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Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Mother nature rude host

By Graham Hays

Hail knocked out the back window in Graham Hays' rental car, which won't be returning to Bristol.

Twas two nights before the World Series and not a creature was stirring, perhaps not even Jessica Mouse. ... Laptop on desk and coffee in hand, I had just settled in for a long night of writing (no napping in Oklahoma City). When out in the parking lot there arose such a clatter, I sprang from my desk to see what was the matter.

And, well, my rental car suddenly lacked a rear windshield. Let's see Clement Clarke Moore work that into verse.

Part of the charm of the Women’s College World Series is its unofficial permanent home in Oklahoma City, a quintessentially Midwestern city where the people are friendly (as long as you aren't in the wrong place after a Thunder game, judging by recent events) and the steaks are out of this world. Part of the tradeoff for the setting is the World Series comes with quintessentially Midwestern summer weather, which made its presence felt Tuesday night.

I wasn't wearing a kerchief, but I really had just settled down to work on a story when all heck broke loose outside. The skies had looked a little overcast after a hot, humid day when I started, but the desk in the hotel room wasn't positioned in a way that allowed the user to see the window, so I was a little perplexed when no more than 45 minutes later it started to sound like someone was throwing rocks against the window and the awning below it. It turned out not to be a Cyrano moment, much to my dismay, but instead hail the size of ping-pong balls, then golf balls and finally even racquetballs slamming against every exposed surface for a sustained period of minutes (long enough to locate my camera, try and fail to get a picture through the window and exchange several text messages).

For the record, it's not a good feeing to hear a TV weatherman, to the degree he could be heard him over the hail pounding the studio in another part of town, say he had never heard anything like it in his 18 years in the Oklahoma.

Worried more about the newly-issued tornado warning that covered an area with names I was far too familiar with for comfort, given how little Oklahoma geography is familiar to me in the first place, I headed down to the lobby to see, you know, if there was a tornado cellar next to the fitness room (there wasn't). It’s not breaking new ground to suggest hotels are often impersonal places, strangers temporarily under the same roof, never to meet again. But with dozens of guests milling around the lobby -- dashing out to check on cars, watching radar maps with names of towns they didn't know or, in at least one case, sitting comfortably with a diminishing case of beer -- there was a sense of something shared. Granted, it was shared cluelessness, but at least we shared it.

One wave of the storm gone, a trip outside revealed the damage. Front windshield? Fine. Passenger side windows? Fine. Back windshield? Spread all over the backseat. The car had trekked from Connecticut to Alabama to Missouri and Oklahoma in the previous week, but it wouldn't be making the return trip.

Anyone who has been to the World Series knows the distinctive call of the public address announcer that signals the start of play, the words "It's softball time in Oklahoma!" ringing over the stadium.

All things considered, I prefer that greeting. But Mother Nature had her own waiting Tuesday. It's softball time, and this is definitely still Oklahoma.