It was early morning and I had not even had my coffee when I heard my wife Ann yelling for me from the breakfast nook. Immediately the veil of sleepiness lifted and my mind went into overdrive trying to figure out what I had done to upset the “boss”.
As I cautiously approached the table where she sat, I was relieved to note she had a pleasant smile on her face.
“Guess who’s going to be in Sarasota next month for a book signing?”
As much as I wanted to say Attila the Hun, I simply said “Who would that be, dear?”
As it turned out, it was someone on her favorite celebrity list. Suddenly I knew, without a doubt, we were destined to make the one and a half hour trip to Sarasota so the “boss” could buy a book and get an autograph…oh joy.
After weeks of listening to the “boss” raving about the upcoming event, the day of reckoning finally arrived. The weather forecast was for a beautiful day with the exception of afternoon thunderstorms. I was not worried about the forecast since I knew we would be back home long before the boomers hit. So we climbed in our vehicle and headed off to Oz to see the wizard…er, a…Sarasota to see the author and at the same time, have a pleasant day of sightseeing and traveling down memory lane.
Having lived in Sarasota County at one time, as we crossed into that area, every familiar sight would trigger a “remember when” moment. “Remember when you used to work in beautiful downtown Venice?”…“Remember when we used to go to Caspersen Beach to collect shells and sharks teeth?” and on and on it went. As we neared the south end of Casey Key, we found ourselves reminiscing about a restaurant that we used to frequent. It was located on the Intracoastal Waterway at the foot of the bridge that provided access to the Key. All the “boss” had to say was “They had the best grouper finger sandwiches” and I knew we were going to stop there on the way home. Not because the “boss” was all powerful, nope, it was because I truly LOVED those sandwiches…humm, you suppose she used that to lure me into stopping there.
Not too long after we passed the road leading to Casey Key, Sarasota came into view and now it was just a matter of locating the bookstore.
We were a little early when we arrived at the bookstore so we decided to go in and look around. We could see everything for the book signing was set up and ready to go, just waiting for the arrival of the author. Ann purchased a copy of the author’s book and we headed to the most important part of any bookstore, the coffee shop. Because of our hurried departure from home this morning, we both were in need of a large cup of “instant wakeup”, strong coffee.
After waiting all those weeks, we were somewhat disappointed with the book signing. It seemed as though it was over before it began and somewhat ho-hum. Since the event finished earlier than we expected, we decided to go home via Casey Key, do a little sightseeing…oh yeah, and eat a delicious, nutritious, grouper finger sandwich at our favorite restaurant, and I was in hog heaven at that thought.
Once again, it seemed like the weather forecasters were wrong about the afternoon thunderstorms. The farther south we traveled, the more ominous the clouds appeared. As we approached the restaurant, it still looked as though we might have enough time to eat and take a ride over to the beach to snap some pictures before the boomers hit. We truly enjoyed our sandwiches and as we left the restaurant, we noticed an eerie calm had settled over the area. Even the birds seemed to have noticed. They were just standing around as though they were waiting for something scary to happen.
Now, I have to tell you up front that I am not a big fan of the loud noises and bright flashes associated with electrical storms. If I hear or see them, I typically like to do it from inside a building with a thick pane of glass between the source and me.
When I was a kid…yes, I can remember back that far…I have memories of my mom’s fear of electrical storms. During a storm, she would place a chair in the middle of our living room, pull down all the window shades, and sit perfectly still until the storm passed and she couldn’t hear anymore thunder or see any flashes from lightning. Now, I am definitely not that bad but as I said, I do believe lightning is best observed from the inside of a substantial building.
Having said that, you can understand why I was a wee bit uncomfortable standing in the open next to a body of water, with a storm approaching. To counter that feeling, I found myself moving closer and closer to the restaurant, eventually becoming very friendly with one of the restaurant walls. With thunder rumbling off in the distance, my plan was to capture a few images and then make a beeline across the open parking lot to the safety of our vehicle.
I was amazed at the calmness of the Intracoastal Waterway and the way everything was reflecting off its mirror like surface. As I looked at the sky, it really did not look that bad, so Ann and I decided to head across the bridge to Casey Key and snap a few more pictures.
As we arrived on the other side, it was as if we stepped into a different world. I now had a clear view to the south and things were not looking good. Did I mention I was now standing out in the open, no buildings, no trees, and no power lines? I was the tallest object for a hundred yards in any direction. Unlike the idiot standing in the open acting like a lightning rod, Ann was smart enough to stay in our vehicle.
The colors and reflections were awesome and they lulled me into a false sense of security. Still, I had not heard any thunder or seen any lightning since we left the restaurant so maybe, just maybe, I could snap a few more pictures before I had to make a run for it. The beauty of the approaching storm was surreal. They say every cloud has a silver lining and in this case, it was the calm beauty created just before the beast of the storm arrived.
Even the skippers of a few boats that passed by on the Intracoastal did not seem too concerned about the storm. One of them even slowed down as he approached and held a brief conversation with me, never once mentioning the nearing storm. He seemed to be more interested in my camera and the pictures I was capturing.
Chatting with the boat skipper really boosted my confidence so I decided Ann and I would take a chance and head over to the beach. Ann repeatedly asked me, “Are you sure you want to be out in the open like that? You know how you are about thunder and lightning.” I really think she was more worried I might have an “accident” if I was out on the beach when there was a bright flash and a loud bang. I don’t think she wanted to be cooped up in our vehicle for an hour with that awful smell.
At first it looked as though I was the only nutcase at the beach, but eventually others showed up and to be truthful they were a lot braver than I, although that’s not saying much since I’m definitely a devout coward.
Still though, with the exception of a handful of people the beach was pretty well deserted. I am guessing all the smart people were inside where it would be safe and dry.
As much as I knew I should head for the safety of our vehicle, I was once again caught up with the beauty of the approaching storm. I kept thinking “Just one more shot”…thirty shots later it was still “Just one more shot”.
Just as I was beginning to feel confident, it happened, the storm beast had arrived. A split second after I snapped a beach shot there was the brightest flash I had ever seen immediately followed by a boom loud enough to wake Snow White without her ever being kissed. Before the thunder stopped echoing, before I even realized what happened, I found myself sitting in the driver’s seat of our vehicle with no idea how I had gotten there. My hands were sweaty, my heart was pounding, and my stomach felt as though I had swallowed a thousand butterflies.
Once my ears stopped ringing, I became aware of an odd noise coming from the passenger seat. As I looked in that direction, I noticed Ann sitting there with her hand over her mouth trying, but not doing a very good job of holding in her laughter. Finally, when she had calmed down enough, she said, “I take it this means we’ll be heading home now?”
Needless to say, it was a quiet trip home. Strange though, every so often I noticed Ann would sniff the air in my direction…not real sure what motivated her actions.
Another great adventure comes to an end. It doesn’t get any better than this…well, unless you’re talking about eating a grouper finger sandwich on Casey Key. That might just be a step up from this story.
I guess as we travel the road of life, we can never be really sure which way the road will turn…one thing’s for certain though, if you’re caught in the open during an electrical storm, try to get friendly with someone that’s a wee bit taller than you.
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