wait and see

I’m currently reading The Cider House Rules by John Irving, and there’s this recurring theme of “waiting and seeing”. The main character, Homer Wells, is an orphan, and knows all about waiting and seeing. This week, I’ve also come to know a lot about waiting and seeing, but perhaps in a different way.

At some point in the middle of last week, it started raining. We’ve had a lot of rain this summer — part of the deal with the La Niña weather system — so when it started and didn’t stop, no one really thought much of it. But then the rain continued into the week-end, and it was unrelenting. Creeks were filling up, the river was rising, and damn levels were climbing steadily. By Sunday, countless streets were flooded, people were evacuating, and many had lost power.

On Monday morning, it was still pouring, and based on reports of road closures, I couldn’t see a feasible way to get to work. In fact, no one from my team made it in, so there wasn’t much point for me to head in. I was worried that even if we made it to work, the streets that were clear in the morning would be inaccessible by evening.

What is there to do in such a situation other than wait and see? If you cannot control the rain, and cannot control the flow of water, you can only wait and see what happens. Schools were closed, train lines were down, bus services were suspended. The government told us to stay at home (if it was safe to do so), and wait and see.

A few people did make it to work on Monday. They had to drive through the back streets, park a bit further away (the hospital car park was inaccessible due to flooded streets), and walk in via the train station. Some got dropped off because they didn’t want to risk leaving their car on a street that might flood later and/or there were very limited parking options (imagine trying to fit half a multi-storey car park worth of cars onto small residential streets that are already full of the residents’ own cars).

But those who made it in on Monday gave the rest of us hope — the rest of us who were afraid, and wanted to wait and see if it was even possible to make it in. On Tuesday, I actually had a full team with me at work. Most of us were late to some extent, but as each of us walked through the door, we celebrated getting there safely. My own commute was about four times as long as it usually is by the normal route (if you include the time it took to walk from where I parked), and I swore I never wanted to drive through those hilly back streets again (it was truly traumatic), but I was relieved I made it.

For the rest of the week (Tuesday to Thursday), the primary goal was to get all the work done as quickly as possible so that we could send everyone home. We were blessed with some sunshine on Tuesday and Wednesday, so it was a bit less scary. By Wednesday morning the streets to the car park had even dried up, so we were able to drive in again. Another cause for celebration.

But dark clouds and heavy rain returned on Thursday morning, and with it people’s fears and anxieties came back too. The thunder and lightning didn’t help either. We asked each other, half-jokingly, “Will we be able to get home tonight?” I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Except we couldn’t simply wait and see. We could never just wait and see. There was work to be done, and some part of me was thankful to have the familiar routines of work to focus on, rather than all the news reports and weather warnings. Even so, the flooding was constantly in the back of my mind. It affected everything — getting supplies in, sending products out, the safety of our staff…

The weather seemed to change every time I walked past a window yesterday. By the time I arrived at work, the rain had eased, and eventually there was blue sky peeking through. Around midday, the sky was looking ominous again with dark, heavy clouds (it was so dark, it might as well have been nighttime). By mid-afternoon, the sky had cleared again, only for clouds to regather less than an hour later. It was a rollercoaster of hope and apprehension. (I now thoroughly hate rollercoasters.)

Personally, I wasn’t affected by the flooding, but I know several people who were. It’s going to be a long recovery process. Yet, through it all, it was inspiring to see everyone keeping each others’ spirits up. We had a big group-chat where everyone could share how they got to work, which roads are still closed (or had cleared up!), and which streets were ok to park on. There were a few memes and jokes sent too.

There’s more rain forecast for the week-end and all through next week (it’s raining again now), but hopefully nothing like the deluge of the last week and a half. I guess we’ll wait and see.