I shot up in bed, heart racing. On the early morning of Saturday, July 18, a crack of thunder much louder than any train startled me from sleep.
“What was that?” My husband bolted up in bed too.
The lightning illuminated the trees outside, swaying wildly in the wind.
The chairs. OH NO, THE CHAIRS!
“Did you put the chairs away?” my husband asked on cue. The chairs in question: our balcony chairs — slightly sturdier than your average folding chair. We bought them for seating at our outdoor wedding ceremony and now use them on our balcony. We regifted them to ourselves.
Whoops. Of course I didn’t put them away. I had been reading outside earlier that evening, draping myself across two of the chairs. I left the two I was using just where they were. The two other chairs were indeed folded and resting against the wall of the balcony as my husband leaves them. He rarely goes out on the balcony; it’s my woman-cave, or woman-café, of sorts.
In our old condo, there were fines for furniture that flew off of your balcony. I remember reading the rules when we moved in and being worried about getting fined $50 — or was it $500? — for leaving a wayward sweater to the fate of the wind. On that balcony, it seemed highly unlikely that our chairs would fly away, as it was walled in on three sides. Our current balcony, being walled in on no more than two sides, gets much stronger crosswinds. Such was the case the night of the storm.
BOOM! I donned my glasses to confirm my suspicions. The two chairs once folded against the wall had blown over, knocking into the wrought-iron balcony railing and echoing through the night.
It was hard to sleep watching the storm out the window. I was worried about what was going on out there, and I thought the best way to be prepared was to watch what happened. This is similar to my philosophy of only putting one earphone in while I ride on a plane, in order to leave one ear open in case the drink cart runs out of Sprite and the pilot calls for my help over the intercom.
I couldn’t see much besides rain illuminated by a lightening-covered sky and the huge trees outside the window bobbing in the wind. And the two upright chairs on the balcony, not yet blown away.
Around 2 a.m., my husband got up to go to the bathroom. While he was gone, one of the screens in the bedroom window fell out, towards the balcony. It was a screen that my mom and I had expertly taped back together with duct tape, so it was shocking it could have been loose enough for the wind to knock out.
Just a couple of days ago our building manager had sent out an email about balcony etiquette. She asked us to please make sure all of our balcony furniture was secure. Taking the high road, she didn’t threaten fines! It’s sort of my shtick to follow the condo rules. I even asked her to send me an updated version of the rules so I could study any changes. I’m very dedicated to my shtick. That’s why I knew flying screens and chairs were a clear violation of rules. Also a safety hazard and liability, I suppose, but more importantly, against the rules.
The ironic thing was the only reason the screen hadn’t flown immediately out into the night was because it had been caught by the chair I had left in upright position! The screen was now wedged between the building and the chair and the railing, balancing at a perilous angle.
I had to go out there to get it. The rules dictated so. I walked out into the living room. A flashback of battling with the balcony door during a sudden May hail storm reminded me that the crosswind is crazy strong. Probably not a great idea to leave the balcony door open as I go out and save the window screen.
Instead, when my husband returned, I recruited his help. “I’m going out there; you just have to open and close the door for me.”
“You’re going out there?!” I could see why he was reluctant. Outside, the sky was alternating pitch-black and bright-white. My heart was pounding from the explosions of thunder; maybe so loud my husband could hear it. We could hear intermittent clangs as our neighbors’ patio objects fell or flew away.
“That screen is going to fly away if I don’t go get it,” I said single-mindedly. “And that’s against the rules.”
Rain and wind. I grabbed the screen and handed it to my husband so that he could put it on the towels I had previously situated inside the door. Obviously, even in these most pressing of circumstances, I had taken precautions to avoid a mess.
“What about the chairs?” I yelled over the wind. “Should I bring them in?”
“Just come back inside,” my husband pleaded. I folded up the two open chairs – thankful to them for selflessly blocking the screen’s flight out into never-never-land. I laid them down next to the other two chairs that had tumbled to the ground and cracked (though not literally) under pressure.
The next morning, everything seemed safe. We had gotten some sleep, though not much. “I still can’t believe you went out in that storm,” my husband said. I didn’t see what the big deal was. I remember as a child, running outside in a storm to grab my mother’s various potted plants and house them in the porch. Once my childhood best friend helped me mid-sleepover. She later expressed similar doubt about that being the best practice.
Later that day my husband and I biked to Midtown Global Market for lunch. They were closed; the power was out. On the Cedar Lake Trail a tree was down, blocking the path. Bikers were carrying their bikes off into the woods and bushwhacking to get around it. We aren’t quite that hardcore; we turned back around.
I know what you’re all wondering. Did we put the screen back in? Did we get new patio chairs? Am I at least folding the patio chairs up after I use them?
The answers: No, not yet, and please don’t tell my husband.
Carissa Jean Tobin lives in a condo in Northeast Minneapolis with her husband. Her hobbies include creating humorous surveys for friends, lounging at the Wilde Roast Café, and administering the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to interested family members, friends, and strangers. She teaches kindergarten in North Minneapolis.