I have turned into a weather nerd. This is not my fault. Florida does it to you.
I must know: Will my morning ride be a white-knuckler through one of our notorious fogs? Should I wait out a thunderstorm before braving the Skyway? What do I wear humidity-wise? Umbrella or no?
And soon: Is anything scary swirling out in the gulf?
So nerd I have become. "Definitely a south-southeast wind today," I say knowingly to my husband on the way out the door, or, "Did you hear? Two and a half inches down in Sun City!"
What we have here is an addiction, one I can track to the day we discovered the greatest cable channel ever, a Weather Channel spinoff called Weatherscan, Channel 49 on the Verizon dial.
Then one day, it was gone. Why? And why did I love it so?
Yes, we have plenty of weather on cable and local news (though I miss the days when forecasters — pardon, meteorologists — looked like they wanted to sell you a used car). But this was pure weather, all local all the time, Tampa Bay map, Florida map, Monday clouds, Tuesday sun, you get the picture. And every few minutes, radar showed you clouds pushing off Clearwater, or told you the storm currently pounding your roof was soon to pass. If you have an iota of control freak in you, heaven.
Best of all, no talking. No gripping human interest stories of house cats rescued from rooftops or families fleeing tornadoes or the world record mud puddle. No sopping reporters in rain slickers saying how incredibly dangerous it was wherever they were standing (though it was fun to watch all that perfect hair go limp). Just a pleasant recorded voice saying "your current conditions" over a loop of smooth jazz.
This became the background of our household, consulted for dog walks and Publix runs and whether a barbecue was in our future. Then it suddenly disappeared, replaced by the regular Weather Channel, which confoundingly still existed at its old channel, too.
I called Verizon and was promptly transferred to a series of cheery people who each needed all my account information before transferring me to the next guy. I began to suspect they were perusing my account for their own amusement — well, well, look who watches SOAPnet … who can't seem to stay up for Jon Stewart … and — Super Nanny? Really? Miraculously, no one tried to sell me anything, maybe due to the desperate edge in my voice. Hurricane season is coming, man! Gimme back my 24/7 Doppler! I had the urge to nervously scratch at my arms like I was in line at a methadone clinic.
Desperate, I e-mailed the Weather Channel and a representative named Vanthan Khel. (Apparently you need a cool name to work for the Weather Channel). Word came back swift as a summer storm: Hi Sue … We want to make our viewers aware that this not a content decision but a technical issue we're temporarily experiencing in the area. Our technician team has identified the problem. … currently undergoing repairs as we speak. … Regards, Vanthan.
Oh, Vanthan. You had me at "technical issue."
After work this week, my husband and I considered a foray out to dinner. Without much hope, we clicked on 49.
Smooth jazz. Soothing voice. And oh, there it was. The Doppler.
Hey, might be nice enough to sit outside.