Life felt pretty regular the afternoon my car got struck by lightning.
It was a couple minutes after 2 o’ clock, and I was off work.
At the warehouse where I worked, I always kept it classy. Imagine me hauling into work at 6 a.m. each morning with a gallon of brand name green tea, a wrinkled off-white cutoff T-shirt, scraggly dirty blonde bed-hair I hadn’t washed in a few days and my running shorts turned work apparel that I hadn’t washed in a few weeks that were starting to smell like death and teen sweat.
And the warehouse was its own thing.
The building was split up in two: the front of the building had your white-collar workers, cubicles tatted up with suburban knick-knacks and offices tatted up with college degrees.
The back of the building was the warehouse, where the only thing tatted up was a man named Vern, an old motorcycle-driving alcoholic with white hair slicked back, sharp humor, & a wrinkled, charismatic face.
The warehouse was a colorful bunch of people like that. Some of them were young and going somewhere, others had families and were staying there, and still others were at dead ends and hadn’t gone anywhere for years.
And all of them darted away when work ended at two.
I didn’t understand why at first. I think it’s because when I’m working—meaning, stuffing boxes holding freshly printed Target signs with bubbles and stacking ‘em thirty high—I’m off in a different world.
To be honest, it’s not that great of a world. The trees aren’t made of chocolate, the animals don’t talk to you, and Wall Street still runs government.
It’s just a world where I can’t hear phrases like ‘tornado warning’ and ‘it’s headed for us any minute.’
So I stepped out into the muggy Minnesota air like it was no big deal. It was a Sunday in late-May, an afternoon so hot and humid it’d make your off-white cutoff stick to your chest in minutes.
I strolled to my ’97 Civic peering around at an empty parking lot and the world around it. On the right, a wall of clouds with a faint green hue and a lone tree swaying softly in a circle. On the left, an empty street just a few minutes from downtown Minneapolis.
This is the part of the story where I should’ve jumped in my wimpy four-cylinder, kicked it into drive, and ponied on home before getting pelted.
This is also the teen love part of the story. I was boy, and there was girl.
We’d been texting back and forth that day. I still hadn’t learned how to talk to a girl by this point, so the routine was like work.
I’d get a text on break, smile at my phone like a 17-year old kid does when he’s dumb and in love, and then spend the next three hours at work trying to think of sweet things to say back so she’d think I was awesome.
Fifteen minutes passed in my ’97 Civic before something syrupy came out of my mind and into my phone.
Like I said, life was pretty regular that day. I had hopes as I stuck the key in the ignition and put the Civic in reverse. Hopes like going to bed at 9 that night. Hopes like flying through the last couple weeks of school into summer break. Hopes like making things Facebook official with girl before then.
The moment my tires landed on the asphalt, everything around me got nasty. I should probably explain. To me there’s nasty, really nasty, and Hollywood nasty.
This was Hollywood nasty.
Somebody turned the light switch off above. It might’ve been the middle of the afternoon, but the sky dimmed like a movie theater cuing the previews.
The lightning cracked across the skyline.
I watched on my left, stunned, as I saw power lines fall down like it was straight out of a Michael Bay movie, shooting sparks up in protest as they fell a few yards from the street.
I feel worse for my ’97 Civic. The poor thing never stood a chance. The rains pelted down so hard. I’m telling you, my windshield wipers gave it all they had.
They couldn’t keep up. I couldn’t see a thing, so I surrendered and pulled off to the side of the road. I pulled up my parking brake, hoping that’d increase my chances of survival.
There I waited.
One heart racing.
A few death scenarios through my mind running.
Thought anything could’ve happened at that point.
That was until something happened, and it left my rear window shattered in thousands of little pieces.
With little pebbles of glass in my hair and wind whipping in my car, I tried to find a rock that would’ve been big enough to break the window.
Nothing. The glass didn’t break like it would if a rock smashed it. There was only one thing that could’ve shattered it into a thousand little pieces.
Lightning struck my car.