I have a confession to make: I’m afraid of lightning.
The rain we’ve been getting leaves me conflicted. Yes, we need it and I love the rain, just not the 1.21 gigawatt bolts of death and destruction that often come along with it.
Just this week, an Alaska Airlines jet was struck by lightning at Oakland International Airport. In Sausalito, a lightning bolt split a redwood in two and shattered the windows of two homes. And in Berkeley, a woman was struck while crossing the street. She survived with no serious injuries but has been left with a metallic taste in her mouth. Yikes.
Maybe my fears started when lightning struck a telephone pole in front of our house and split a huge chunk of it off. When I saw what lightning could do, it was hide-under-my-bed-time.
Growing up, I was horrified by the story of Roy Sullivan, the Virginia park ranger who was struck by lightning seven times and survived, only to kill himself later. The fact that he was from Virginia and I was born in Virginia added to my fear. I know it’s irrational. Don’t judge me.
When I was a kid, my mom used to say, “The reason you’re afraid is because you ain’t livin’ right. Be sure your sins will find you out!” Wow. Mom, you could’ve gone the “everything is going to be all right” route instead of getting all Old Testament on me.
My fears didn’t end when I became an adult. In fact during big thunderstorms, I used to grab both beagles (who shared my fear) and we’d kind of hang out in the bathroom reading books and chilling until the storm passed. (They were avid readers.)
Once during a thunderstorm, my friend Chumly called me on the phone. I told him to talk fast because I was on a corded phone and it wasn’t safe. (It’s not!) He asked if he could borrow my Olympic barbell and I told him yes. But then he asked me to bring it down to his house. He only lived two doors down, but there was no way I was carrying a 7-foot metal pole down the street in a lightning storm. I’d end up a candidate for the Darwin Award.
You people trying to discourage folks from buying lottery tickets, saying people are more likely to be struck by lightning than win, are not helping. Yes, it’s true. The odds of winning California Super Lotto Plus are 1-in-41,416,353 while your odds of being nuked by the heavens is 1-in-750,000.
According to the National Weather Service, 60 people are killed every year by lightning strikes. Reading their website about what to do if caught outdoors in a thunderstorm is not comforting at all.
“There are NO SAFE PLACES outdoors.” “We don’t recommend (using) the crouch because it will not significantly lower your risk of being killed or injured . . .” “Can lightning strike me when I’m indoors? YES!” So what to do? “Apply barbecue sauce liberally to skin and wait!” OK, I made up that last sentence.
It’s raining while I’m writing this so I’m going to get away from this computer and hunker down somewhere with a book. Incidentally, the book I’m reading is one of my favorites.
“Lightning,” by Dean Koontz. Peace.
Kelvin Wade is the author of “Morsels” Vols. I and II and lives in Fairfield. Email him at [email protected]