Oct 30, 2016

Hurricane Matthew

Once, I was staying with my friend Matt in Florida. A hurricane bearing his name was headed our way and a neighbor of his asked him to look after her dogs during the storm. She was in Virginia and her flight back had been cancelled. The storm was due to hit our area in the late afternoon of Thursday, which dawned a muted cloudy grey color, breeding widespread muted cloudy grey panic. I know this because I was up at the crack of dawn, rushing across Palm Beach County to return a rental car since I refused to be held financially responsible for damages incurred during inclement weather. Anyway, after getting back from that errand Matt promptly started trying to contact his neighbor about the dogs. I was occupied, trying to function without breakfast and think about exactly what it meant that we didn’t have milk or bread or even much food besides canned fruit, and that Matt had filled the bathtub with water but couldn’t exactly tell me what he was going to do with the water. Our conversation about it went like this, “You filled up the bathtub?” “Yup,” “Oh,” I look at him expectantly, he looks back. “Why?” I asked. “To prepare,” he said, “You know, in case…” “In case?” “Yeah.” He nodded and exited the conversation. Later on I tried again, “Oh and why did you … fill up the bathtub… with water?” “Just in case,” He said reassuringly, “We might need it.” “For what?” “Something might happen… you know.”
I didn’t know, I couldn’t figure it out. And I had a feeling that Matt didn’t know either but that the knowledge of a bathtub filled with water strangely reassured him. Meanwhile, I really wanted to take a shower, I hadn’t had a chance to before rushing off to return the rental car.
“What are we going to use the water for?” I tried again.
“For anything!”
“No, specifically.  The storm hasn’t hit yet, isn’t going to for at least six more hours, it didn’t take you that long to fill it up….”
Matt was no longer paying attention to me.
 Apparently there was a dog walker, who had a key to his neighbor’s house and could let us in to get the dogs. Matt received this information and promptly was like, “Now is good,” inside his head, reaching over me to shut off the stove, where I was cooking my breakfast, the first meal of the day, without saying anything at all.
On a side note, breakfast is very important to me.
So I was hustled over to her apartment on the other side of the apartment complex, feeling disconnected from the world by hunger. We get there and he’s like, “Ok, hold on.” And takes out his phone and tries contacting a bunch of people. Twenty minutes pass, probably longer as we stand there, waiting. The morning light changes and many people walk by, glancing at us curiously. Eventually, they walk by again, in the opposite direction, openly staring. The dog walker can’t come, he’s busy. So the dog owner, I guess, tells Matt that her friend will bring a key. More time passes, like a significant amount of time. Matt continues harassing people on his phone because the friend can’t drop everything to deliver the key right at this moment.  Soon, news arrives that a friend of the friend will let us in. Finally, someone swerves to the side of the road, rolls down their passenger window and tosses a key out at us, peeling off into the distance before any words can be exchanged.
“Ok, good,” Matt says brightly as he walks toward the front door, key in hand, as if we had conveniently just arrived and the two dogs we were about to collect had not been barking at us through the window for an hour.
He begins to fling open the door but checks himself when the two dogs in the entryway lose it. Unfortunately, I was standing next to him and was not ready to go back in time. My hand latched onto the edge of the door as it began to swing closed, keeping it from moving much. Matt, who had caught a brief glimpse of the dogs, said something like, “Those are not small dogs,” but I couldn’t really hear him over the barking and was distracted as he pried the door out of my hand.  He started making cooing, shushing noises at the dogs through the door, which seemed to encourage the dogs to bark with renewed vigor, and I realized that I could not do this for very much longer. I told him to shut up and seized control of the door, which he relinquished easily when I stood in front of him and became the first person the dogs would launch themselves at.  I opened the door a crack but didn’t close it when they started barking. When their barking paused I opened it more, etc – I was a dog walker for many years before I decided never again would I pick up dog shit, so I’m familiar with this kind of thing.
            The dogs sort of freaked out again when Matt decided to join us but had pretty much calmed down and decided now that they had company they had better eat all their food. I was reminded that the sooner this was done, the sooner I could eat something. We got their leashes on them and went back outside, where they immediately rushed over to some grass and pooped. Without thinking about it, I grabbed the leash of the other dog from Matt and sort of was like, “Oh, no we forgot plastic bags, I will hold this for you while you go in and grab some,” and also clean this up. But I probably just grunted at him and ran off with the two dogs. In hindsight, I admire my instinctive actions to avoid picking up dog poop.
As a dog walker, many people assumed the reason I didn’t have a dog of my own was because I wasn’t allowed to. Wrong. Dogs can be very enjoyable to interact with but are, ultimately, very gross. I was the one hired to clean up after the dog.  If I had a dog, who would I hire? No one. I’m poor.
Anyway, after absconding with the dogs and leaving Matt to deal with their excrement, I let them joyfully drag me around the apartment complex before I was beset by a wave of dizziness. By the time I could see straight again and hear past the rushing in my ears, Matt was suddenly with us again and taking one of the dogs from me.  It was eleven- something in the morning when we took the dogs back to his apartment. Upon entering, I spotted a jar of peanut butter and stuffed a spoon full in my mouth, the only readily apparent thing to eat in Matt’s kitchen. I sort of noticed the commotion of the dogs destroying Matt’s entryway, covering it in water, Matt trying to yell at them or give them directions, while struggling to take their leashes off but it was background noise. I did notice Matt using all the towels he possessed to ineffectively mop at the floor, including one I had used and planned to use again.
            Around this time Matt grew concerned about the tub of water and the dogs. Even though I had not moved from the kitchen, he kept reminding me to keep the bathroom door closed so that the dogs wouldn’t get in the water. Or drink the water, which would contaminate it. For what purpose, I had no idea. I sincerely doubted we would be drinking that tub water, since Matt had meticulously stocked the fridge with two gallons and four liters of nicely packaged water (and not much else). Matt continued talking about the dogs and the tub of water but I can’t remember what he said, I was trying to feed myself and no longer cared about taking a shower because there was nothing to dry off with afterward anyway.
After food, I suddenly demanded, “Who told you to fill the tub?” And he was like “People.” And I was like “…People?” And he was like “A few people, yeah,” And I was like, “How many people?” and he was like, “One. One person.” And I was like, “Oh?” And he was like, “A coworker.” And I was like, “And then did he tell you what the water was gonna be used for?” And he just sort of looked at me blankly.
Eventually Matt decided to just drain the tub, because of the dogs.
Later, on a walk with the dogs, we met some of his neighbors and they also talked about filling the bathtub up with water. We stared at them and they explained that if the power goes out, the water pumps stop working and the toilet won’t flush because the tank won’t fill with water, so you use the water from the tub to fill the tank. After that, Matt decided to fill up the tub again.
Luckily the storm did not hit the area where we were very seriously because we had almost no food and tried to go to the supermarket a day later. We ended up buying some kind of rye and pumpernickel swirl bread because there was no other kind available.