Of Close Encounters: Lightning

A Close Encounters With Lightning

If you ever try to convince me that, chances of a lightning strike are not be increased by the use of  cellphone during a thunder storm, I will not believe you.

I once had a very close encounter, with lightning…..

OMG its only just sinking in how close this encounter was. If this were the comic book universe, by now my super powers would be fully developed, including an almost instinctual ability to tailor make my very own super hero costume. Alas my powers still haven’t manifested yet or maybe I haven’t discovered them yet, I will keep you updated.

Here’s how the encounter played out:

I was standing close to the window of our first floor dormitory room which I shared with 8 other boys (you can read that as “witnesses”)

School’s first term had started about a fortnight back and my brother had snuck in for a visit and to bring me “provisions”, you know the basic stuff a mission boarding school kid needs, more juice, biscuits, tinned goodies and peanut butter. My brother had finished High School a few years before and was on a paid internship from which his savings allowed him to buy a new prepaid mobile phone.

It was a garishly coloured red monstrosity of a brick that looked more like a child’s plaything than an actual working mobile cellular phone. Did I mention it was red, red for danger, red the colour attracted lightning……

A Seimens C10 phone popularly known as a Mango Phone from Telecel with prepaid top up vouchers known as Juice Cards. Telecel launched the first prepaid service in Zimbabwe when all the other cellular networks still had post-paid billing and even till today prepaid top up cards are known as Juice Cards….

Mango Juice card
Mango Juice card

The Siemens C10 commonly came in 3 fun colours red, blue and yellow

siemens c10

…and best accesorised with a thick leather pouch and a strap where you could hook up your phone to your belt…. Hello fashion statement.

The Iridium PTT phones come with a leather holster
Iridium PTT with holster from Ground Control

You must remember this was back in the late 90s if you had cellphone you flaunted it, a phone was a status symbol before the prepaid era they were only for the rich while the rest of us mortals had to content with public phone booths… Would you believe that initially you used to be billed not only to make calls but to receive calls too? Thats why they advertised free incoming calls

 mango juice card

Small wonder the Shona phrase for mobile phone is “Nhare Mbozha” meaning “phone for the rich

So there I was, fiddling around with my brother’s mobile telephone device, checking out the monophonic ringtones and generally being impressed since this was my first real-life encounter with a cellphone having only seen them in the movies. There wasn’t much else I could do with it, back in those days network coverage was limited and our mission boarding was far from cell towers.

Mostly I just stood there phone awkwardly in hand as I watched the other boys trying not to stare at me but I knew they were dying to get a closer at the phone; while I talked about scanning for network and pretentiously waved the phone around, intently peering into the tiny LCD screen, watching it search for a connection, searching and ever searching….

searching signal phone  clip art

It didn’t find the network but it found something else……

…….A brilliant blue flash filled the room and time stood still….

No, time did not stand still, it was as if there was a strobo-scope, each moment broken down into freeze frame slow motion…

From the end of the room where I stood I had a vantage point of everybody in the room watching them move frame by frame; someone closest to the door fled the room, while some rolled onto to the floor and crawled beneath their beds, someone dashed into one of the open closets that lined one wall of the room……

running away from lightning

And I just stood there, too stunned to move, as tingly sensation made all the hairs on body stand.

At the very instant the blinding light reached its peak brightness, the window behind me shattered into pieces with the shards of broken glass falling inwards, followed by an earth shattering reverberation that you could feel in the soles in your feet, as the brightness receded the room seemed almost dark.

Normalcy returned and time shifted back to its usual motion.

Is everybody OK?” I heard my words come out of my mouth barely above a whisper but sounding loud in the silent room. Slowly people got back out from where they had ensconced themselves, accompanied by some nervous laughter from me.

They all looked at me and as one we all turned to look at the gaping hole where the window had been and shortly after drops of rain were blown in carrying in the smell of damp earth mixed with a pungent static smell and a faint smell of plastic and burnt electronics.

lightning at bruno

A floor below us we could see smoke coming out of the Recreational Center and later learnt that the TV had blown up.

“Lightning” someone finally offered an explanation with a shaky voice.

The phone in my hand felt warmer and heavier than usual and the screen showed it was still searching for signal. I pressed the power button, switching it off and silently passed it back to my brother.

Outside, it begun to rain buckets.

Much later when the rain had stopped the Boarding Master came to check on us and reassure us that lightning does not lay eggs which it will later came back for.

A tarpaulin cover was nailed to the window for the remainder of the week. I carved my initial into the wet window putty when the new window was installed.

I finished school and the lightning never returned, and today there’s a window in Bruno Hostel with my name engraved on its putty, a silent remainder of an encounter with lightning, that lasted no more than a few seconds yet seemed like time stretched and stretched and almost stopped….

B was here

~B

15 Comments

  1. Talk about close encouters. The part about the witnesses scrambling for cover had me rolling on the ground laughing. At least now it is just a memory you share and nothing fatal happened.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Freaky!
    That was such an entertaining read.
    I remember those phone covers… too funny.
    And there still is service that makes you pay for the txts and calls you make AND receive. $$$
    Did you draw all that? Those were awesome.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was definitely a very freaky moment…. I am quite surprised as to how much detail I could recollect, almost like I went back in time. 😂

      Wow, crazy I was telling someone about how you used to pay to receive phone calls and they thought I was trying to pull one over them 😂 these children of today, and somehow along the way we lost public phone booths too, like they just got phased out.

      Haha I was feeling particularly artsy so I decided to sketch my own images, super glad someone asked about that 😊

      ~B

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I thought the drawings added a lot of flair to the post. Good job.

        I miss phone booths. When I left my phone on a bus some years ago (never got it back:(), I wanted to call home to try and have them call the bus company so someone can pick it up before someone steals it. There were none to be seen. And people feel weird about lending their phones to others.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. That was a well-told recollection of a very interesting event. Wow!

    I wonder, though, why you were in a dorm for boys? How old were you? I have heard of kids being sent away for school, but only in movies and usually in wealthy families. It always saddens me to hear of children not getting to stay with their parents.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks I even impressed myself by how much I could recollect 😊

      Well it was less of being sent away and more of the sacrifices a family made for a child to get a decent education. It was a mission boarding school and I low key suspect the mission tried to groom us into priesthood ha!, but on the whole we did get to learn to be disciplined, independent and Catholic.

      The weren’t a lot of good schools and the mission schools were usually on farms far from cities so you would have to be boarder, though we got to go home during the holidays.

      ~B

      Like

  4. Yow! You are the second person I know to have dodged the bullet of lightening exploding so close to you.
    The stuff is powerful and weird. While living in Colorado Springs, Colorado (well known for lots of lightening strikes) the was a news story about a family with 2 young boys who were camping at a near by lake. The older thinking it might rain took an umbrella in one hand and his younger brother’s hand in the other and meant to take a quick walk down to the water front. They almost made it when lightening hit the top of the umbrella, passed through the shaft and the body of the older boy and then on to the body of the younger boy.

    The older boy was badly shaken.
    The younger boy was dead.
    The umbrella was completely ruined.

    Don’t mess with lightening.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Do not mess with lightning!!!

      That’s a tragic story, oh my word 😢 can’t begin to imagine how that must have been

      I have a very healthy respect for it … Well I didn’t exactly dodge I more or less just stood there 😂

      ~B

      Like

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