Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Storm

Last Wednesday I left work at 6:00 pm.  The sun was shining and I thought I might have to stop and buy a bottle of water along the way, because it was over 88 degrees out and smotheringly humid.  Fortunately, I didn't have to wait long for a bus.

The first bus that came along was an old dinosaur.  I knew there was a chance that it was a Hot Bus, but I got on anyway.  It was the wrong decision.  There is a certain type of ancient bus that the TTC runs along my route which seems to have the radiators set perpetually to "Bake".  It's like sitting in a kiln.  Last winter I got stuck on a crowded Hot Bus in many layers of clothing, including a wool sweater and parka (because it was a freaking freezer outside) and I literally almost fainted.  We were stuck in traffic just outside the station, so I couldn't just get off the bus.  It was horrible.  Ever since then I have been very wary of Hot Buses, and normally just wait for the next one.  But I was late already, so I got on and hoped for the best.

The weather reports stated that it was 104 degrees outside with the humidex.  Well it was probably 125 degrees inside that bus.  I knew as soon as I got on that it was a mistake.  I got off at the very next stop to wait for the next bus.  You'd think this wouldn't make much of a difference.  However, I was getting deeper into trouble.

The stop where I had boarded the Hot Bus is at a main intersection.  Lots of buses run along the perpendicular main street, and therefore there is always a crowd of people waiting at that stop.  Sometimes the buses get so crammed that they skip the next few stops until some people get off, to make room for more people to get on.  I was now waiting at the very next stop, which meant there was a high probability of full buses whizzing past at high speed.

The other problem was that it was now a few minutes past 6pm, which meant we were into the Bus Doldrums.  This happens twice a day, at a little after 9am and a little after 6pm.  On a busy route where the buses are officially supposed to show up every 5 to 7 minutes, there can be a gap as long as 20 minutes between buses as the rush hour shift ends and the remaining drivers all go on break.  What tends to happen, especially near the station where I'll be waiting if I hit the 9am lull, is that several dozen Out Of Service buses roar past, blowing your hair back, until it seems that every bus in the city is giving you the finger and you will never, ever get to your destination. They will find a pile of bleached bones at in a neat little pile by the bus stop, and will need to identify you from dental records.  I hate the Bus Doldrums.

So basically I was screwed.  I decided to be stoic about it. I called Ken to let him know I'd be home eventually, not to worry.  While I was on my cell phone a cab passed the bus stop.  If I hadn't been in the middle of that phone call I would have hailed it, but I was distracted.  I thought: there will be more cabs.  I'll tell you right now: that was the last cab I saw pass that bus stop.

The bright blue sky blurred over with a haze of wispy clouds, which quickly joined forces to become a white cotton ceiling.  Then it started slowly darkening, from greyish-white to grey to ominous thunderheads.  Fat drops started falling slowly, here and there.  I and the handful of other people waiting with me backed into the bus shelter.  As the drops starting falling faster, a full bus roared past.  Ten minutes later, when some serious rain started falling, another bus also showed us its taillights.  Then there were three fake-outs in a row: buses from another route that wouldn't take me closer to home.

After 40 minutes of waiting, the right bus finally came along and let us on.  By then it was raining steadily, and the cloud cover was still heavy.  We drove past an LED sign that gave the temperature as 88 degrees.  At this point I noticed a huge, coal-black storm cloud taking over the north east part of the sky.  Within a few minutes the remaining light faded and the wind picked up.  Trees on both sides of the street leaned over and flashed the silver bottoms of their leaves.  Five minutes later we passed another LED sign.  By this time it was dark as night out.  The temperature was 72 degrees.  The wind was whipping the world outside into a crazy furor; I couldn't tell if the hammering on the roof of the bus was rain or hail; and I wondered to myself if I would make it home alive.

Fortunately we made it into the transit station.  I went downstairs to the underground plaza, just above the train, and hid out there for a while.  I found a position from which I could look up three flights of stairs to an open square of sky.  It was green.  Alternately it flashed lemon-yellow (sheet lightening) and lilac with electric-pink (fork lightening).  The lightening strikes, especially the fork lightening, came thick and fast.  We were nowhere near the centre of the storm.  This was evident from the delayed and muffled thunder.  I wondered where all that lightening was striking.  I learned later that several houses in Vaughan were struck.  The lightening set the houses on fire and burned them to the ground.  I'm surprised there wasn't nothing but a smoking crater left of that whole neighbourhood.

There's a taxi stand at the transit station, but not right by the exit, oh no.  It's around half a block away.  I waited for an interval of lighter rain within the torrential downpour, and finally got up the nerve to sprint for a cab.  I got home alive and only slightly damp at 7:30 pm.

Ken was glad to see me home safe.  The sky was still green, but do you know what he did?  He went outside, turned on the BBQ and made salmon fillets for dinner.  And clams.  Did you know you can cook clams on your BBQ?  In the middle of an epic thunderstorm?  Well you can, if your building complex provides good shelter from the winds and a convenient overhang from the upstairs' neighbours' balcony.

As a footnote, apparently there had been golf-ball-sized hail only a few miles from my bus route.  I'm not sorry I missed that.  The rest of the storm was more than enough excitement for one day.


Jameil said...

Good gracious! Glad you made it home only slightly damp! I keep hearing about grilled clams and can't wait to try them!

DarcKnyt said...

WOW! Quite a storm. We've seen some doozies here in our time, but this year it's just been a bit of lightning and normal spring storms.

Yes, I did know you can cook clams on a grill. If it tastes good cooked other ways, it will be AMAZING grilled, and clams (and other shellfish such as mussels, oysters and even scallops) are awesome on the grill.

In an epic thunderstorm? Hm. I'll have to try that sometime. Oh, and I love salmon fillets in butter.

LL Cool Joe said...

I bet you wished you'd stayed on the Hot Bus now don't you?

Glad you made it home safely, but I'm sorry to hear about the people who had their houses burnt to the ground. I hope the people inside them were ok.

Sparkling Red said...

Jameil: Indeed I feel I did very well considering I had no umbrella!

DarcKnyt: Having just been through the scary storm, I was too squeamish to try the clams. I told Ken that if he ate them and survived this time, I'd try them next time. Now I'm regretting my caution!

LL Cool Joe: I think everyone got out of the houses safely. There was one death that was blamed on the storm, of a pilot of a small float plane, but that was still under investigation as of the next day's news.

ileana said...

Wow...what an adventure, and how scary and frustrating it must've been! I'm glad you made it home safe and sound (and somewhat dry) those yummy clams on the BBQ. I'm sure the dinner made your day better.

Warped Mind of Ron said...

Glad you survived the storms, quite an adventure.

Jenski said...

I would take a normal commute home over an adventurous story commute any day. :-)

Lynn said...

Oh this sounds exhausting! Poor you - I'm glad you got home and that you had a lovely dinner like that. What a nice husband.

DarcsFalcon said...

Goodness that was some storm! I hope that someone we know and love in Vaughn didn't get any hail damage.

And I'm glad you're okay too - no more falling down episodes on the bus like last time, young lady!

Grilled salmon and clams sound yummy. :)