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Sunday, September 5, 2004

From the Eye of Hurricane Frances 6

This is the sixth installment of my friend's story. If you've missed the first one, you can find it here. For the second one, go here. For the third one, go here. For the fourth one, go here and for the fifth one, go here.

FROM THE EYE OF HURRICANE FRANCES

Friday (September 3, 2004)

Finally, a whole night’s sleep. Friday is the day that this hurricane is supposed to hit. It’s apparently slowed down, and is still big. Jeb is warning that the rainfall will be as much of a problem as the wind speed. The hurricane has weakened to a Category 3, which is good, but still dangerous. Jeb’s now using phrases like, “This is a killer hurricane,” which is less reassuring than yesterday. It’s also going to hit all of Florida, including the area that still hasn’t recovered from Hurricane Charley. I feel very sorry for those people. The very first hurricane-related rain squall happens.

My husband’s staff member comes back to the hotel to join us for lunch. We stroll over to the stinky fish restaurant (the only one in the hotel), and turns out their menu is reduced: Your choice of one of three types of sandwiches, and salad. Bleah. We go over to the Embassy Suites. Turns out they’ve got even grosser food. I’m starting to feel vindicated about keeping chicken in the bathtub. Back at our own hotel, the Front Desk Manager discovers that there’s one restaurant open in the area, and it happens to be across the street in the grocery store/ATM plaza. We head over there.

Turns out it’s an Irish Pub. Unfortunately, it’s a seriously understaffed, over-customered Irish Pub. The Front Desk guy said that the food is great, though, so we decide to stick it out. Waiting in line gets us nowhere. Some tables of people are getting up and leaving, because they’ve waited for ages and haven’t got service at all. The guys decide to stake out a table outside (the weather is sunny again), while I get menus for us all and survey the pub. There are two waitresses working, and the bartender. People are eating at the bar, which gives me an idea. I get our orders and then go to the bar. The bartender was happy to take our order, so we placed it through her and served ourselves. I carried our drinks out. Later, I went back to check on the food, though ultimately, they brought our food out to us. Meanwhile, there were prissy people nearby, waiting for a server to come along. Hello??! If the waitresses can’t keep up with what’s going on inside, do you really think they’re going to have the time to check on us outside?! The prissy lady sat by her Louis Vuitton bag, smoking and looking miffed. They had a really cute dog with them who looked absolutely petrified. I asked if it was a whippet, but she said something like it was some kind of toy greyhound. I wanted to pet the poor thing, as its ears were right back (a very scared look for dogs), but I was dissuaded as the lady seemed like she might think that I’d be giving he dog some horrible ‘ordinary person’ germs.

Palm Beach gets a lot of these types of people. Nouveau riche people who flounce around acting better than everyone else. Her husband kept to himself, and a few other people seemed to come and go from their table, so I’m not sure what they were a group of or even whose dog it was. When our burgers came, the dog came over to us. His name was Georgio Armani.

From here, we went to visit my husband’s COO, who’d been boarding up his house for the past three days. It’s a beautiful house that they just bought less than a year ago. Unfortunately, ‘beautiful’ in this case, also means ‘big, with a lot of windows’. We got the their place, driving up the Interstate 95. Never before had any of us seen the Interstate completely clear of traffic. The day before, news had reported all westward and southern roads being jammed with bumper-to-bumper slow moving traffic. Today - nothing.

We got to his place. Not only was the whole place locked down - completely boarded up top to bottom - but they’d got their water stocked up, their food all ready, and everything pretty much in place. His wife is very organized, so although there was a lot for her to do, she had virtually everything done. Their whole neighborhood was drastically better protected than ours. In their area, virtually every house was shuttered or boarded up, whereas in ours, when I last saw it, only about half were boarded. I know that like-minded people group together, but this was a strange demonstration of this idea.

At their house, we all had a snack, and chatted, and admired their boarding up work. Their fifteen year old son somehow was able to cut perfect plywood semicircles to fit into their gabled windows - definitely impressive. At this point, with everything done, it was really time to just start waiting. The first band of the outer edge of the storm came along while we were there. It basically consisted of sudden rain. On TV, we can see the “Digital Doppler 5000” (or whatever the radar is called). It shows that indeed the rain we are getting is the first band of hurricane rain. It also shows that once it passes, there’ll be a period without rain when we can drive back to our hotel. We watched the news, and it turns out that I’m not the only person who’s been giggling at the sign language lady. We decide to mute the TV for a while and try to guess what she’s saying. “First you take a half a cup of flour…” “Help! This guy is boring me to death!” “I swear it was thiiiis big!” The fifteen year old thought we were all insane.

Turns out they didn’t get to the insect repellant in time to get any. I said I have spare so next time we see them, we’ll bring some over. They also say that they got a later call to evacuate, but decided to stay where they are because they are on the edge of the evacuation zone, and last time there was a flood in that area, their house was high enough that it was spared. I gave them our hotel details and said that if it does get dangerous for them where they are, they are welcome to come to our hotel and hunker down with us. This is a real possibility. After the first rain band passed, we wished them well, and hit the road. Driving back the hotel, there was a rainbow in the sky. Definitely a better sign than the dead fish.

For dinner, we tried to go to the stinky fish restaurant, but found out that the roast beef they promised us at lunch had run out. They were back down to sandwiches. Our Hostess friend there, though, says that the bar is serving food. We go there. Turns out, the bar is serving all kinds of thing! We order a mixed plate of starters to share, while the guys get to drinking. Some woman there has obviously already been drinking. She has the look of someone who’s been recently dumped by her boyfriend, so she’s hanging out with her girlfriend and her girlfriend’s boyfriend, and wants to find someone to latch onto herself. She sees us, and tries to flirt with my husband. When he goes off to the bathroom, she then turns her attention and pushed up chest to our friend. Somehow, I’m not sure that during a hurricane is the best time to try for a hotel hook up. She probably woke up with a horrible hangover.

Back on the TV news, it's looking like the storm may be breaking up. My husband declares, "This is a bust!" We all debate what Floridians will do if it turns up that they rushed to tack down their houses and evacuate for nothing. We conclude that if there were ever another call to evacuate, we'd all ignore it. We play some 25-cent poker (which I win), and then go to sleep.

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