I’m on the run this week. I was supposed to be on vacation, but a giant swirling nuisance formed out in the Atlantic and has decided to run headlong into the state of Florida. When we left home on Saturday, it hadn’t even formed into a tropical storm, depression, or menace. By Monday morning, we were told we had to evacuate the island.
Personally, I blame the weather people. They named the storm Idalia. If you were named Idalia, you would be a little put out too. You would want to wreak havoc all over the place. Last year they named a storm Ivan (as in Ivan the Terrible) and look how that turned out.
When are they going to start giving storms cute puppy names like Gizmo or Snowball? Hurricane Gizmo isn’t doing any damage! It will scamper across the state, hike his leg at some trees, and then scamper up the Atlantic coast chasing a squirrel.
Anyway, because some genius pulled “Idalia” out of a hat, we had to cut the vacation short and flee to Venice. We have a friend who was gracious enough to offer us a place to stay that was out of the mandatory evacuation zone.
As we left town, we noticed most of the vacationers were packing up while the residents seemed unfazed. We passed a guy who was stripping the varnish off a door in his driveway, not a care in the world. Before we left we spoke with a representative of the rental agency. He said he wasn’t leaving the island.
We thought about sticking it out. Where we were staying (Anna Maria) isn’t in the path of the hurricane, but likely to get a big storm surge. But we were discouraged at the thought of no power and no water. And the possibility of our rental car being submerged. I envisioned how that conversation would go down when I returned it:
Rental car agent: Sir, did you try to turn the car into a submarine again?
Me: Again? I have no idea what you’re talking about.
Rental car agent: It says here you tried to drive into a lake in 1994 after watching a James Bond film.
Me: I think your system has been hacked. I didn’t hit my James Bond gadget phase until at least ’98.
Rental car agent: Nevertheless, your current car rental has water pouring out the doors and there is seaweed in the front grill.
Me: Hmm, I did hit a large puddle on the way into the rental car return…
So, to avoid such an exchange and because the rest of our group doesn’t believe in car submarines, we packed up and moved to safer ground. But before that, we agreed to slide into Skinny’s for a pre-evacuation cheeseburger. Because flight requires fuel, in the form of ground beef, grease and cheese.
We picked Skinny’s because a) it’s the best cheeseburger on the island and b) they weren’t already closed with a pile of sandbags in front. They were planning on staying open until 5pm and a small, but steady stream of island regulars came in while we ate.
After lunch, we went back and loaded up the car. We took all our stuff, knowing we might not be able to come back. We also took provisions, which in this case included two cakes and a large bottle of Tito’s. When in Florida with my wife, my sister-in-law, and sister Kate, there are always 2 cakes and a bottle of Tito’s. (Note: if you ever go to Anna Maria, go to Hometown Desserts. Then you will know why there are two cakes.)
Loaded up with three ladies, 2 cakes, and 1 bottle of vodka, I started to put the car in drive. Then I noticed a sign across the street. It said the MacLellens. I was sad that I didn’t get a chance to meet the MacLellens and learn their story. Maybe they were descendants of former sea merchants? Maybe they were in the Scottish mafia and now hiding here in the witness protection program? Maybe they know how to turn a car into a submarine? So many possibilities!
Suddenly I was jarred back to reality by my passengers who wanted to know why I was staring off into the distance and not actually driving. Off we went to Venice. Along the way we saw bumper-to-bumper traffic going the North —the opposite of where we were going. We worried that they knew something we didn’t.
We had been warned that the community we were going to was filled with a lot of neurotic seniors who didn’t like outsiders. They are known to uphold the pool rules with the militancy of prison guards. So, it wasn’t entirely shocking when we got there and they had paid a bunch of college kids to block the entrance with a mountain of sandbags. But we were undeterred. I backed up the rented SUV 100 yards, dropped it into sport mode (whatever that means), and gunned it. Up the mountain of bags we went, with enough speed to get airborne when we got to the top. We crashed on the other side and then were attacked by the Octogenarian Guard that runs Section D of Plantation Estates.
They beat on our car with canes and walkers, but we managed to get away. We then drove around the complex a few times to disorient any spotters so we could pull in front of our friend’s place without ratting them out that they had invited us. As we unloaded, a nosy neighbor took notice of what we were carrying in and asked, “Have you never been in a hurricane?”
I looked down at the cake and vodka I was carrying and back up at the neighbor, “Why, did you forget to run out and get cake and vodka?”
She scowled at me and started to go back into her condo. “By the way, my name is Jeff we’re in 278.”
“I’m across the hall. My name’s Idalia.”
Carry on, Citizens!