Friday, October 5, 2012

The Hailstorm of 2004 - Revisited

I loved this car.  A 1993 Park Avenue.  It had electric windows, electric seats, sunroof.  Leather heated seats, a car alarm.  The rear view mirror switched from day to night by itself.  The headlights had a delay timer, so that I could park the car, and walk up the sidewalk to the front door, lit up by the car, and then turned off by itself.  I had a magic car to go along with my magic money - the disability check that appears in my bank account each month.  Which was appropriate, because it was the back pay from the disability check that bought the car - $3000.00 cash.  My son and daughter-in-law helped by sending 500.00 too.  Me and this car were a match made in heaven.

The day was October 5, 2004.  I was leaving Ruidoso, New Mexico, and headed home to Idaho Falls after visiting my friend, Zaul, for a week.  

I headed north, and took a wrong turn.  No big deal, it was still in the right direction, just a different route.  I was happily listening to the local news, watching the beautiful scenery, and the odd sky.  Not odd looking as in ominous, but as in 'interesting'.  It was a bright and shiny day, with one cloud in the sky.  It was shaped like God's hand, with his finger pointed down at the town of Socorro.  (Update:  The finger pointing was exactly like the painting in the Sistine Chapel.)  A sign said Socorro was 4 miles away.  

 It drizzled a little sprinkle of rain, and then suddenly, within about 30 seconds, I couldn't see the semi-truck in front of me, which had been about 5 car lengths ahead of me.  I immediately pulled over, hoping to hell I didn't run into it.  I called SanFranMan cause I was scared, but got distracted by the sound of breaking glass.  I forgot to talk, as I realized the dogs, who were in the back seat in their crate, were howling.  Not realizing it, I had left the cell phone on, still connected to SanFranMan, so he heard the howling dogs, and the THUMP THUMP THUMP of the baseball-sized hail pounding my car.  

It sounded like this.  Exactly like that...only... in person it was 10 times worse.  

I could NOT figure out the breaking glass sound, until I remembered I had a sunroof.  I wasn't used to having a car with a sunroof, so breaking glass on the top of the car truly confused me, especially since I could see and hear the front and rear windows cracking more and more every second, and it wasn't making the same sound as the tinkling of broken glass above my head.  

I saw a hailstone come thru the back window and bounce on top of the dog crate.  I tried to turn the car in a different direction to change the angle of the hailstones hitting the front windshield head on.  I was sure it was going to shatter above my head, slit my throat, and I'd die a bloody death right there on 1-25 North, in front of my dogs.  So I inched the car at a 90-degree angle to the freeway (or what I hoped was - cause I couldn't even see the freeway at that point), and promptly slid down further in the burm, in the mud, the blood and the beer.  Later one, when the storm had passed, and my life had quit flashing before me, I noticed a very large culvert with raging water that I could have easily slid into and drowned - about 10 feet behind where I had slid down in the dirt.  If I had pulled over 10 feet sooner... I'd be dead.  Seriously.  Litereally.  No drama intended.  Just the facts.  I am lucky to be alive.  

Meanwhile, the back window completely shattered out, covering the dogs in glass inside their crate.  

It looked like this car:

The front windshield was cracking EVERYWHERE.  The dogs were howling.  The rain was pouring in from the broken sunroof on all four corners, and I was trying to conduct flood control with mugs, towels, blankets, anything I could find.  I had a BUNCH of ... herbal pain control, if you know what I mean, and I think you do...and everytime I'd find a new hiding place, the rain would find it again.  Zaul had given it to me, and I had insisted on driving down to get it, rather than risk it being mailed and both of us getting into trouble.  

The dogs were staring at me, with the most helpless look on their faces, but I knew if I talked to them, they would jump around in the glass, so I ignored them as best I could.  That was the worst part for me - my poor dogs.  

It was scary.  It was REALLY scary.  Baseball sized hail.  Later, I was relieved to hear the news refer to it as baseball-sized - it wasn't all in my head.  

The storm lasted about 20 minutes in real life, and about 2 hours in my head, with no let-up whatsoever.   It was dark, I couldn't see anything outside of the car, and it was almost pitch-black inside the car.  I couldn't breathe cause of the claustrophobic feeling, and I would have had a panic attack, but I was too worried about the dogs to have it.  

When it finally stopped, there were at least 25 cars that I could see, with all their windows busted out, too.  After we all made sure everyone was okay, the men started calling their insurance companies.  I heard, more than once, "What do you mean hail isn't covered?"  I, of course, only had liability, since I had paid cash for my LUXERY, electric push button car.  Sniff.  The car that made me feel rich, even tho I was living on $629.00 a month.  My now piece of shit car.  Sniff, sniff.  

I could see a cop car trolling the freeway, checking on everybody, so I was really quite frantic.  I wasn't USED to having pot paraphernalia to consider, and I was now a card-carrying druggie, even tho I hadn't used any in several days.  Naturally, the cop had a dog with him.  Of course.  I watched him stop at every single car there on the freeway, and I was the last in line, except for the semi-truck ahead of me.  Brilliantly, I asked the cop to stay away from my car, so his dog wouldn't rile up my dogs, who were already covered in broken glass.  I guess being a druggie gives you instinctive brain cells for self-survival.  

Zaul called to check on my progress to Idaho, and I could barely speak.  I couldn't get the word Socorro out of my mouth, and he probably thought it was normal MS shit.  The reception was shitty, so we kept being cut off.  He could call me, but I couldn't call out.  When I finally got the story out, he asked if he should come get me.  I told him I didn't see any reason why he should, since there really wasn't anything he could do, so he said to keep him informed as to my plans.  

All of us 'Hailed Upons' were still just kinda standing around, still in shock and gradually realizing how we were lucky to be alive, specially me, with the culvert with raging water so close to where I pulled off.  The cop told us there were no accidents on the freeway.  The semi-truck in front of me said none of the trucks ahead of him had warned him - it happened so fast, right then and there.  Some thought it was a tornado, but as we learned later in the news, it wasn't.  Like me, everyone on the road had thought "what a lovely sunny day - interesting cloud up there".  

The semi-truck pulled me out of the mud, the blood, and we all drank the beer.  I so funny. 

I limped the car into Socorro, and discovered the entire town had no electricity.  No one could go into the stores or gas stations.  At the far end of town, I found a tiny car parts/thrift shop store, owned by Ma and Pa Ancient.  They still did business on receipt pads, so weren't dependent on electric cash registers.  I had to buy new windshield wipers, a roll of plastic, and duck tape.  Mrs. Ancient charged me an arm and a leg for them, and said I could use their scissors for free - I didn't have to "rent" them!  My wipers were broken into PIECES.  There were HOLES punched into my car.  The paint was chipped.  At least the damn dents seem fairly symmetrical.  You know how much I hate it when things don't look matchy matchy.  

While I was trying to cut the plastic with the free scissors, Zaul called and said he was on his way - he didn't want me out there alone in the world.  He said we could at least get me back to Ruidoso, saving me the cost of hotels.  Because of the wind, heat, hail, and MS, it took me 2 hours to get the plastic taped over the windows, or more precisely, the LACK of windows.  I was staggering around in a drunken sort of way, while Ma and Pa Ancient watched with their 60 year old son, who was kind enough to put the new wipers back on, altho I had to read the instructions for him, since he couldn't read.  

The town drunk, probably attracted by my drunken staggering, came by.  He thought I was manna from Heaven, that the storm brought him his soul-mate.  He kept asking me about my cell phone plan, and saying how much cheaper it would be if I joined his family plan.  Seeing how my cell phone was worth shit in hailstorms, 100 degree heat, and no electricity, I agreed with him, which was a mistake.  He suddenly called his provider and tried to get me signed up with them, right then and there.  There I was, with plastic sheets flying all over the place, obviously needing help, the rain drizzling down, me sweating like a sumo wrestler, and the drunk was sitting on my hood, trying to get me signed up with his cell phone provider.  I swear, I expected Alan Funt's Candid Camera at any moment.  

Zaul called again, saying he was almost to Socorro.  I drove into a Burger King, forgetting there was no electricity, and a girl met my drunken stagger at the door, telling me they had no service.  "Not even just a coke, in a can, maybe?" I said weakly.  The darling girl took one look at me, and told somebody inside, "Get her a coke".  It was the BEST coke I've ever had.  I shared it with the dogs, who don't normally like coke, but evidently the day seemed like a day for drinking.  

I dumped at least 40 cups of shattered glass out of their crate, but at least they were safe.  Subdued, but safe.  Roofs and trees were down.  Several people were bruised and one person was in the hospital.  

It took me and Zaul 4 hours to get back to Ruidoso, normally a 2 hour drive, but we could only go about 30 mph so the plastic over the windows wouldn't rip off.  We were surrounded by the most amazing lightening storm for most of the drive.  Quite beautiful.  Several times, I wanted to stop and gaze upon Mother Nature's wonders, but then I'd remember I was mad at Mother Nature.  

To recap, I had no back window, side window, sunroof, and the front windshield was shattered, altho still in.  It made me nauseous to drive my car, with my vision problems, so Zaul had to drive it, and I drove his Jeep.  Luckily, it was dark, so I didn't see any clouds, which fit nicely into my new policy - Clouds Are the Enemy.  We listened to the Bush/Kerry presidential, each in our respective cars, conversing sometimes on the cell phones. 

It took another week to gather the funds to pay for new windows.  An email went out to friends and family, begging for money, and telling the whole sordid story.  Unbeknownst to me, my sister had asked my father for money, too, but he didn't send any because I had to be lying... "No one has as much bad luck as he does".  ???  He and I haven't spoken in 8, 10, 12 ? years, so I never considered him as a source of funds anyways, but I didn't need to know about the added insult, and he certainly doesn't stand out in my life as a paradigm of honesty.  She's the one who told him I had MS... I guess he thinks MS is "bad luck".  

May I end this by saying how fucking glad I am to be alive and I LOVE my friends and family and that it's important to tell people! Also, don't drive under clouds that look resemble The Hands of God and Adam of Sistine Chapel fame.  

And then there was this:

and this...

SanFranMan replaced the sunroof with a piece of plywood, and caulked in the edges to keep the rain out.  Replacing the sunroof ran about $1200.00.  Wasn't going to happen.)



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