Yesterday became one of those days I had to go to the gym in a tornado. The day started out typically: hot, syrupy air—muggy, stifling. I spent the day careening toward a work deadline, barely looking up from my computer, and by 4pm my brain had solidified into brick. Working from home comes with the risk of not getting out of the house, and I knew I had to get to the gym, else keel over in a stupor for the night.
Usually the kids like coming to the gym. They go to Kids Klub—yes, spelled with two K's— with us on Saturdays, and we have to peel them out of the climby thing at the end of our workout. But when they stumbled into the house from their own busy day, I knew the gym was going to be a hard sell. Our 6-year-old rolled onto the couch, eyes glassy, and shoved her shirt in her mouth, the classic signs of exhaustion. Our two-year-old tripped and fell on his face, another sign of exhaustion. Plus, it had started to rain.
"I think I need to abort the gym plan," I said to my partner, looking at our kids sprawled comatose around the living room.
"Nooooo!" she cried, already having planned out her 1.5 lovely hours to herself.
To show her support and commitment to the gym plan, Sarah bundled the kids in raincoats and galoshes and ushered them to the porch. Now the sky was green and rain was coming down in torrents. They would not step off the front porch. Both began crying.
"Thank you for doing this," Sarah said, pre-empting any further notions I might have to abort the plan.
But the plan was happening. I also had to pick up color copies from the quick printer for a client meeting in the morning. The printer would close in a half hour, and if we were going to the printer, we were going to the gym.
I ran both kids fireman-style to the car, which they did not perceive as the fun adventure I intended. Off we went into the rain-engorged roads, my daughter announcing every two blocks that she was scared.
"You'll be safer in the gym than at home," I said. How can a 100-year-old bungalow compete with a nice steel and concrete skyscraper, after all?
"I'm scared," she said. Thunder cracked. Lightning flashed. I pulled into a water-drenched parking spot in front of the printer. Water lapped right up to the doorway of the quick printer in a lake that spread from the door half-way into the street. I left the kids in the car and stepped ankle deep into the water. Inside the printer, behind carrels of Brite, Brite colored papers, a weather map covered the television screen. Something about a tornado. I asked for a plastic bag for the printouts and the man said "Well I have this grocery bag..." as if I might say no to anything but the most finely crafted plastic bag. When I got back to the car, everything drenched but my printouts, the children were still secured in their car seats, but clutching hands across the back seat.
"We're scared," my daughter said.
I had water half way up my sweatpants, but in my running, jumping and hopping across water, my brain block had cleared. We were going to the gym! In the gym's parking garage, I pulled out my printouts. To my dismay, my lovely designs were covered in gray smudges. I moved the papers around a bit before realizing the gray smudges were shadows cast by rain on the windshield.
The gym had the desired effect. You can't hear the rain so much through their thick plexiglass windows, nor see it, as the bright lights create too strong a reflection. It was as if there was no rain. From the rowing machine, I watched more weather maps on televisions secured to the ceiling. The closed captioning must have been translated from English to Japanese and back again, for there were lines like:
Is the liquid getting more intense? That is the question.
Our concern now is the rain is coming down in two barrels.
So I could not tell if we were in danger. The weatherman's head was directly in front of Chicago on the weather map so I couldn't tell what was going on there (here) anyway. Most of the attention seemed focused on Indiana, and I was pretty secure in the Law of Tornadoes, that they don't touch down in Chicago.
After my workout, the rain had subsided to a downpour. My daughter wailed all the way home about the broken, unusable cell phone she left at Kid's Klub which I would not go back to get. It wasn't the phone, it was exhaustion. I turned up Joan Baez. She cried louder. I turned off the music. Her wail dropped to a whimper.
Sarah met us at the door when we got home. I shoved the sodden kids at her. "Did you get my texts about the tornado warnings?" she said.