That’s what Channel 11’s Neil Frank is calling it, the broad swath of Texas coastline on which Rita could potentially come ashore Friday night/Saturday morning. His counterpart at Channel 2, Frank Billingsley (sans Radar the Weather Dog, who we understand was put down in advance of the hurricane) is taking more of a half-full approach, referring to the same broad swath as the “cone of opportunity.” Or maybe it’s the “zone of opportunity” (apparently the opportunity is the hurricane's, not yours). Either way, these guys are confirming financier Bernard Baruch’s adage that “one [weather] man’s uncertainty is another [weather] man’s opportunity.”
Being the pessimistic sort, we’re going with Neil. He’s got that crazy mad gleam in his eye, the one he gets anytime a hurricane or tropical storm even feints toward the Texas coast. He’s keeping our spirits up, too, by repeatedly calling the hurricane that decimated New Orleans and the Mississippi coast “kre-TINA.” Kretina, you’ll recall, was a bit player in the early Little Rascals episodes.
Besides, we’re in our own cone of uncertainty, still dithering after several inconclusive family counsels over whether to lie or hie. But we’ll say this for the hurricane: if nothing else it’s opened up a cone of social opportunities. Folks are battening down but they’re also gabbing and neighboring like there’s no tomorrow. We haven’t spoken to so many of our fellow subdivision dwellers in southwest Houston since Allison washed through. We walked our dog a couple of hours ago and must have crossed paths on the street with 10 people, only a couple of whom we knew. Instead of passing silently in the night, as we would on a normal Wednesday, we---they and us---spontaneously started conversing with the question of the moment: Are you staying or are you going? Right now our informal poll shows about 40 percent staying, 20 percent going, and the rest, as the pollsters say, are undecided.
We wish we had more time to think about this.
In the meantime we're headed back to our 24-hour Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market. If it’s closed, we’ll take that as a sign from God to join the movement of the people. If it’s open, we’re sure we can find something to buy. Or someone to talk to.