One Bizarre Smokey Afternoon

My subconscious had honed in on the intensity of the campfire smell. It’s the only explanation I have for unconsciously closing the windows to my office amidst a phone call. I didn’t think one iota about the act for another three hours until early evening when I laced up my hiking boots.

As soon I walked outside I was instantly accosted by a dull headache. What looked like fog out the window was in fact an acrid smoke. The severity of the situation didn’t resonate until I came across a ranger on the street that dead-ends at the fire road I hike.

“Should I be hiking in this?” I asked.

“I wouldn’t. It’s bad. It’s been getting increasingly worse since early afternoon.”

He directed me to a web site with a real-time air quality map. At the trailhead I felt a breeze pick up. For a minute I was optimistic, but the breeze didn’t strengthen enough to have any significant effect. The numbers on the map were increasing. I was sitting in an area that was registering 191, nine points shy of a health alert.

I rolled up the car windows, turned on my air conditioner, and went home where I also shut all the windows, effectively sealing myself in. The evening, prematurely dark because of the smog, was eerily armageddon like. At least what I imagine armageddon looks like based on movies of the genre. My shirt smelled of smoke, and the air quality numbers on the road where I saw the ranger had risen to 230. Had I braved it, I would have been caught walking in that toxic cloud.

I kept a good thought for the tens of thousand of brave firefighters wrestling the blazes all over the state. I also kept a good thought for the people who had lost their homes in the last two weeks since the freak lightening storm ignited all the fires. I closed my eyes for a few minutes in silent vigil, then raised my whiskey glass and hoped for a swift end to this annus horribilis.