The Swift Escape

California is burning. There is not a delicate way to say this. No euphemism to mask the horror of watching homes engulfed in dark plumes of smoke and roaring flames, of seeing your fellow citizens rendered homeless. It is hazy outside, with ashes falling from the sky. In the evening, the setting sun casts an eerie orange glow on everything and everyone, making us all look like a certain occupant of the White House.

This latest series of unfortunate events all started last weekend when we were awoken by loud claps of thunder. Lightning lit the dark sky, accompanied by a few raindrops, but there wasn’t enough rain to prevent the lightning from lighting California’s vast parks and foothills ablaze. And so, all week, we have been checking in on friends, and checking our phones for evacuation notices. So far, thankfully, our home and those surrounding it have been spared.

My friend Zara and her husband are originally from Louisiana and have lived in California for a few years now. They both work in Silicon Valley, and when Coronavirus struck and we were all placed on lock-down, they, like most Californians, followed the Governor’s directive and hunkered down to help flatten the curve, unlike other who chose to disregard all medical and scientific evidence, and continue to live like we all did pre-Covid.

A few weeks ago, they casually mentioned that they were considering moving back to Louisiana to be closer to family since they were on lock-down.

You see, every state in this country has its natural disasters. New York has its hurricanes and winter storms. Georgia and Florida have tornadoes and hurricanes. California has fires and earthquakes. Occasionally, mother nature will feel super ornery and decide to throw floods into the mix. Let’s hope this is not that year.

This year’s fires hastened Zara’s decision, seeing as they presented her family with two choices. Stay in California and inhale noxious fumes with a side of Coronavirus, or go home to Louisiana and eat beignets while breathing fresh air, and also maybe contract Coronavirus. After much hand wringing, gnashing of teeth and debating, they decided that they would move to Louisiana within a month.

On the week of their departure, they were watching TV at home when a commercial came on.

“Did you know that wearing masks protects you from Coronavirus? Did you also know that masks will protect your lungs from fire related pollution?” and while they processed that information, another commercial came on “are you prepared for earthquakes?”

That was the last straw. How many disasters were they supposed to be prepared for? It was at that point that Zara and her husband decided that those were three disasters too many, packed up their bags and left the land of the iPhone posthaste.

I hope that the people of Louisiana think of us as they bite into fresh beignets while inhaling ash-free fresh air, and not worrying about earthquakes.