Waiting for the Tsunami
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Candace Nippolt
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Here We Go Again
Where's My Party
 Dawn. Sirens. Civil Defense sirens. A phone call from the step-daughter on the Big Island. Earthquake in Chile. Wave headed our way. Step-son bursts into the bedroom. Had a call from Anchorage---tsunami coming. Rub our eyes. Turn on local news, CNN, the weather channel. Checking the tsunami evacuation pages in the phone book. Looks like we’d be ok. Yes, we’re in a delta zone, just a hundred yards from the sea. Heavy rains, hurricanes, that’s what does our area damage, even more than tsunamis.
        What to do? Check supplies. Hawaii deals with these potential natural disasters all the time. Every year during hurricane season the hardware stores post big signs reminding everyone to stock up on the essentials. Some do, some don’t. It was a big earthquake in South America that generated a wave that pretty much destroyed Hilo town on the Big Island some years back. People still remember that one and the loss of life that followed. So, yeah, we pay attention to events in that part of the Pacific Rim.
        Check water. Collect saimin packages, pills, documents, towels, toilet paper, flashlights, batteries (Oh, oh—we need more), underwear, gas in the cars (are we ok?), books (for me, anyway; take Jane Austen, leave Anthony Trollope). Check, check. Now we hear the Marquesas have been hit. Only six feet. This island group to the south of us has characteristics similar to our island chain, so attention is paid. Looks like it might not be too bad when it hits us.
        Practice makes perfect. We’ll evacuate anyway. Bolt breakfast. It’s 10 a.m.—time to go. We’re going down Kamehameha Highway and up a slope to an elementary school. People sitting on the grass. Bathrooms near. Great view of the water. It’s actually a beautiful day, sunshiny, blue sky. We get out the folding chairs, listen to the car radio. For some unknown reason, I’ve chosen, along with dear Jane, a tome on the battle of the Somme in World War I. I read about the heartbreak of that mud splashed, bloodstained event while sitting under a huge mango tree, swigging water. Husband and stepson playing games of boule, that ubiquitous game you used to see in every French village. Watching the waves through the Bushnell’s. Each island is surrounded by a flotilla of boats of all sizes out beyond the reefs where they hope to ride out whatever comes. And all the time we’re up here---back and forth, up and down, now into this side street, now into that one, goes a local drug dealer on his old, very, very noisy moped, and backpack on his bare back with a smile for everyone as he passes. The area must be alive with people needing their courage for the day. Of all things, a mail carrier comes slowly up the road—I thought the roads were closed to only local traffic. Neither rain, nor sleet….nor tsunami warnings stay him from his appointed rounds.
         The drug dealer passes us for the umpteenth time. Finally the word comes. The water is receding in Hilo Bay. The mayor of that island is up in a helicopter watching and reporting. How high will it be when it comes back in? Waiting, waiting. The radio chatters because nothing is happening. Mother Nature does not run on our time estimates. Every thing is strangely quiet. On the Somme it’s still 1916 and men are waiting to go over the top. Another drink of water. Laughter from the people behind me on the slope. Now the water is returning in that Big Island bay. Only a little over two feet we hear later, Maui will get three, Oahu and Kauai, less. All the Hawaiian Electric trucks which had moved up behind us from their depot down near the water, can go back home. No lines will need to be fixed. We fold up the chairs, say goodbye to neighbors settling
in for lunch before heading home.
        Unpacking. Precious photographs back in place. Need new flashlights. The anticlimax comes. Feeling tired from the strain. Don’t know why. Our threesome included a combat vet, another veteran and an admiral’s daughter. If we don’t know how to prepare and remain calm, I don’t know who does. The sun is still shining. Turn on CNN. We’re all over it. Practice run only. Wait for the next warning. Will we be as lucky? I have often thought that high school should offer a class in what I call life lessons. I got this idea from the movie, “To Sir, With Love.” We all need to know plain facts about life that we sometimes only learn on the wing, or when something terrible happens. Such as---life is not fair. Bureaucracy will be something you will have to deal with every day of your life. Get used to it, and so on.
        I know it’s a fantasy, but wouldn’t it be marvelous to have practice runs at living before the biggest tsunami of all---real life—hits us?
Doing the laundry and reading Virgil
My Father's Clock