It is taking forever for dawn to arrive. Maybe it already came but is simply a very gloomy version of dawn, storm-darkened. I monitor the situation by looking at a feeble palm tree in the parking lot of the Econo-Lodge here. Actually there are three trees, and a bush. They are my wind gauges. Moving air is, itself, invisible. You can't see wind, only its effect. It's because I know such scientific principles that they sent me to cover Hurricane Floyd.
When I drove to Cocoa Beach yesterday from Orlando, I had clear sailing on the Bee Line Expressway, even as there were tens of thousands of cars on the other side of the highway, backed up for 30 miles, "a scene from a nuclear disaster movie,` as they said on TV. When you see that many people making an escape from the very place that is your destination, you have an unavoidable, irrational, primal, non-journalistic, gut feeling that you are going in the wrong direction.
But I'm prepared for Floyd. I brought two flashlights and a rain slicker. Water might have been a good idea - and food. An umbrella will be on my list the next time that I am assigned to cover an event associated with precipitation. (The reason I didn't bring one was that I feared that during high winds I would be borne away like Mary Poppins.)
All stores are closed, and most gas stations. The stations that remain open sell Honey Buns and pork rinds and candy and Coke. The better brews are gone but you can still find a Busch or a Schlitz. The reason I'm alive is that human beings are wonderful creatures in a crisis, and Rocky Wenneman, the manager of the Cocoa Beach Hilton, made me two sandwiches. No charge. The cash registers are locked up, there's no commerce anymore, it's a barter economy, with goodwill a valid currency.
The most important piece of equipment is the car, which is brand new, an Oldsmobile with 200 miles on it (make that, this morning, 400). I keep picturing it being carried along in the "storm surge` while I cower in a bunker somewhere. Thank God for rentals.
The big fear for a reporter is that there may occur a situation where it is impossible to file. Journalism is not about reporting and writing. It is about filing. If I could, I'd file first, then write, then report, in that order. Yesterday I managed to connect to The Post but, in a software nightmare, could not figure out where on my laptop my story was hidden. I scavenged for that story all over the C drive and eventually discovered that it was in the highly enigmatic D drive. Thrilling tales from the hurricane beat! A brush with disaster!
Floyd is now about 110 miles off the coast of Florida, just southeast of here. High tide is round about noon. I go now in search of wind, raging surf, destruction, devastation, and a place to file.
Rough Draft appears Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, pending weather conditions.