In this world, there are all kinds of people.
There are good people, bad people. Nice people, mean people. Active people, sedentary people.
So is there the stick in the mud, or is it sticks in the mud? Never mind. I am a.
And of all the sticks in the mud in the world, I’m one of the stickiest, uh, muddiest.
My social skills range from minimal to non-existent. My idea of a thrilling evening is to stay home and watch something on PBS, maybe a documentary about the mating rituals of the North American dung beetle.
In other words, we don’t go out much.
But on a recent Saturday, my fiancee and I ventured to Stillwater to catch a touring performance of the classic musical “South Pacific.” The show took place at the McKnight Center on the campus of Oklahoma State University, a sparkling facility that opened in 2019.
The show was wonderful, the actors excellent and the music superb. “South Pacific” is filled with memorable songs such as “Some Enchanted Evening”, “Bali Hai” and “I’m Gonna Wash that Man Right Outta My Hair”.
My favorite is “You must be carefully taught”, in which the characters analyze the reasons for their prejudices, including the line “You must learn to be afraid of people whose eyes are oddly made, and people whose skin is a different hue. But that’s a topic for another day.
Anyway, the performance was over, the near-full crowd gave the cast and musicians a prolonged standing ovation, and the patrons began marching into the evening.
Or we did, that is, until everyone’s cell phones started screaming at the same time. It was a tornado warning, and suddenly we weren’t going anywhere.
The staff at the center began slowly but firmly to inform us that we should not leave, but seek refuge in the building. They split us into groups and ushered us quickly into the bowels of the facility, away from the parking lot and away from the spacious glass-encased lobby.
There was a lot of nervous chatter as we followed a few ushers this way, then this way. Eventually, we found ourselves in a rather tight space with a dozen other spectators, as well as three ushers.
We were sheltered, it seemed, in the ushers’ locker room, with lockers, a bulletin board with news and instructions for said ushers, and a microwave. There was even popcorn in the microwave, but they didn’t offer to make it for us.
There were few chairs, so most of us were standing. At first, everyone picked up their phones, trying to get news about the storms and where they were. But deep inside the building, service was spotty at best.
After a while we started chatting and found out that some of the people staying with us were from Enid. Small world. Some people, like us, had just seen the matinee, while others had arrived for the evening show.
We talked, quite naturally, about the weather. So I decided it was appropriate to share a story. So I recounted a Friday night long ago (Friday the 13th, actually) when my bride and I, then married only about three weeks, were standing outside our married student apartment on the northwest side of campus at the USO. and watched as a spinning thundercloud dropped a tornado over Stillwater.
Said storm slammed into the OSU campus and caused an estimated $1 million in damage, including picking up the roof cupola of OSU’s venerable fire hall, lifting it into the air, turning it over and driving it into the roof of the station like a dart.
The silence that greeted my story reminded me that we were only a few blocks from that same fire station right now. I told you social skills sucked.
Through it all, the incredibly young ushers, all students, have maintained their professionalism. The chef, a senior architecture student, operated the two-way radio and kept us updated on events outside our little cocoon.
After about 45 minutes we were told the green light had gone off and we were free to go. We left feeling lucky that the storm passed without incident and with a sense of hope for the future given the actions of our young guardian ushers.
All in all, it was a memorable evening for a variety of reasons. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I don’t want to miss this documentary about the life cycle of the vampire squid.
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Mullin is an award-winning writer and columnist who retired in 2017 after 41 years with the News & Eagle. Email him at [email protected] or write to him in care of Enid News & Eagle at PO Box 1192, Enid, OK, 73702.
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