Prairie dogs and business travel

by Steve Brock on June 12, 2012

Though you can barely see the second rainbow here from this photo taken not in Colorado but Yellowstone, it gives you some idea of a double rainbow

Business travel sometimes feels like all business. You go through the routine and nothing outside of the task at hand registers.

Other times, you can’t help but notice some of the more unusual occurrences on your trip. Take my business trip to Colorado last week for example.

I land in Denver through such turbulence that I feel like the inhabitant of a snow globe. I get to the rental car office outside the airport and suddenly the manager starts screaming at people to get inside and move away from the windows. All transactions stop as collectively we watch a small tornado pass through the parking lot fifty feet in front of us.

I’ve never seen a twister in person before, much less one this close. Apparently neither has anyone else judging from the excited chatter that follows, hands swirling in spiral reenactments, voices raised a few decibels higher than normal describing the objects flung effortlessly around in the twenty-foot-wide point of the funnel.

I find my rental car (fortunately parked in a different lot) and depart thinking I’ve had my fill of unusual weather for one trip. Within an hour of that phenomenon, however, as I drive south I encounter the following:

  • multiple lightening strikes to the east, not the zig-zaggy patterns that appear high up and work their way to earth like a PowerPoint slide transition, but quick straight lines of white flashing all at once like a neon burst against a charcoal background;
  • cloud patterns and colors that seem more like CGI effects than acts of nature;
  • wind that wants to drive my small car sideways as much as I want to will it forward;
  • rain that falls gently at first then comes down in drops the size of marbles;
  • hail that matches then exceeds the volume and size of the rain and pounds the car’s roof with a rhythmic intensity that seems almost melodic (though I find out the next day that in some areas the hail reached three inches in diameter and piled up in drifts two feet high);
  • and to top it all off, in the midst of all of this, a double rainbow (you have to say the words “double rainbow” with awe like the guy in the popular YouTube video for full effect).

None of this was on my itinerary or meeting agenda. But I find in such dramatic situations, I have no choice but to pay attention. What starts as mere curiosity becomes enthrallment. I am a spectator in the theater of the sky, a performance I did not sign up for, but now I cannot resist. I am witness to it, but also a participant, part of the disruptive weather that surrounds me.

At one point, as I am driving through a more remote stretch of highway amidst the thin vertical bars of brilliant light erupting to my left, I notice on the right side of the road a lone prairie dog. It stands up as only prairie dogs, curious squirrels and small children at a circus or parade can do on its hind legs straining for the sky; watching, giving witness to the magnificence before and around it.

“Amen,” I think as I drive on.

 *******

Normally, I too easily become jaded, especially on business trips where practiced precision drives my decisions and movements. But experiences like this remind me that there is more to life than work, more to travel than just getting someplace else.

This may all sound rather dramatic or possibly, over-the-top if you weren’t there. That’s the point. That’s what made this business trip something much more: Being there to experience the wildness and wonder of it all.

But don’t take my word for it.

Just ask the prairie dog.

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