Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Random Hallmark Moments: Twister

   It got all crazy up in here in KC today! It was just before noon, and I was standing in the doorway of my manager's office, on my way down to the café to grab a salad for lunch. Suddenly we were interrupted by a voice on the loud speaker... a woman from Crown Center Security telling us that we "shouldn't leave any of the building and we should head to our designated safe area immediately." Something like that. At first we didn't know what to think; the way she worded her message was a little funny. But suddenly crowds of coworkers started gathering on our floor. I joked to Laurie, "I'm going to grab lunch—don't want to die on an empty stomach!" and headed to the stairs.
   The stairwells were already lined with people so deep that it was tough to pass. But I sneaked through and got down to the café to discover... that everyone had already evacuated. No one at all—not even a single employee. It was clear that when the announcement happened everyone fled immediately: chairs were still pulled out from tables. Remnants of lunch were left. A full bottle of Diet Coke next to a half-eaten salad.
    I reflected for a moment on a couple of things. One was that if I were evacuating, I'd sure as hell take my food and drink with me. The other was how eerily silent it was, and how much this reminded me of a scene from any zombie movie. I didn't want to be stuck there alone when the hordes arrived!
   Since there was no one to pay for lunch and I didn't feel like looting, I headed back upstairs. There were even more people gathered now, in the central area furthest from the very few windows that even exist on this floor. People were trying to call family but there wasn't reception. I was able to get an email out to my family just to give them a heads-up about the situation. (Kristin's response via text? "jeff and i get taylor.") I chatted with a few people. Then I saw that Don and Dave were there with us. They seemed very calm and were talking as if this were nothing out of the ordinary. So apparently my department on the 6th floor was THE safe area. On one hand, I felt safer knowing that, but on the other, if they came down here, we might really be in for something.
   It's funny, until that moment I hadn't been worried. It was a false alarm, surely. How could a tornado destroy Hallmark? But as I stood there, looking around at all these people that I've known for so many years, people that I care about just as if they were my own family... and Don and Dave there too. This was serious. Something COULD happen.
   I've been considering my own mortality quite a bit lately, between finally drawing up an estate plan, and hiring a real financial adviser to prepare me for retirement. It wasn't until I started swimming and Scuba diving and snowboarding and hiking alone, etc. that I also began to realize how immortal I'm not. But surely I was not meant to die from a tornado in a collapsed building with thousands of coworkers. I never pictured it that way. There's no way to know how it will happen, but that just didn't sound right.
   Well, it wasn't right, at least not for today. The storms blew over, we went back to work in an hour, Dave left mock-harassment notes in my chair; Gary and Gary and Dave and Melissa and Ginny and me laughed like crazy—and that was that. A rather normal day after all.
   In talking with Ginny, whose family is from the rural towns around KC and who have experienced tornadoes, lightning, and the like firsthand, we agreed that events like these are so random. You could do the "right" thing and be killed, or the wrong thing and be spared. So all  you can really do is live: enjoy every minute, move forward without regret, and take it as it comes. Ultimately it made me appreciate my life and my Kansas City family more than ever.
   And I celebrated being alive with Maureen over sushi at Kyoto.
Daikon roll
Salmon, Python roll, and Magic Mushrooms