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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Blizzard that Wasn't. An Embarrassment

I did everything I thought I should do. I watched the weather reports on TV. I read the weather forecasts in two different Utah newspapers. The signs were clear. Northern Utah was going to be hit with a major winter storm. They called it a blizzard - a storm of epic proportions with 60 mph winds and snow. I heard some say the highways would be impassible. So, taking all that into account, and thinking of the best interests of our customers, staff and volunteer, I made the decision to close the Space Center for all private missions Tuesday and Wednesday.

I rushed home after school Tuesday and jumped in the Battlestar to pick up a few needed supplies from Lindon’s WalMart. What a madhouse! I joined hundreds of other shoppers in a frenzied game of shopping cart bumper cars. Each of us feared we would be caught on the roads if we didn't get in and out of the store as quickly as possible. I had a vision of being trapped near the Purple Turtle, stuck in a mammoth snow drift on State Street away from home and family. In my vision I saw the angel of death swirling overhead, its face that of a skull, made of swirling snow caught in gale force winds.

I finished my shopping list and rolled my cart toward the front of the store to check out. The check out stands came into view as I rounded a rack of ladies intimate apparel. Long lines of desperate shoppers stood waiting, each was shifting his or her weight from foot to foot to keep their blood circulating. A saw hopelessness in their gaunt expressions. Many had a wild trapped look about them. They darted their heads back and forth and back and forth looking for a queue with a faster moving line.

Two full shopping carts were left abandoned by their owners near the jewelry department. I'm assuming their owners had given up on the lines and left the store. I knew why. They feared the blizzard would catch them in a Walmart line, unable to be with their loved ones with it struck. I understood. Don't we all want to end life’s journey with family and friends? Who wouldn’t want to be held tightly in a warm embrace and smothered in kisses as the roof collapses above you, burying you and yours in an avalanche of white, carrying you together into eternity?

I stood confused, not able to process my next move. Then it became clear. There, partially hidden by the long lines and magazine racks, was one check out register marked 20 items or less with a short line. I knew I had more than 20 items, but desperate times called for desperate measures. I made my moved and rolled past several others that didn’t see the open checkout.

“Suckers,” I thought to myself with a true sense of satisfaction.

I parked my cart behind an older gentleman purchasing a magazine and flashlight. Other saw what I had done and followed my lead, lining up behind me. I put my 20+ items on the moving counter knowing I had broken the sacred Shopper's Compact. I heard growling laced with mumbling. I felt my fellow shopper's cold penetrating stares. They knew that I knew I had more than 20 items. They knew that I knew I was breaking the Compact. I could read their thoughts.

I’ve always been honest. I’ve always followed the Compact. But today was different, with the storm bearing down upon us it was every man for himself. The very fabric of society was beginning to break apart right there in the Lindon WalMart - and I was a part of it. All it would take was one spark to rip the last vestige of humanity from us, sending us back thousands of years on the evolutionary scale to mere beasts, scavenging through the forest for a carcase to chew on.

The cashier ignored my indiscretion and rang me up. I couldn’t swipe my credit card and sign my name fast enough. I had to get out, away from those people.

I looked up a the sky as I emerged from the store. It was cloudy but still no snow or wind. Cars were coming and going around me. Shopping carts were abandoned everywhere. People were in a hurry. The ship was heading for the iceberg and we knew how this story could end. I put my provisions into the trunk and turned for the car door.

That's when I heard a thump. A woman had just backed into a parked car opposite the sidewalk from where I was parked. She drove forward a few feet, stopped and pulled into another parking place.

“She’s going to do the honorable thing,” I through to myself. She got out of her car and walked over to inspect the damage she’d caused. She stood there for thirty seconds or so then jumped back into her car and sped off.

I thought about following her and getting her licenses plate number, but in the end I didn't. I convinced myself it was none of my business. The Battlestar had rear wheel drive and was worthless in snow. I was in a hurry and didn't do the honorable thing. Am I ashamed of myself now? Yes but ........ there is always a "Yes But". I'll leave it at that.

I got home, put the groceries away and walked out onto my deck overlooking the valley and lake.
“Bring it on,” I said to the sky overhead. “I’m ready for you. I’m from South Dakota and understand you all too well. I know your moods. I know how you work. This is one house prepared for a long siege.”

Blizzards are as common in South Dakota as lime jello at a Utah social. I remember snow so deep we couldn’t open our screen doors to get outside. I remember cold so bitter your words froze, crackled and fell to the ground before the listener could hear them. A Utah blizzard would be laughable to someone with my history - yet, I knew to be cautious. Old man winter had a way of surprising you when you least expect it.


Its Thanksgiving Day. The predicted blizzard bypassed Utah county. We got jack squat. I feel I’ve been played and am not happy. I closed the Center for nothing. I sacrificed my integrity at Walmart for nothing. What's worse, I LEFT WORK EARLY! That's embarrassing and shameful. Leaving work early is disgraceful for a proud Workaholic like myself.

And so, I apologize to my family, friends and coworkers for showing human weakness. I vow it won’t happen again. The Space Center will stay open no matter what. Our lights will burn through fire, flood, famine, tornado, earthquake, blizzard, drought, and pestilence.

And in the words of my hero, Winston Churchill

We shall go on to the end.......
we shall fight on the seas and oceans,
we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be,
we shall fight on the beaches,
we shall fight on the landing grounds,
we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,
we shall fight in the hills;
we shall never surrender.

Mr. Williamson
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