Yesterday I spent about an hour online and on the phone trying to figure out where my parents were as I heard reports of a tornado on the ground within a couple of miles from their house — but no worries, they were in an airplane scheduled to land at the exact time the storm system was supposed to hit the DFW airport. I couldn’t find their correct flight information in my email, couldn’t get hold of my sister who was teaching a class at the time, and was getting all of my up-to-the-minute storm information via Facebook and my cousin, who was perched with her children near their newly installed storm room (she herself was waiting to see if they should take cover).
The whole thing brought back a horrible memory of almost this exact time last year, when tornadoes hit Raleigh, North Carolina, as I was driving there from West Virginia to visit my sister’s family. I got a phone call from my sister telling me to pull over and not drive any closer to Raleigh because tornado sirens were going off in their neighborhood. It was raining pretty hard where I was, somewhere in Virginia at that point, but I had no clue that it was severe enough for tornadoes. I tried to find a radio station with local weather, but the reports ended up not being all that helpful — weather reports are announced by names of counties, not cities, and I have no idea where any counties in Virginia and North Carolina are. At one point, though, they announced a tornado was on the ground on the street where my sister lives — that information, I could recognize.
I ended up seeking shelter in the lobby of a Holiday Inn, along with another stranded family from South Carolina on their way to D.C., and we all watched the local weather reports and wondered when it would be safe to get back on the road. For 45 minutes I tried calling my family in Raleigh again and again to see if they were ok. They didn’t pick up any of the phones I tried calling — no cell service in the space under their stairs, and the power was out, so their home phone wasn’t working. It was a terrifying 45 minutes until they were able to come out from under the stairs and get in touch with me again. (They were fine, but I saw quite a bit of damage as I drove into the neighborhood.)
All of this has me thinking about accessibility. We have become trained to expect to reach people whenever we want, via phone, email, Facebook, whatever. And if we can’t get in touch with them or they don’t return a message right away, we (ok, I) begin to get nervous. Or in some cases, freak out slightly. Or not so slightly.
The ironic part is that I personally have a tendency to go offline or without a cell phone for long periods of time while I’m traveling. Well, for longer than 45 minutes to an hour. And I don’t get worked up thinking about people trying to reach me. Maybe I should. Or maybe I shouldn’t. I don’t know. I don’t know if there’s a moral to draw from all of this, or what conclusions I should come to. I just felt like blogging about it.
All of that having been said, I’m leaving for vacation in Oregon, so if you don’t hear from me for a few days, you know why.