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Friday, April 12, 2013

Lightning Mike

Our friend Mike had an inside track to the weather. He’s a Silicon Valley-type salesman with the soul of a storm chaser. Ominous clouds on the southwest horizon? Lightning Mike’s Facebook updates and forecasts were more accessible and more reliable than most of the meteorologists on TV. Consequently, his page was my first stop if I needed personalized predictions for our evening’s activities. Especially if it was starting to look like our evening’s activities might involve rounding up the family to duck and cover in our tornado safety area.


Around this time, Mike also started posting updates about local emergencies. Sirens in the distance? I knew I could count on Mike for the scoop. I no longer had to drive myself crazy wondering and worrying compulsively about what was going on in our community—the information gave immediate comfort that my nearest and dearest loved ones were safe and sound. Sirens no longer brought an irrational fear that Russ had been in a car wreck—one quick check to Mike’s Facebook page would quickly reveal a grease fire (presently being contained, emergency personnel on site) at an obscure restaurant in a stripmall.

This reassurance brought bliss. It was nice to have someone who was as passionate (read: obsessive) about weather and emergencies as I, especially when that someone was motivated to keep the rest of us informed.

Springtime in Texas means frequent storms, so as the weeks and dark clouds rolled by, I found myself relying on Lightning Mike’s information more and more often. Sometimes he didn’t have updates posted even when there were troublesome clouds clearly forming in the sky, so I would contact him to ask if he’d heard anything about the impending weather.

“You know,” he said, after the seventeenth time that I’d emailed asking for an update, “You could sign up to receive the very same updates that I do. It’s easy—you just go to this storm page and this scanner site and “like” their pages to receive all the information to your very own Facebook feed.”

It had not occurred to me that I, too, could have the keys to the kingdom. This was going to be great!

I signed up that afternoon, right after work, and I waited for the magic to happen.

Did it ever!

My Facebook feed was instantly inundated. Our area was much busier than I’d thought. Every few minutes, new snippets of local information were being added. I’m a relatively fast and capable reader, but I could hardly keep up.

There was so much to know! I missed dinner that night because there was no good moment—no natural pausing point—to tear myself away. Bedtime for the kids came and went, and I was still glued to the updates. Bedtime for adults arrived. Long after Russ had turned off the light and dozed off, I was still lying there, bug-eyed and reading in the glow of the phone.

Accidents and fires.
Shootings, hostage situations, high speed chases.
Missing children. Dozens of them.
Flash flood warnings and forest fires from lightning strikes.

All live, late-breaking, and local.

What kind of insensitive person would fall asleep knowing that there was chaos in her community?

I stayed awake all night, reading the posts and pondering God’s existence. How could all this awful stuff be happening? Was there no mercy and peace left in the world?

Exhausted and fearful, I arrived at work the next morning and powered off my phone. No way could I concentrate to teach if those news blurbs were accessible.

I zombied through the day as best I could, fearing the vast number of bad events that undoubtedly would have accumulated by the time I returned home.

“I tried to call you from the grocery store, but it went straight to voicemail,” Russ said that evening.
“Must’ve forgotten to turn on my phone,” I muttered, avoiding his gaze to conceal my bloodshot eyes.

A few hours later, he asked if I’d seen the most recent hilarious cat picture that George Takei had posted.

But I had not. I’d made up my mind; I was never checking Facebook again. Ever. The world was a horrible place. Especially our community, it seemed. Death, destruction, doom. Bad news as far as the eye could read. I was going to insulate myself in denial and never check Facebook again.

If I couldn’t see it, then it wasn’t happening. Returning to ignorance—now THAT would be blissful.

Two evenings later, the sky darkened and Russ asked if I had any weather updates from my new fantastic source. I burst into tears and confessed everything. “It’s terrible! It’s overwhelming! It’s nothing but bad news!”

“I’m sorry,” he said mildly, and then he added, “Um, what were you expecting?” I thought I detected the faintest hint of sarcasm, but I let it go.

He agreed that ignorance sounded like the best policy in this circumstance, and he even offered to sign on to my Facebook account and un-”like” the sites for me.

Noticing my activity had resumed on Facebook, I guess, Mike enthusiastically asked if I was enjoying all the first-hand information. I wanted to tell him, but I didn’t really want to start thinking about it again since I’d only just returned to sleeping through the night.

As it turns out, Lightning Mike, you are all the bad news a girl could ever want or need.

It wasn’t a very good explanation, but I just couldn’t spend another moment thinking about it, or else all those feelings and fears would swell up and carry me away.

We didn’t really talk about it ever again. Lightning Mike is a very dear friend. I think he understood.

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