Saturday, October 31, 2015

Dirt Storm!

Fall 1998

It was an exceedingly windy morning following a recent and large wildfire in the neighboring mountains. Not merely windy with occasional gusts, this particular morning, but a constant wind visibly loaded with debris. Not bags and litter debris, but minute remnants left over from the burn.

I was at work and burdened with a task necessitating that I leave the clean office confines and drive to an appointment. Staring out the rear glass door into the parking lot I could see the company car 35 feet away. But I was reluctant, not on account of the wind, but on account of the tremendous amount of dirt that was being blown around and carried in the wind. Really, dirt was airborne and in tremendous volume. It was gross.

Action was needed. I stood at the door planning my move, hoping for a break in the wind that would not come. The clock was ticking and my action plan was being mentally formulated. Settled on the course of action I exited the building into the airborne filth, stepped to the car on the double quick, mouth closed tight, eyeballs squinted to reduce chance of dirt intrusion, unlocked doors while en route via key fob, opened door, tossed gear into front seat, got inside, closed door, took a breathe, assessed myself. No grit in mouth, eyeballs were clear of dirt. Success! Wind and dirt blowing around outside, I turned off the dashboard vents so as not to taint my clean sanctuary. Safe! Start the car and drive to the appointment leaving the dirt storm behind. As I pulled the vehicle around to the front of the building, a sight that continues to haunt me to this day!

I approached the driveway to exit the premises and there, horror in plain clear sight caused time to slow down to slow motion. There was a pedestrian, a man, walking on the sidewalk across the driveway, I had no choice but to stop and watch him pass ten feet in front of the car. My first thought was ‘How awful to be out there walking in that miserable dirt storm.’ And then I saw it, the motion of his arm, HE WAS EATING! True. The air aflutter with dirt and this guy was eating. He had in his hand a wrapper from the nearby Jack-in-the-Box, it could have been a Breakfast Jack [those things are delicious]. He was looking straight ahead, walking, moving his handful of food to his mouth, bite and chew. The horror, I thought, how much dirt and grit is he taking down with each mouthful!? How much dirt-induced crunching is he enduring to fill his tummy? Could he not wait three minutes to dine inside the restaurant instead of subjecting himself to this? He appeared in no hurry, stay inside, consume the item indoors in sanitary leisure, then be on your way. But no, he endured. Commendable determination or just dumb?

The slow motion of the scene sped back up to regulation as he crossed the threshold of the driveway and his back was now to me. Even ensconced safely inside the cab of the vehicle my mouth was still closed tight at the thought of being enveloped in that mess. But this man, an exercise in ‘ignore it and it doesn’t exist’ proceeding with his day without so much as an inconvenience to trouble him. I was soon on the freeway driving away from the minute airborne debris. I could breathe freely, the dirt storm behind me. The vision, however, would go on to haunt me in all its glorious horror for decades to come.