A week ago Friday night, a derecho swept through Virginia and the surrounding areas, bringing with it winds as high as 80 mph, and 13 deaths from the storm. My niece and I were downtown Richmond, standing in line behind the Carpenter Center, waiting for Idina Menzel to come out and sign autographs after her concert. It was around 100 degrees, and we’d been standing in the smothering heat for well over an hour. We watched the lightning get closer, and notified the security people that maybe they should tell Idina a storm was approaching. Boy, did we not know what kind of storm was about to hit.
As we’re waiting–and waiting–and waiting, we notice that the lightning is getting much, much closer. The breeze picks up. And then all hell breaks loose, extremely high wind gusts start throwing dirt and dust and everything in sight. So we run towards the building to shelter from the wind, and get kicked out by the guards. “You can’t stay here, this is the loading dock,” they say. “Are you kidding me?” I ask. “I can’t even SEE to move.” The dirt had gotten in my eyes. Sorena and I have a quick discussion and decide no autograph in the world is worth our safety, and anyway, Idina isn’t coming out in this storm. So we go around the corner, get hit full-on by the wind again, and duck into a doorway/alcove. The security guard sees us do this and tells us AGAIN to move. That’s when I tell her to make me. “Call the police on us,” I snarl, and she finally gets the idea and gets the hell away from us. We move a little further down the building, find a better doorway/alcove about four feet deep, and stay there with a mother and two kids. Two more women join us and we all squeeze in, discussing how to go about getting to our cars. While we’re deciding what to do, a streetlamp–the glass top part of it–blows down right in front of us. The mom offers to drive us all to our cars. She’s waiting for her husband to arrive with their van. We gratefully take her up on the offer and get a ride to my Jeep, which has a monstrous branch across the driver’s side. Husband and Sorena move the branch while I find my keys, we get in, and drive home slowly through the storm. We figure we’d have a better chance on the highway than in city streets, due to having less stuff available to blow down on us.
As we drive home, the lightning is flashing and the wind is blowing and I ultimately put the Jeep into 4WD, since we hydroplaned even though I was not going fast. We decided that we would stop at a 7-11 if the storm let up, because standing and sweating in line we discussed getting Slurpees, and thought we’d just drive past the nearest 7-11 on the way home. By the time I got to my neighborhood, the storm had lessened, though the lightning was still putting on a tremendous show. The first 7-11 we reached had no power. We head up the hill and drive right past a second 7-11, because it has no power, either, nor does the Kroger, which I also drove right past due to the fact that it was pretty dark with no lights. There’s one more not far away, I tell Sorena, who says it’s no big deal and we can just head home. No, by God, now I want a Slurpee, so we’ll see if third time’s the charm.
It was. We got Slurpees, we went home and checked the radar to make sure Sorena wouldn’t be driving into the storm we’d just left, and then she went home and I showered off the dirt that had covered me since the wind kicked up.
The Carpenter Center is getting a nasty letter from me. Their security people should have offered us all shelter from the wind, not told us we couldn’t hang around there. They should have opened the doors. People could have been hurt or killed. If that streetlight had hit someone, it would have caused serious damage. Thank goodness the wind wasn’t blowing towards us, but it was blowing down the street–the very street where the security people were telling us to go on to get away from the Carpenter Center. Assholes.
And I’m a little pissed at Idina. If she had come out a half hour earlier, we’d have at least been in the car, if not home safely, by the time the storm hit.
Oh, the poster thing? Well, the first wind gust blew a signed, limited-edition poster of Idina out of a young woman’s hands. The poster flew onto me and stuck, and I instinctively grabbed it. Sorena gave it back to its owner just before we ran for the wall. I have three bruises from the poster: One three-inch and two two-inch bruises on my leg from my knee to my thigh, and a three-and-a-half inch bruise on my stomach (the most painful one). From a piece of paper, flung at me by a wind force of at least 60mph. Sure, running through the storm was a great idea, Carpenter Center security. If that streetlight had landed on someone’s head, that person would have died.
Well, one good thing came out of it. I told Sorena that under no circumstances is she ever to listen to anyone who has no authority to tell her what to do in a dangerous situation, such as two stupid security guards at a concert. They have no authority, and they can’t make you do squat. A good lesson for a graduating senior. Okay, that was worth the bruises, because my niece is a bright, bright girl and she will remember that lesson for the rest of her life.