What a night.
It all started early in the day on Tuesday, 4-2-2013. When I went to school, lack of sleep had essentially made me brain-dead, and I was a zombie. I got to first period English, and fell asleep with my head on the desk. In second period Spanish, I started with my head on the desk, but quickly ended up on the floor. The teacher said nothing, and Ryan Cronin threw his jacket at me to use as a pillow. What a bro.
The bell rang, and as I left Spanish, the teacher wished me luck as I went through the rest of my day....
Gracias, Senora Osnaya. I was going to need that luck.
By 7th period, I was done with school. Just done. At 2:55 pm, Sam and I drove home and I began to get my things together for our dress rehearsal at Miller Outdoor Theater. After attempting to style my hair like Leonardo DiCaprio, finding my stage make-up, and getting my dress shoes, I checked the weather on my phone.
I don't know exactly why I checked, but I believe it was Divine Intervention. ..."Severe Thunderstorms at Miller Outdoor Theater tonight."... "Well," I thought, "Better be prepared!" So I grabbed my raincoat and an umbrella.
Lindy Hockaday, my ride, pulled up to my house around 4 pm in her white Toyota Corolla. We had an uneventful drive downtown to Miller. After doing notes in the house, the cast and crew got set for the top of the show. Before we began, I looked out past the pavilion to see if there was any rain coming down. There wasn't, and frankly, I was disappointed. Where was the "Severe Thunderstorm" that was supposed to be going on? Internally, I wished for a storm.
We began the show, and everything went smoothly. We successfully made it through act one, then after a 10-minute break, we began the second half of the show. But I could feel the weather getting funkier. The wind began to blow harder, and the sky grew dark. A few minutes into the act, and the lightning started. There were so many flashes, that people felt like the paparazzi had come to snap photos of us as we performed, which was pretty cool. Despite the distracting flashes, the show went on. Then the rain came, but we continued through that, too. (Even though Miller Outdoor Theater IS outdoors, it does have a big pavilion, and the stage is covered too.)
The show was about 95% of the way through, and I was waiting backstage for the beginning of the finale. But Mother Nature decided to take the stage. Almost literally. Lightning flashed, and ALL of the lights came on at Miller at their full brightness for about 4 seconds, and then there was complete darkness.
A stagehand pulled out a flashlight, and someone yelled "Nobody move!!". Cast and crew stood still, and in the darkness, we listened to the storm.
The power came back on long enough for the director to call of the rest of the rehearsal and tell everyone to go home. Then darkness again. And this time, mass confusion. Emergency lights dimly illuminated the dressing room as we hurried to put our costumes away, and Henry Herbert quoted Bane from The Dark Knight Rises. "Ah, you think darkness is your ally? You merely adopted the dark. I was born in it, molded by it. I didn't see the light until I was already a man, by then it was nothing to me but blinding!"
I laughed at his joke as I went out with my things to try and find Lindy. My smile faded as I saw how the confusion had sent people into a panic. An orchestra member with her bass was hysterical. Not the funny kind of hysterical. The "Holy crap, I need to get away from this lady right now" kind of hysterical. Looking through the crowd of people, I made eye contact with Lindy, and grabbing her hand, I pulled us to an alternate exit that wasn't as crowded. I grinned and laughed triumphantly as I pulled on my rain coat and handed Lindy the umbrella. As we opened up the door, I was amazed at what I saw.
It wasn't raining cats and dogs. No....It gave new meaning to the word "severe." It was raining lions and wolves.
Gathering our things and our courage, Lindy and I trudged into the storm. I couldn't help but laugh as the wind blew us sideways, disorienting lighting flashed all around, and a deafening clap of thunder made me instinctively duck. We walked about 150 yards through slippery mud and ankle deep water. Once we made it to the car, I threw myself inside and slammed the door. Lindy had trouble closing the umbrella, ella, ella...and she ended up getting wet as she struggled with it. Eventually closing it, she jumped in and pulled her door closed.
We just sat there in awe and watched the torrential rains beat against the earth. In that moment, my priorities shifted. I no longer cared about getting home at a reasonable hour to rest for school. I cared about living to see another day.
Lindy was terrified of driving in the rain, and I really don't blame her. It usually doesn't bother me at all, but what we were caught in was different. Very different. We decided it would be best to find a McDonald's to wait out the storm in, but once we got onto the roads, that didn't seem like a good idea anymore. We, by chance, found shelter under a hospital, and Lindy had a great idea. There was no way we were going to drive on any freeway in that weather, and so she called the Auchter family and asked if we could stay the night. A pillow and a roof were all that I would need. The Auchter's said it was no problem, and my faith in the goodness of people was reinforced.
We drove back into the storm, and with great difficulty, we at last located their house. (I had to call and ask Maddy Auchter to flicker the porch light so we could find it.) Soggy, exhausted, and half-crazy, we were let into the Auchter home and warmly received. They had set up a bed, gotten out some food, and helped us with our things.
Lindy called her parents to tell them our plan, and the Auchter family and I watched a Tom Cruise movie with no volume on. It was him as some sort of fairy in a forest, hanging out with a girl that sang randomly as she chased two unicorns.............at 12:00 in the morning, it was just the thing to lift my spirits. :)
Lindy got off the phone, and there was a change of plans. We were no longer staying the night, but were going to wait for a lull in the storm. I laid on the bed they had made for 15 or 20 minutes, and at 12:20 am, we got back into the Corolla and headed north.
After a stressful ride home, I was dropped off at my house, safe. At 1:05 am, I walked into my kitchen, with wet jeans, and a smile on my face. Once I walked into my house, I threw my stuff down, and with the last of my energy, I wrote a note in sharpie, and taped it to the outside of my bedroom door. It read,
"DO NOT wake me up. I got home at 1:05 am. I will not be able to FUNCTION @ School. Please understand. <3 Nick Merrill"
And so, no one woke me up.
The truth is, I love stressful, think on your feet predicaments. I thrive in moments of uncertainty, because I can keep a cool head and a positive attitude. I learned a few things from my experience.
- Trust your instincts.
- Better safe than sorry.
- Be prepared.
- Keep calm, and think.
- Laugh when things get crazy, because that's when life is really fun.
I got up at 10:15 am, and ate a delicious burrito.
I freaking love life.