The Storm

September 20, 2007 Leave a comment Go to comments

As overheard at the Flying-J 20 minutes from the Arizona/California border. The culprits are two 10-year-olds standing in line to by a ridiculous amount of candy that their parents are sure to regret.

“Did you know Kleenex is actually a brand of tissue?”

“What do you mean? Of course I know it’s a brand of tissue.”

“No, (frustrated) I’m just saying that people think Kleenex is just tissue and not a brand.”

“Yea, (rolling his eyes) but it’s THE BRAND.”

Somewhere, someone from 5th Avenue is crying.

The Storm

I was awoken not by the hail, or the sixty-mile-an-hour winds ricocheting off the palm trees, but by the Greeks as they clamored over each other as if they had never seen such a force of nature before. I listened to the storm, made a mental note that it wasn’t anything I hadn’t witnessed and rolled back over in hopes of returning to my peaceful slumber.

“Timótheos!” (They had elongated my name after unanimously deciding a three-letter first name was simply too short for any respectful Greek friend.) “Timótheos! Come out here and see this! You must get up!”

I protested for a moment, but when they continued to call I slowly drew back the sheet and swung my legs over the side meeting the cold refreshing basement floor. Walking down the long basement corridor towards the double entrance doors, it was becoming apparent that the Greeks were not exaggerating the severity of the storm. Hail, just smaller than a golf ball, was raining down at an alarming rate smashing into the concrete and piling up faster than they could melt.

“Timótheos, this is amazing no? I bet three inches of rain has already fallen!” the largest Greek said with confidence only comparable to that of Napoleon after one of his many conquests.

“I say four inches, no less,” was the smallest Greeks opinion.

“No, that is too much. Timótheos will know. Timótheos, how much rain has fallen?”

They looked at me as if I could blindly speculate the exact rain total even though I had been asleep when the storm started and had no real idea how long it had been raining like this.

“Timótheos, which way is the storm going?” Another one asked before I could make up an answer to the number of inches. “I think it’s going that way.” He pointed North West, or the exact opposite way the palm trees were blowing.

“Timótheos,” The smallest rang out. And then it got quiet. It was strange because the Greeks always seemed to finish their questions, but for a brief second the Greeks realized that the basement was in grave danger of flooding and their astonishment at this realization had struck them mute.

The basement, or otherwise known as the men’s dormitory, was one of the first buildings to be built at the Monastery. The building sits at one of the lowest points of the Monastery’s grounds and faces a rising wall of desert, which vanishes ever so precariously into the horizon with a smattering of cacti and sagebrush.

According to the sings above all the sinks, toilets and showers around the Monastery, if the power goes out, the drains will overflow the sump pump and flood the basement. The warnings, written both in English and Greek, appear equally daunting using bold typeface and simple instructions to “just not do it.”

The basement doors lead into a long cement driveway originally used as a loading dock during the construction of several other main buildings. The driveway slopes ever so slightly away from the basement entrance and abruptly ends at the edge of a dirt maintenance road running parallel to the dock. This engineering flaw is where the problem really beings.

As if the engineers overlooked the simple rule that water runs downhill with the path of least resistance, the dirt maintenance road reaches its lowest point directly in front of the loading dock. Water running down from the desert in front of us, and to the sides of the basement, is all funneled right to the apex of the loading dock. While we had been standing there contemplating how much rain had fallen, the entire storms runoff had been making its way directly before our feet. Almost as if God had dumped an Olympic swimming pool directly in front of us, the loading dock starting to disappear in a swirling mess of desert red.

“Oh no, oh no, oh no! It is going to flood,” the Greeks screamed in unison.

“Timótheos! Look it’s going to flood! We are in trouble!”

Then, as if on a divine queue from God, one of the resident monks popped his head into the basement and began to walk silently towards the whirlwind of commotion we were creating. He was mumbling the Jesus prayer as he looked out and surveyed the impending doom swirling out of control. He stood there for a few minutes blocking out any question from the Greeks and then silently turned around and started walking back.

“Fr, what would you like us to do if it floods,” I meekly said almost instantly kicking myself for interrupting his prayer.

“Pray,” he mumbled.

Typical I thought, though the obvious solution didn’t seem to be doing us any practical good at the moment.

By this time, the Greeks had worked themselves into a frenzy and were now talking all at once. It was nearly impossible to tell about what, though, because it was a rushed mix of English, Greek and really bad Spanish. The most senior member was saying something about how it had not rained like this all typhoon season, while the New York based Greek exclaimed that this storm had to be a hurricane. The third Greek was yelling something very passionately at the other two, but apparently making no progress. Then, just as fast as I had been woken up, the Greeks stopped talking again.

The sky had turned blue and even though the wind was still slapping against the trees, the hail and rain were gone. In less than 30 seconds the storm had simply given up and moved on.

The loading dock instead of betraying us, started to push the water back towards the maintenance road leaving a thick layer of desert topsoil behind. The hail suddenly disappeared and the temperature was rising quickly back into the triple digits.

“Pray,” I mumbled to myself as I worked my way back to my bunk. Maybe the monk had been right all along.

(The parking lot 10 minutes after the storm. Still a fair amount of standing water)


  1. Bethany
    September 25, 2007 at 11:08 pm

    Thats one thing that I really miss about being back East, even thou you aren’t there yet, is the storms. Just wait till you are back East and it rains so hard that you have to pull over the car because you can’t see anything due to the rain. What a blast.

  2. Michael Menard
    October 1, 2007 at 3:36 am

    Isn’t Saint Anthony’s one of the greatest places? I envy you a little bit; last time I was there I spent every day spreading manure along a mile and a half of road shoulder so that they could grow flowers there. Triple digits the whole time too.
    But the food is EXCELLENT, no? Greek monastery food is great.

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