It's discombobulating enough to come out of an animated science-fiction movie set seven or eight hundred years in the future into the brightness of the now. But to have that movie snap off mid-credits because a massive thunderstorm is rolling by, and to walk out into the generator-lit hallway with an alarm blaring and teenaged movie workers dashing around asking each other what to do, this is another thing altogether. It was, in two words, and to invoke my friend e!, cuckoo bananas.
JM and I were on a little date, and the plan had been to head to Luna, the fancy and tasty tapas place in Champaign. But alas, we did not make it there, because the storm that sparked pandemonium in the movie theater was about to do the same on Neil street, the main road that connects the movie theater to Luna.
Let's just say that yesterday I learned some things. First, flash floods: now I see what all the fuss is about. This shit is dangerous and it happens in minutes. Second, I respond well in a mini-crisis, or at least I did in this one. I became focused and deliberate and drove us off the flooding Neil street, sneaking past a stalling mazda, into the parking lot of a small business called i-power, a place that appears to sell nutrition supplements and whose workers were gawking at the street outside. At that point, for about a hundred-yard stretch of street, the water was rushing above car wheels and rising fast. JM was sweet and encouraging while I maneuvered the car. He is so g.d. awesome. (But I knew that.) I also learned that there is such a thing as "high ground" here in the flatlands. We snaked around the building next to the train tracks--this was higher ground, and then up into the furthest north-east parking space. Even higher.
Other cars kept driving through the water, each one creating a dirty wake, the shore the middle of a parking lot. Later when the water got even higher, SUV drivers charged through, fast enough (I swear) to pull a water-skier. And so the other thing I learned, though this shouldn't have surprised me, is that people can be really fucking stupid. Driving into water in a mid-sized sedan while construction cones are floating past? Not a good idea. When their engine dried out a little, the stalled mazda people tried to make it back out of the parking lot, only to reconsider and stall again, across two lanes of traffic. The woman parked next to us got out of her car and began obsessively flattening the median bushes with her sandal, presumably to clear the way to drive over all that concrete into the AAA parking lot, which was on even higher ground. When we got out of our car to peer down the street, a man in a black slicker asked us the best way to get to the other side of campus. Later, across the street at T.G.I. Friday's, where we rode out the storm, and dinner, we heard that a kid had to crawl out his back window. His car was still sitting there, askew, the water lapping his door handles.