Somehow as I was growing up, I acquired a love of books. Perhaps a good teacher or a nudge here and there from my parents, but I’ve always enjoyed reading.
One of my favorite genres is science fiction. Ever since I was very young and we were living in Florida as my Father worked in the early Space Program. Many a pleasant evening over my lifetime has been spent with my feet up and a cup of warm coffee at my arm, as I devour a new paperback from a favorite writer or some new author whose book cover caught my eye.
Along with reading it, I attend science fiction conventions when I can.
Back in the 80s when I first discovered this fun way to spend a weekend, it was perhaps 5-6 conventions a year, across the Midwest. Now its down to one or two, time and money both keep me local. It’s hard to describe to someone who hasn’t attended a convention, the excitement you can get in a building with several thousand like minded people.
Or maybe not…
I was attending one yesterday in Collinsville, Illinois, about ten miles East of downtown Saint Louis when Mother Nature decided to drop by as well for a quick visit.
Not quite as bad as the recent Icelandic volcano but still eventful for those of us there at the time.
Thunderstorms had been predicted for the past few days so the black clouds in the sky weren’t unexpected though we had very little rain during the day. Around 6pm I was in a seat watching the Masquerade (think a costume contest but with a sci-fi theme) and enjoying myself rather well.
This convention was primarily about Video Games and Japanese Anime (cartoons for the uninformed), so most of the contestants were in their teens or early twenties and had all the energy and enthusiasm that comes with that state. The costumes weren’t as elaborate as I see at some of the other conventions, often times the props were crudely rendered on cardboard scrounged from boxes, still their lack of skill at making their costumes was compensated by the sheer fun they were having on stage.
Then these words came over the public address system of the convention center.
“They have issued a Tornado Alert for our area and we are asking everyone to move to the shelter immediately!”
Now here in Saint Louis, we get several Warnings each year as storm fronts move through the area but an Alert means that a tornado has actually been spotted in your immediate area. Dangerous enough when you are in a normal house or home but in a building with huge glass windows as the convention center was, doubly dangerous. Everyone was calm as we filed into the shelter area, in this case the back service corridors.
I should mention that half of the convention center was being rented by a Regional Dance Competition, so there we were, young teenagers dressed up like their favorite anime character, side by side with other teenagers wearing sequins and spandex.
People quietly talked with strangers who were getting information on their phones from friends or family members to the West of us and in the storm at the moment. Others used their phones to pull up Internet feeds of dopler radar images from the local television stations. Some stood patiently in line to use one of the two available restrooms
Most though just sat there on the floor quietly waiting. I doubt that more than one or two of the thousand plus people there had had to huddle in their basements in a similar situation, so we waited with some apprehension knowing that we all could soon be injured or worse.
About half an hour after the initial announcement, the All Clear was given. We came out not knowing what awaited us. Luckily we had no damage there but I heard later a tornado had touched down and destroyed several building.
As we took our seats again to watch the rest of the Masquerade, I couldn’t help thinking that while we here on this blog prepare for the days to come of world of scarce resources and crazy climate, its still the normal day to day dangers that we need to prepare for the most.