Remember how last time I wrote, I was on vacation with my kids?
Right after I published that post, the power went out in our hotel. We hung out in the dark for about thirty minutes, my kids incessantly asking me questions.
When will the lights come back on?
Why won't the TV work?
Are we going to die?
My kids haven't experienced more than a little flicker of the lights, so this was new to them. I had to explain all the things. Don't open the fridge. No, you can't plug in the iPad. The air conditioner doesn't work. There's no Wi-Fi.
Eventually, it became clear that the power was going to be out for a while, so I decided to load everyone in the van and go somewhere with light. When I walked outside, I was surprised to discover that we were in the middle of a nasty windstorm. There were palm tree fronds and red dirt blowing everywhere. Our hotel room window faced a wall, so I hadn't been able to see anything that was going on outside.
We'd been at the pool an hour earlier with perfect weather!
I walked out into the wind and back a few times, trying to gauge whether it was necessary to stay indoors. I didn't want to be the idiot who went out in the storm.
Then I was the idiot who went out in the storm.
My plan was to go somewhere close - the first fast food joint or store I could get to, just so we could be in the light. I had no idea that the power was out through half the city, but that became evident very quickly when I drove down the road and saw an endless stream of dark traffic lights.
I turned east, hoping to see working lights. There was one working light about three blocks away, so with hope, I moved toward it only to learn that it was the only working stop light around, apparently backed up by another power source. As soon as we got beyond it, the traffic lights were still out, and traffic was really, really bad. I'd just driven my family into five solid lanes of cars. No one was moving.
Some friends of ours were in Saint George, staying a few miles from us, away from the main part of the city. I texted them to see if they had power. They did. I wouldn't be able to get back to my hotel easily, but I was only three lights away from the freeway, and that could get me away from traffic lights and to our friends' condo. I was able to get through those lights, but it took about half an hour.
Being backed up in traffic like that gave me the chance to consider what it would be like in a more dire emergency. I thought about the movies where zombies attack or aliens land, and everyone tries to flee the city, but they end up in mass traffic where crowd psychology abounds, and everyone is screwed except the star of the film and the two children and the love interest who somehow break through and have a series of events work just enough in their favor that they don't end up dead.
We hung out at our friends' condo for about an hour, but my children's behavior was so unmanageable (there are bite marks on Daisy's back to prove it) that I was willing to go sit with them in a parking lot in the van if needed just to spare my friends.
We were out of diapers (which added to the "emergency" feel of the situation) and there was a Walmart one freeway exit away from where our friends were staying, so I headed that way. As I was pulling into the parking lot, I got an emergency alert on my phone. There was going to be a huge dust storm, and we were advised to stay indoors.
I ran into the store, wind whipping around me, and dirty rain blowing in my face. I grabbed a package of diapers, a loaf of emergency French bread, and a Cherry Vanilla Pepsi for good measure.
When I came back out, there wasn't an ounce of wind. It was like it had never happened.
We drove back to our hotel. Traffic was clear. The power was on. The swimming pool was full of people. Deep down, I wondered if I'd imagined it. I'm not sure why I got the emergency alert on my phone. It was either three hours too late or completely wrong.