Excuse the length - I've been away and hope I can have some slack here - This was written over a 24 hour period when I was sent to the Emergency Operations Center for the county I live in...it was a spur of the moment thing - actually no one else would go so they decided to get the sucker who'd never been through a hurricane season before! LOL
This is all true..except for every sentence after the first one! And it was written with my tongue in my cheek!
(if there are errors, please let me know, I might not fix them but it's good to know you're reading it! LOL)
THE ADVENTURES OF LILLIAN AND SHARON AT THE EOC BUNKER
10:30 a.m. STAR DATE 9/25/04 “
We arrived at the bunker separately so no one would know we were together. This way we could pretend that we needed TWO phones! One was for business calls, the other for crank calls to our bosses” those who sent us here! I wonder how my boss will like those 15 pizzas we had delivered”
We discovered we were picked for this job because we have strong kidneys. Men wouldn’t be able to do this as they need to go to the bathroom too often.
We also learned that being the lowest employees on the ladder DOES mean the crap rolls downhill.
(At this point we paused to write our “last will and testaments” just in case Jeanne gets really mean. I left my pile of debris near the road “ a present from Frances “ to the city waste management company” it’s the only way to get it picked up!)
Our computer doesn’t work and the power kicks off and on, so we feel right at home “ feels like our work building, so it’s just another work day for us!
Hour number two:
Lunch was served - hot dogs, coleslaw, baked beans and cookies. Sharon begins to wonder what will happen when they run out of hot dogs - a couple of police officers look like they’d be a pretty tasty meal! Beans- What were they thinking- (If one could foretell the future, the decision to serve beans to 100 people who have to sit cheek to cheek without air conditioning ranked right up there with the decision to allow Janet Jackson to have wardrobe control at the Super Bowl Half Time show!
At this point, we decided that only non-smokers should be sent on this
Assignment - it’s too risky to go outside to smoke. Lillian had to wrap her legs around a light pole just to light her cigarette! And being in the same room with 40 smokers unable to light up should constitute cruel and unusual punishment!
Hour number three:
We learned that the score for the Gator game was more important than the updates for hurricane Jeanne. WE kept score and let us tell you it’s Jeanne, Frances, Ivan and Charley 99 - Floridians 0. There are no high fives in OUR end zone!
Two camouflaged Army types just arrived and now we are suspecting that we’ve been volunteered for military service. (Lillian becomes increasingly nervous thinking of Sharon with a gun in her hands!) Someone just walked in and they have large wet spots on their shirts so apparently it’s raining. We only have one weather condition in the bunker - stuffy! As the hours are logged, and the conversations continue we’ll move into -hot air- phase.
Everyone seems to be pleasant so far - there is sharing of snacks and
information. I wonder how long before the bunker mentality sets in and we become like a suburban ‘Lord of the Flies’-“
Hour number three and a half - the man from a utility department just arrived at our table making things really tight. Lillian is now sitting on Sharon’s lap - this has two benefits - one: if the air gets colder, Sharon will stay warm and Lillian doesn’t have to sit on a hard office chair! This method of promoting better working relations between all city employees should be mandatory. You can’t help but work as a team when one of coworkers is on your lap! And think of the office space saved by doubling up this way!
Hour number four - paranoia has set in..oh no, wait! That’s just the urge to pee.
Dinner was served ' you’d think pasta was the food of gods! At least it was something to do..walk down the hall, turn right, pick up a Styrofoam tray and fill it with food! We were on
-mandatory garlic toast- obligation - everyone had to sign a contract - we all ate it or none of us ate it. (The beans from lunch are just now beginning to cause a little problem. The air in the bunker becomes increasingly hard to breathe. We are waiting for hazmat masks now.)
There’s an observation window looking into the bunker and to those who stand there and watch, we look like we are intently working on some vital public service. Let it be known, we call this service “ Solitaire - or Minesweeper - or Hearts. Those lucky enough to have a connection to the internet are surfing Ebay looking for plywood.
Hour number five - We’ve lost power and are on generator power here now. Lights are dimmed (oh wait, that’s not the reason for the dimmed lights. Some of the “bunker rats” are practicing a time-honored activity called “sleep-sitting”. My boss would immediately recognize this position - forehead in hand, paper in front of me while it looks like I’m memorizing some long and difficult
The bunker is built into the ground (I think moles were the architects) so daylight is something we only dream of (Note: see “sleep sitters” above.) We see images on TV of brave (translation: stupid) reporters standing at a 45-degree angle to the ground and its daylight out there! Some of were hoping it was Monday already.
There’s enough coffee to keep a narcoleptic awake and chocolate for the “wall bouncing affect”. All in all our fellow bunker rats are content.
There’s camaraderie that you only find on ships called “Titanic” or pioneer wagon trains in the Donner Pass. “Bunker Rats” suits the group perfectly.
Hour number six “ The clock in the bunker shows military time. Sometimes it takes a few minutes to realize there is no such time as 19 o’clock - must be the bean gas clouding our brains.
With so little contact with the outside world, we’re beginning to suspect we were all sent here as a joke and the TV stations are just replaying the footage they had of the coverage of Hurricane Frances. Reporters stand in front of the same buildings saying the same things-over and over and over. This isn’t April 1 is it” Some how I think Mother Nature is playing one big hellacious April Fool’s Joke on Florida.
It’s now 19:33 o’clock (I’ve given up trying to figure out the real time - at this point I’d have to take off my shoes to tell the time and I’ve had them on for 9 hours straight and they’re pretty gamey.) We were just told that hurricane force winds will start in about an hour (that’s 20:30 o’clock). That just means that Lillian has to squeeze her legs tighter around that pole to light her cigarette. It also means that the debris that was in your front yard (waiting for pick up) is now in your neighbor’s yard. Unfortunately, theirs is now in your yard - their bright orange recliner and the armoire with Budweiser cans glued to the front doors.
Its almost 20 o’clock and the only thing sleeping around here is my butt. I can’t fall off my chair because we’re packed like sardines in here and falling over is a physical impossibility.
Now begin the serious questions: “Do you think they’ll serve a late night snack”“
20:56 o’clock. (not sure how many hours we’ve been here)
The TV just went off and now we see nothing but snow -either the power is out or Jeanne is now pummeling us with a massive snowstorm! I prefer to think the power is out - One Bunker Rat brought an all weather space blanket and now it’s missing. An all points bulletin was issued “ maybe that’s why the power is out “ all those electric company employees with stolen space blankets are trying to get out of town.
We think someone brought in some sandwiches..so all in all, we discovered that we’d rather have a good cook than an electrician! The TV can be off all night but God forbid we miss an opportunity to eat!
Boredom in the guise of silliness has set in now. Imagine grown men (remember only men with strong bladders are allowed here) and women jumping up and down when the light on their phone goes off. Pavlov would be pleased.
Personally I think the county is missing an opportunity here “ we could have an emergency operations center/telethon. Perhaps we could have some bunker rats sing or dance to get the public to send in money. The money would go to buy a huge umbrella to put over Florida in case we get ANOTHER storm after Jeanne.
We’re located in the 911 building and they have a couple of showers here. I’m waiting for the opportunity to tour the building and accidentally walk into the men’s shower room. Thankfully I remembered my digital camera!
And now we wait like expectant parents waiting for the birth of their child. We all seem to be in the throes of labor - there’s lots of groaning, some swearing and I heard someone say they were NEVER going to do this again (yeah right - like childbirth, we forget the pain and will do this again).
Rumor has it that we have a new source of power to connect the TV. I heard they have some guy on a bike in the back room..as long as he pedals, we’ll be able to see TV - I heard the name Lance Armstrong, but I can’t swear that was his name.
Everyone is quiet now - the noise level is pretty low. It appears the “sleep-sitting” is in full gear.
Somehow, the humorousness of the night disappeared when we heard about the first fatality of the storm. Without being able to confirm or deny the rumor, we assumed the worst. And in 12 hours, the National Guard arrives..And a causeway has become unusable - And the power here keeps going out-and standing outside with our fellow bunker rats we are reminded of the phrase from Shakespeare “something wicked this way comes”
For the “small world” file: a local TV station is here and I was talking to the producer sent with the reporter. He was sent here to fill in from a sister station in Kalamazoo, Michigan”20 miles from where I was born. He said a couple of weeks ago he did a story on the grape harvest in my home town. Suddenly, I feel home sick -or maybe it’s just sick. Hurricane sickness - brings you headaches, nausea and if you look in your mouth, you just may see a “blue roof”.
One by one, the bunker rats crawl off to their separate sleeping spaces. Some sat up all night, head on the table, snoring softly. Others lined the halls, faces covered against the light. It’s bedtime for the rats. And waiting time for the hurricane watchers.
Sometime in the middle of the night the air went out. Slowly we begin to have labored breathing, gasping and sweats (it’s either too warm in here or the beans are kicking in). Now, as dawn breaks, and we get ready for another long day, the bunker feels like the top of a double boiler. There are 2 bottles of ice water left “ I think the sheriffs will get ‘em. They’re the ones with the guns on their hips.
We’ve renamed the bunker “the swamp” (as long as the alligators don’t start roaming the halls we’re ok) it’s only a matter of time until we get tired of the humidity and start to snip at each other. The sheriff’s will win as they have the guns!
We wait anxiously now, excitement is high. (Is the storm over”) NO - it’s now 23:59 o’clock and soon we won’t have to subtract/divide/multiply (whatever..get me a calculator) to tell time. And as the clock ticks over we see”
WHAT” 00:00 o’clock “ What is that? The zero hour? What happened to midnight” Who took it” This seems like something Stephen King would use in one of his horror novels, just before the monster walks in the door.
And slowly the door opens”
WHEW! It’s only the representative of the Red Cross. Hmm - if Mr. King were here, writing this, I’m sure he would make the Red Cross worker a vampire. Until now, I sat with my back to this guy - not now - I pull my shirt up to my chin (in swamp like conditions my face is now beet red and sweat drips onto the floor). Being a vampire means you live forever and I don’t want to live a bazillion years with a bazillion hurricanes!! Four is enough thank you.
Finally, after much worry (and constant watching the Red Cross guy) the clock turns to 1:00! Finally a number I can relate to.
1:30 a.m. I’m not sure what day this is (I think I have swamp fever). The eye of the storm approaches so we rush to the two doors to see if the world still exists. Thankfully, it does but it seems to be leaning a little to the left - no..a little to the right - no to the left - even the rain drops don’t know which was is down as the dance in circles trying to get their bearings (at least THEY didn’t have to go through the 19 o’clock fiasco).
Sleep is impossible. There are fourteen snorers here and they are snoring the “1812 Overture”. I wish they took requests. I’d like to hear a rendition of “Sweet Home Alabama”“
Sometime in the early morning we are told that breakfast is available. Visions of pancakes and eggs, bacon and croissants and sweet cold orange juice immediately vanquish the vision of the Vampire Red Cross worker. We stumble down the hall and find..Cap’N Crunch - and fruit - not Cap’N Crunch with Crunchberries - just Cap’N Crunch. Well, beggars can”t be choosers so we eat our breakfast without complaint.
Finally, midmorning, word is received that the replacement shift will be here at noon!! Lillian and I dance wildly up and down the halls (I’m not sure but I think I committed several illegal grope and seizures with the cops here in my excitement). We feel like prisoners who’ve been told their life sentence was commuted to time served.
We packed up and sat expectantly on the edge of our seats. And then they arrived! We handed over the laptop and drove off into the unknown”.
“The Midnight Hour” by Sharon D.
I’m feeling kind of cranky here! It’s midnight and I’m back in the bunker (sing that to the tune of ‘Back in the Saddle’ I’m back in the bunker again’)
Driving home was uneventful “ there is a lot of water out there, and the cops have several check points. My boss with the city vehicle was waved through. I, on the other hand, was stopped and repeatedly strip-searched. The cops insisted it wasn’t necessary but I prevailed. I arrived home relaxed, with a smile on my face and the urge for a cigarette.
Day becomes night as I enter my hurricane-shuttered room and sleep. Dinner cooked on a propane grill was delicious but the lack of air reminded me too much of the swamp so I sat in front of the fan and waited for the time to leave for work. (I was able to take a cold shower - it sure felt good - just what I needed - the strip search remember”)
Power is restored along the highway so there are very few 4-way stops to remember. I was stopped 5 times by the police (no one would do the strip search this morning and there was one Army - type guy who looked like he’d be good at it!)
And finally I arrived. Only to find that not only was the air conditioning on, but it was turned to “artic” mode. The bunker rats sat huddled in little groups around the laptops hoping for a little warmth. Again, I was reminded of the pioneers at Donner Pass and the lengths they went to during the snow storm to survive. Let’s hope we don’t run out of food (I brought 2 Pop Tarts to delay my starvation).
Someone set the thermostat on 40 below zero! Either that or they’ve begun training us for a huge shift in weather and the next hurricane will have blizzard force winds and dump 3 inches of snow on the state (that’s all it would take folks to put us in dire straits “ 3 inches and we’d be slip sliding away!) I take my seat and immediately become frozen to it. I’ll have to roll around on it until someone gets a blow torch to loosen me. With this in mind, I vow not to eat any baked beans today!
Everyone is asleep now “ there’s been a shift change and everyone here is new to me. Except one girl who’s huddled by her computer wrapped in a white blanket (or a snow drift “ I can’t tell, my glasses fog up when I breathe).
The TV is on to some cheesy movie about a middle-aged woman who has to start her life over after a failed marriage” sort of like the rest of us in Florida” starting over after Charley, Ivan, Frances and Jeanne. Only we don’t have to pay alimony “ we just have to place our furniture next to our mailboxes as offering to the Great God of Debris pick up. (Maybe he’ll visit us sometime this year as our street-side offering grows daily).
Tonight’s snore-fest is either the opening song from “Cats” or the “Star Wars” theme. Someone is a little off out there”
And now my nose feels like it’s going to fall off if someone touches it. I briefly consider putting it in my armpit to get warm but remember that I forgot to put on my deodorant after my cold shower today. I look around for duct tape, in case I need to reapply any appendages to my body.
Ninety minutes have passed and my left ear just dropped to the floor. It’s ok though, I was a little hard of hearing in that one anyway.
One of the TV screens is showing a night shot of our bunker. It looks cool all lit up and secure “ our very own little hole in the ground. Then someone hits a button and the picture changes and moves “ and I realize I’ve been staring at a scene from “Shawshank Redemption”. The part where the prisoners enter the gate for the first time. Talk about symbolism!
Almost 3 hours into my “midnight adventure” and I sit here wrapped in the American Flag. I’m patriotic to a certain extent, but out and out waving of Old Glory was never my style. Today, I’d drape myself in the flag of Outer Mongolia if it meant I’d stay warm!! Who would have thought after last night that we’d be hoping for a little power outage” Creature comfort is important “ it’s what drives us to buy a nice house, have 500 thread count sheets and buy the latest cashmere jacket. (To be honest, at this point, I’d wrap myself in dead raccoons to stay warm), which brings us to our next subject “
The writer in me sees a lot of potential for drama in this situation (I’m sitting here alone at night so I have lots of time to think). Maybe I’ll write a story about two EOC workers in the middle of a hurricane who fall in love “ maybe they could have sex in one of the offices “ each wrapped in dead raccoons, their left ears laying on the floor. Somehow I’m not sure the public is ready for that story yet!
The girl wrapped in a snowbank just walked down the hall - the bathroom beckons me “ I hope I don’t pee in little square cubes - that could be painful!
It seems that liquid leaves the body at the temperature of said body. So cubes were not evident but the trip to the bathroom reminded me of the task ahead. The smell of sewer has never been one of my favorites - the bathroom reeked like a latrine on a Marine base (no offense to Marines).
I feel like singing “The hills are alive with the smell of sewage!” Twirling around on a mountain is not in the cards and trust me, I’m no nun! But Julie Andrews is hard to top. I’d be lucky to do an impression of Milli Vanilli.
As I walked down the hall, I stepped past the cocoons of fellow bunker rats. Another Stephen King novel in the making “ hundreds of swamp dwellers wrapped tightly in blankets and as they sleep, they are transformed into those cute little polar bears in the Coke commercials. Maybe they’ll all get up and ski down the girl walking around in the snowdrift. Or maybe they’ll be transformed into bloodsucking monsters “ or the equivalent “ lawyers.
It’s time for the local news - 3 am…isn’t that the time bars close” Oh right, there’s a curfew here so bars were closed 3 days ago! And liquor sales are prohibited. Now I don’t drink, but isn’t that a bit discriminatory” I think chocolate is a powerful drug - ask anyone who has a chocolate craving at 2 in the afternoon. Maybe they should ban sales of Hershey Kisses too” Ok, so maybe chocolate doesn’t contribute to loss of reason but if that’s the criteria, why not ban love” Love and liquor have the same symptoms. Weakness of the knees, slurring of speech, the inability to see straight and after it’s over, vomiting and a headache. I think I’m going to write the Governor and ask for a ban on liquor and love - and Hershey Kisses.
Tonight, I conquered that nasty habit of nose picking. My right forefinger just fell to the table so picking is out “ as are high fives (I’m limited to high fours) and proclaiming someone or something number one “ oh I could use another finger for that but I’m afraid it would be lost in translation and would result in acts of aggression. Thank God there’s that ban on Coors, chocolate and love!
I’ve decided to go into work after my shift here. If I have to come back, it will be at noon on Tuesday “ I think. And if I go home and sleep, I’ll be awake all night. With no snowdrifts or bunker rats to keep me company. (Some nice police guy just turned up the air so now it’s only 30 below zero. Suddenly it’s almost balmy!)
Eight hours before my relief shows up “ it’s odd to think in time left and not time spent. Four hours here and nothing to show for it but this journal and a bad case of frostbite. I’m looking around for the Super Glue “ hoping my ear and finger can be re-attached.
While everyone sleeps, I’m charging my cell phone. It’s up to two bars now “ not that it will work, there’s no service here in the bunker and sporadic service outside. Lillian had two cell phones - both of which didn’t work all the time. How accustomed we’ve become to them - everyone has one - I think my cat has one that she hides from me!
They’ve saved lives too - how many murders are averted because you can call your spouse from Blockbuster to find out that renting “Titanic” for the third time is NOT a wise choice. Or how many family problems are solved while mom shops at the grocery store and shouts into the phone while picking out eggplant “I don’t care how many kids are going to be there, I said you are NOT allowed to windsurf during a hurricane!”
Daylight is coming up and that means the phones will start to light up and problems will need to be solved. Serving the public is a noble calling. After dealing with the public during the last three hurricanes, I’m beginning to think serving the public should consist of: “do you want these photos in an hour”??
And now the local news is on - I wonder why the newscasters think it’s a good idea to be so spotlessly dressed while talking about the devastation of the hurricane” Most of us are without power, without the luxury to shower, to wash your hair, to style it, to press our finest suits. I’d like to see TV reporters who look like us. Stringy hair, a polo shirt with yesterday’s beans spattered down the front and a mismatched pair of socks. THAT would inspire confidence - at least then I’d know they didn’t ride out the storm in a Sheraton in Chicago!
The first call of the day “ there’s a live wire on the freeway. I’m not sure if this is caused by a downed power line or maybe someone didn’t follow the ban on liquor - or chocolate - or love.
And now this journal seems to be unnecessary. Life will intrude and the need to be serious will prevail “ gotcha! Just kidding! If ever there was a time for foolishness, it’s now. I read an anonymous quote years ago that stuck with me “ even the grandest man needs a bit of foolishness now and then. (Maybe we can talk President Bush and Queen Elizabeth into running barefoot through Central Park while wearing silly hats”)
Seven hours until my relief arrives “ pretty good for a bunker rat “ pretty bad for a Rolaid.
Looks like a member of the SWAT team just arrived “ his low’slung holster was filled with a big ugly gun. I suppose that all law enforcement branches need to be prepared for anything “ road rage, looting, drunkenness - maybe he’s preparing for the rush to get Halloween chocolate?
More and more people are waking up now preparing for the day. Channel Five wants an update - so someone in their jammies went out to talk to him. At least they didn’t send the snowdrift girl.
Six hours until my relief shows up - does my focus on this mean I’m not
dedicated and reliable”
I feel sniffly “ could this be the results of going from 40 below to 90 in the space of 20 hours” Maybe I have swamp fever” Cabin fever” Saturday Night Fever” (can’t be, it’s Monday). Getting sick now is NOT an option. OT are the call letters for the day “ this will allow me to make that big purchase I’ve had my eye on”-“a full tank of gas.
There is a heavy contingent of police here this morning “ shift changes
probably. Everyone has a gun. Why don’t utility workers get guns” We “serve and protect” too. We face dangers every day - when was the last time a policeman had someone throw themselves in front of a squad car so they could use their toilet – See! Utility workers have dangerous jobs too. And even those of us who don”t have those jobs, still could use a gun now and then. How many times have you wanted to put a bullet through your computer or printer when it screws up? Of course it wouldn’t be good when there’s an outbreak of “going postal” but if you remember, I addressed camaraderie earlier (Lap sitting) so we would avoid this situation.
And now I’m back on the job for today.