Current Location: Marietta, GA

Back in 2005, during my first year at Pepperdine, it once thundered in Los Angeles.  Fifty percent of the freshmen students on campus, the fifty percent who hailed from Southern California, were visibly shaken.  It is my recollection that some of them even cried.  This weather pattern was a wholly unfamiliar event, and it was clear that these young adults felt that they were in imminent danger.  I let it slide.  We were young.  I got my bellybutton pierced that year.  We all make mistakes.

It was six years later before I heard thunder in the area again.  This time, a thirty year old co-worker sent me an instant message with the question, “did you hear that?”  I had no idea what was going on.  Did I hear what?  The latest presidential address?  “mmmbop” in 1996?  The crash of the New York Stock Exchange? … “Did I hear what?”  I typed back.  She rapidly responded, “the thunder!”

The thunder.  I’m curious as to what some people think thunder might be.  Satan knocking on our doors perhaps?  If you’re a person who startles easily as a result of thunder, I strongly discourage a move to Georgia.  The heart attack alone that you would suffer out of shear terror will be enough to take you down.  The weather in the Southeast is no joke, and believe me, a distant thundercloud would be laughed out of the entire region.

When I was a child, the house behind ours was struck by lightning and burned down.  That’s how serious the weather can be here.  But at the same time, no one looks at it that way.  Everyone drives at full speed, people still go ahead with their plans, the world keeps on spinning.  It has to.  Three out of every seven nights in the summer will be plagued with violent storms.  You can’t even afford to blink an eye when the sky turns dark.

Another noticeable characteristic of the Atlanta area is the over abundance of trees.  I’ve never seen as many trees in one place in my life than I’ve seen this area.  Every street is lined with foliage, and at times, it’s impossible to even see the buildings behind them.  As a result of being a forested area and the prominence of thunderstorms, trees are always falling down.  Houses are hit.  Trees fall in the roads.  Atlanta should come with the words of caution, “not for the faint of heart.”

Although it had rained yesterday, when I saw the skies in front of me turn slate gray this evening, I knew this was the real deal.  Just as I suspected though, no one cared.  People were on the sidewalks jogging, no one pulled over, one man was even biking on the side of the road.  By the time I arrived at my friend’s house in my old neighborhood, the power started to flicker.  Our immediate response was to leave for the restaurant we were going to.  None of us wanted to sit around in the dark, and it didn’t occur to any of us to stay where we were to wait out the storm.  I can’t imagine this scenario occurring in LA.  That city would have already been completely shut down.

As we were driving, the rain started to increase.  At this point, it seems that everyone’s natural inclination is to speed up in order to shorten the amount of driving time in these less than ideal conditions.  After all, no one wants to drive in the rain.

We progressed towards our destination while lightning lit up the skies in every direction.  It’s often said that the number of seconds between lightning and thunder represents the number of miles the storm is from your present location.  We couldn’t even get out “one Mississippi” before thunder drowned out the otherwise cheerful country music we were playing in the background.

The only option at this point is to keep going.  It’s harder to hit a moving target anyway, right? Eventually, a utility box on the top of a light post next to us was struck by lightning and sparks rained down on the street beside us like sparklers on the Fourth of July.  Again, we just kept on.  It’s not like we could pull over to fix the thing.

By the time we were driving back on the way home, half of the traffic lights were out.  For whatever reason though, it didn’t even seem particularly noteworthy.  That’s just the way it is here.  And that’s just the way the people are here.  Nothing keeps Atlantans off the roads.  Statistics show that Atlanta’s severe traffic is second only to LA’s, but when you’re driving on the streets here, you don’t need statistics, and the traffic certainly feels second to none.  Rain or shine, it always seems as though everyone is out on the roads.

People say that the weather in Los Angeles is perfect.  It never rains, it’s never too hot, and it’s also never too cold.  But I say what’s the fun in being perfect?  Live on the edge a little!  Dodge a lightning bolt or two!  Of course, growing up, there were times when my parents and I, along with my dogs and hamsters, were holed up in the basement due to a wandering tornado or two.  Those nights weren’t necessarily the best, (judging by her reaction, one of my dogs apparently grew up in Southern California) but they certainly were memorable.  At the very least, the weather provides a story to tell.

Like always, I will miss Georgia tomorrow when I leave, but I’m very excited to head on to Wilmington, North Carolina!  I hope that everyone has a great weekend, but don’t fly any kites if it’s storming outside.  Just because Ben Franklin did it doesn’t mean everyone should.  That’s why we’re not all out there starting new nations.

Thanks for following my journey!  There’s officially one more week to go!