The tornado warning that interrupted the radio broadcast of one of my favorite country stations was surprising, if not frightening. It started with a high-pitched distorted sound, like a satellite transmitting data.
"This is a message delivered by the National Weather Agency."
" A tornado warning is in effect until 4 PM for the following counties: Arundell, Ellicott, Bel Air, Baltimore.."
I white-knuckled over the outer loop of the Beltway, driving 70 mph in an attempt to make it home before the rain clouds would burst and cause everything to flood. Plus, our Newfoundland dog Fai was still in the back yard and even though she generally loves water, a heavy downpour would be too much, even for her.
It seems that every time you really need to be somewhere, everything and everyone will get in your way. The cars in the endless one lane street leading to our house wouldn't budge, school buses screeched to a halt like every other block or so and school kids seemed to be crossing the road like turtles on a beach.
As people turned into the residential side streets, the road to our house cleared. I could finally put my foot to the throttle. I'd barely reached the front door when I heard thunder roaring and rain started falling from of the sky like a cold shower.
I was happy to see Fai hiding underneath the little porch roof. Of course, she didn't even realize what was going on. She hopped inside wagging her tail. She was happy to see me. Then immediately she started whining to get back out and play with her ball.
"No, Fai, now is really not a good time," Rain was pouring down like a waterfall. Some of the younger trees were almost blown horizontally from the wind.
Fai jumped on the chair standing in front of the window to see what was going on in the back yard. I still think it's incredible to see this 100 pound dog jump onto a relatively small chair, sitting her giant behind down to stare outside like an old lady on a gloomy day.
As I observed Fai sitting in front of the window, I was amazed at the brutal force of the winds swooping outside. I imagined cows and rooftops whizzing by our house.
But aside from the strong winds and lots of heavy rainfall, the weather was nothing like another Hollywood disaster storm movie.
Later that day Aki returned from work. I told her about our stormy adventure and she said, "A storm ? Really ? Oh, I never noticed a thing at the office."
That goes to show how local this kind of weather can be. I could've been hanging horizontally from a tree holding on for dear live and screaming for God as power poles and cars shot by.
I could see a 20 foot dump truck just leaping over my head as it gets sucked in by a monstrous tornado, while Aki would've been sitting in a meeting, discussing her elegant garden design over a nice hot cup of coffee.
Gosh, I just love to exaggerate.
Meanwhile, things have calmed down weather-wise, although with temperatures rising every day, Baltimore has become comparable to a steam treatment at a spa. I mean, every inch of my body exhales sweat. Yuk.
Right now, I'm sitting in the air conditioned Towson mall enjoying a large diet Coke as my patronage to the food court, enjoying a mix of odors coming from Panda Express (Chinese food), Flamers (fried chicken food), Villa (Italian food) and the occasional stench of garlic coming from Sarku Japan.
I just bought a book with my European credit card (a Visa) which, unlike an American credit card, has a chip in it.
This totally dumbfounded the newbie-cashier in Borders. She practically yelled out her cry for help through the intercom system (clearly, this girl is not aware of the fact that the concept of a microphone has evolved from a wooden cone that you yell through, to a very sophisticated electronic gadget that picks up, transmits and amplifies even the squeak of a mouse into a crystal clear sound.)
One of the customer service people standing in the cook-book section twitched and jerked his ear plug out as if he'd just gotten electrocuted. He glided over to our register and asked the helpless rookie what her problem was. Clearly he was indulging the fact that his what I assume must have been maybe two more weeks of experience behind this counter makes him the cool kid in town and that no financial transaction would go wrong when he's in charge of handling this complex piece of machinery.
He swiped my card and asked me politely if I could enter my pin code.
Our faces lit up : receipt paper rolled out of the pay pad. Transaction completed.
Then he spoke these wise words:
"So like, whenever you get like, a foreign card, just go ahead and put it in the system like a debit card." He closed the cash drawer. "That'll totally work."
The young cashier girl grinned. "Totally," she said, repeating the head cashier's lingo by means of acknowledgment.
The guy nodded, pleased with the respect he now had gained, and zipped back to the cook-book section.
"So where you from ?" the girl said, handing over my credit card.
"Europe," I said. I didn't feel like going into countries and all that.
"OOOOooooh !" The tone in her voice had this 'that explains it' quality to it. She studied me as if she was sure to find green alien ears sticking out of my head.
"Thanks," I said and walked away.
I can still feel her eyes burning on my back.