The hurricane was coming – not just a hurricane, but The Hurricane. I’d lived through hurricanes before, of course, and had learned to dismiss most of the alarming language pouring from the news. As a kid I’d always been excited about hurricanes, about disasters heading my way, and then disappointed when I woke up the next day to find the world still there. So when the first reports started coming in that a big hurricane was coming, I didn’t pay much attention. I scoffed. But they wore me down. Day after day all I heard was how my little town would flood, how my roof would be torn off, how the property damage would be beyond belief. I started to get nervous.
My wife and I were worried about our pets more than anything else. We have a lot of animals, and even as we started to think we should, after all, get out of the path of the storm, we didn’t like the idea of leaving our pets at home alone. An old friend had a house upstate we could stay at if we wanted, a big place far away from the main path of the hurricane, so we gratefully accepted and planned to move ourselves and our cats upstate for a day or two, weather the weather, and be safer rather than sorry.
The question was, how to get there. Driving through a brewing hurricane seemed risky, and we’d waited until the last minute to make our escape plans so the rains had already started. Feeling a little foolish, we called our trusty limousine booking service and they set us up with a car and driver. “This feels a little too Sex in the City, don’t you think?” my wife said ruefully as we packed. To his credit, the driver didn’t bat an eyelash when we brought out more cats than luggage and merely smiled through the pouring rain, got us comfortable in the back, and started driving carefully upstate.
It was perilous work. The weather was getting worse and worse, the traffic was heavy, and our cats escaped their carriers and were prowling the seats in a way I was pretty certain violated our agreement with the limo service. Our driver didn’t complain. He operated the car expertly, making progress but driving sanely and safely.
Then, one of our cats paused in its prowlings, went perfectly still for a moment, and proceeded to vomit all over the leather seats. I saw the driver’s eyes flick to us in the rear-view mirror, then back to the road. Burning in embarrassment – it’s one thing to be the strange man who brought three cats into a limousine during a hurricane, another thing entirely to be the strange man who let his cats vomit all over the limousine in question – I watched helplessly as the second, and then the third cat followed suit.
The driver’s eyes flicked again, and I stared back helplessly. I started to babble apologies. We would, of course, pay for the cleaning and repair bills. The driver said nothing for a moment, then burst out laughing. Eyes on the road, he began feeling around the front seat for a moment, and then handed back to us through the divider a plump roll of paper towels.
We began making jokes back and forth, and the driver laughed all the way upstate, and My wife and I got the cats resettled in their carriers, cleaned up the area as thoroughly as we could with the paper towels, and passed cat vomit jokes back and forth with the driver. When we arrived at our destination, we tipped him more heavily than usual, made a final joke, and pressed our contact information into his hand with stern demands that he let us know of any cleaning bills. As he got into the driver’s seat again, he paused for a moment to look back at us, damp and burdened with cats, and burst into laughter again.
And so the hurricane, far from being an awful storm, will now forever remind me of cats, limousines, and vomit. And then I start to laugh.