more than most viewers hear. The guy built a leviathan boat without a blueprint and still saved time to round up all those animals. He did it on sheer faith. I can’t remember the last time I showed such conviction.
I thought of Noah just the other day ... on a midafternoon Monday.
It was the day the rains came.
But this was no ordinary shower. This monsoon gave blunt credence to some time-tested metaphors — most of which I’ve used myself on occasion either in soggy conversation when caught outdoors as the sky opened or while wearing a folded newspaper as a hat during a dash across the flooded office parking lot toward the car.
The aforementioned downpour truly was a gully-washer, a toad-strangler and a crawdad-choker. It rained cats and dogs. It came down in buckets. Admittedly, from my vantage point I saw nary a cat, nor dog nor bucket plummet from the clouds. Of that, I’m almost certain. However, I cannot speak for landscaping tragedies like erosion nor the rain’s suffocating effects on toads nor the untimely flooding of crawdads. Given the volume of this washout, I assume all were issues in the worlds of dirt, amphibians and crustaceans, the latter of whom I feel invite such pending disaster by intentionally living in holes. Go figure.
And that’s today’s story, an account of personal inconvenience created by unfortunate circumstance.
Most days, I don’t allow myself the treat of leaving the office early. On this particular Monday I did. I had not jogged early that morning before work — which has become a 4 a.m. weekday ritual — because the sheets had entrapped me, because I was suffering early week apathy and because ... it was Monday. So that afternoon I made up for my morning indiscretion by heading over to the Oak Grove Elementary School track known to most users as the Huff and Puff Freedom Trail.
Some might call it a poor decision given the outdoor conditions. Risky yes, but it was a gamble I was willing to take. Perhaps I was feeling adventurous. Maybe I was just tired of the unbroken trail of emails and the merciless ringing of that office telephone. Or maybe it was just Monday.
Stepping into the parking lot wearing my jogging duds (unlike Clark Kent, I change in the men’s restroom and my T-shirt doesn’t bear the insignia of a big red “S”), I surveyed the sky. Lots and lots of sky, but mostly big, puffy white clouds that resembled giant cotton balls on a Titanic collision course for Iceberg Central. Peering into the western horizon, I could see darkness looming and it seemed headed in my direction. Too, the air was as thick as molasses. As my parents used to say, it was “sticky.” Meteorologists gauge it as a measure of “humidity.” Cantore calls it “juicy.”
My goal was to outrun the encroaching storm. Nice idea. The dilemma was the Oak Grove track is a one-third mile oval so regardless of land speed, I wasn’t going to be putting any physical distance between the clouds and me. This wasn’t a north-south linear park like the Greenway. This was a rectangle with curves. My only hope was for the menacing puffs to break apart or change direction, thereby aggravating somebody else.
To quote my comically soothsaying father-in-law, Billy Wade Swindell of Greenfield, Tenn., from a clandestine family camping excursion years earlier, “Ricardo, it’s gonna blow around.” I’ll revisit that prophecy in a future column.
This most recent scenario was well-versed in irony. Our Cleveland and Bradley County community had been struggling through a monthlong drought. The grass was browning. Yard dust was flying. And folks were already complaining. So we were due some relief.
It came on this midafternoon Monday, the same day I had left the office early in order to make up for not getting out of bed early in order to run on the track early so as to avoid the coming storm whose GPS was fixed on the Oak Grove oval atop whose hard surface I was circling. Or in this case, ovaling. “Not to worry,” I told myself defiantly while stepping onto the trail’s sun-bleached asphalt. “I’ll be on this track like greased lightning and back off again like nobody’s business.”
After clicking on my stopwatch, I looked down to see my black Nikes begin their forward churn. And the rest of me followed.
It was then a raindrop the size of a misfit’s balloon landed squarely upon my cranial pelt. It was surprisingly cold. But then, my pelt is shockingly thin.
Gazing into the darkening, yet not quite ominous sky, I lip-synched the sage wisdom of Billy Wade, “It’s gonna blow around.”
With renewed confidence, I continued my trek.
A second drop the width of Lake Pontchartrain splattered across the tip of my nose.
“Not to worry,” I mumbled to any who would listen.
But none was there to hear ... because the track was empty. And I wondered why.
(Next Sunday: In Part 2, we will relive this greatest “Storm Story” ever told. Cantore and Forbes likely are still laughing their radars off.)