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Hurricane Roulette: How to Predict Where the Trees Will Fall
There's a lesson in decision making we can all learn from the raw, destructive power that mother nature sometimes uses to smush our stuff. Here's how to turn natural disaster into positive thinking:
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Wind rustles through the tree canopy. Knotty locusts creak like colossal doors on rusted hinges. The ground beneath their roots rises and falls like the heavy chest of a slumbering giant.
The whole family is gathered by the soggy screen door for a classic game of Hurricane Roulette, and Mother Nature plays for pink slips. Our goal is simple: pick the safest place to park your car, so it’s not crushed by falling trees.
That’s easier said than done when your yard is a veritable forest of fickle foliage.
My eyes dart across the clearing with each subtle sound, until a deafening crack splits the air. The storm’s first victim comes crashing to the sodden earth with a dull thud, followed by a sigh of relief from the onlookers. The cars are safe for now.
Even as a child, I could still grasp their anxiety. I’d watched some relatives park, and repark — measuring and testing the wind direction as they agonized over their decision.
It’s tough to tell where some trees will fall, though. One August, an obvious widow-maker fell, only to be caught by the crux of its neighbor — no doubt saving an unsuspecting Datsun in the process. I’ve also seen sturdy-looking giants come crashing down, rotted to the core.
Eventually I moved away. I didn’t think about those old games of Hurricane Roulette for years. Then, a few weeks back, a dilemma landed in my lap. My new apartment had a significant pest infestation. The property manager swore it was seasonal, that it would be over soon. Just a few more weeks.
“This time should be the last,” the exterminator assured me on his sixth visit.
This led to a choice: Stay with fingers crossed, and hope nothing more happens; or pack up everything for the second time in two months, and move.
A tough decision. The situation sucked, sure. But at least the problem was known. Leaving carried its own risks. What if my belongings were damaged in the move? What if the new neighbors were creeps? Or the unthinkable — the new place was crawling with a different, more disgusting pest problem?
The maddening game of what-ifs completely consumed my life for days. I didn’t write. I hardly ate. Wondering and worrying occupied all my waking hours.
Until I thought back to the yard, with the cars.
See, the worst part about Hurricane Roulette was a very specific, nagging question:
“What if my car is fine where it is, and winds up getting crushed *because* I moved it?”
I submit that the only thing we fear more than making the wrong choice, is making the right choice, then second guessing ourselves. Hurricane Roulette offers an almost unfortunate level of hindsight. After the storm is over, you’ll be able to see all the right choices that would’ve saved your car, and the wrong ones that would’ve crushed it.
Life is rarely so clear. But I think that’s a blessing, not a curse. We’re left with a degree of ambiguity; it makes even less sense to agonize over the road not taken if you can’t see where it led.
Using my termite infestation as an example: I did wind up moving. Now that I’m out of that old apartment, I have no idea what would’ve happened if I stayed. Could it have been fine? Sure. Or maybe, the infestation wound up causing so much damage, the roof collapsed.
I need to live with the fact that I made what I thought was a good decision, with the information that I had.
Hurricane Roulette teaches us an important lesson about control and consequence. No matter how much time you spend trying to pick the best course of action, it’s impossible to be sure.
Over the years, we’ve changed how we play. No more peeking out the back door, waiting to be proven right or wrong. We do what we can to prepare, then move on.
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