05/27/2015 04:15 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Joan Was Prepared for Houston Flooding


I woke up this morning seeing the terrible flooding going on in Houston and was reminded of my secretary Joan.

Many don't realize Houston is just below sea-level. Consequently there is a rule of thumb: If it rains more than an inch per hour, find higher ground. There will be some flooding.

Joan took flooding very seriously. Working for Coca-Cola, she had purchased a new 1968 Chevrolet Nova in Coca-Cola red. When I started working there in 1980, she was still driving it, with the redness kept intact by a yearly spraying by her husband with cans of red paint, with each year a slightly different shade of red, giving the car a look of impetigo. The interior was black Tuccarole vinyl, barely visible. However, she had her husband staple towels across the seats as well as seat backs to protect it from the sun. The long back seat had Mickey Mouse on it. The headrests were covered with hand towels, again, all stapled directly into the vinyl.

Years before I arrived, Joan had been forced into a parking garage for a couple of hours during a cloudburst and had been hungry and bored. Now, the back of the red Nova held emergency supplies: a sleeping bag, pillow, cans of food, books in case one wanted to read to pass the time. In other words she was ready should another flood come her way.

Our offices were small and close to one another. You could hear one person inhale in one office as another exhaled in the next one. Occasionally, just to spice things up if it happened to be raining outside, I would pretend to be talking to our office due west in San Antonio. "How many inches of rain have you had? You have to be kidding. Uh huh, so it looks like a wall of water coming our way."

From Joan's small office you would hear the click of her radio as she started searching for weather information. The walls were almost thin enough to see everyone grinning.

One time a hurricane was headed our way, and there was a little rain, but the big stuff was at least 24 hours out. The boss walked to the door, opened it, and while looking at all of the rain, turned toward Joan and said, "Joanie, have you ever seen a funnel cloud?" She jumped from her desk and frantically looked out of the door shouting, "Where? Where?" His response was, "I didn't say there was one, I just asked if you had ever seen one." It was unfortunate that Joan was not amused.

I am happy to report in the eight years I was in the Houston office that Joan never had need to break into her emergency supplies. But she was ready. In her red Nova in so many shades of red.