Lightening vs Lightning (From Wikipedia)

The English words lightening and lightning are only one letter apart in spelling and pronunciation, but worlds apart in meaning. The lightning bolt of comprehension you get after reading this lesson will start lightening your confusion.

Lightening is the present participle of the verb “to lighten,” and refers to the process of making something lighter in color. Lightening is the opposite of darkening, or making something darker.
I’m lightening my jeans by adding bleach to the wash. The dark blue will become light blue.
He’s lightening the room by painting it white.
Lightening also refers to the process of making something lighter in weight. Lightening is the opposite of making something heavier.
By using more plastic in place of metal, and thereby lightening cars, we can get better gas mileage.
The trick to lightening a cake is using beaten egg whites.

Lightning is a noun – it refers to the meteorological phenomenon that is followed by thunder.
Lightning tends to strike the tallest thing in its vicinity.
The lightning storm caused the forest fire.

Do you know how you will react in the face of an emergency? I don’t mean an emergency like having none of your favorite beer in the refrigerator when the football game comes on.
Or leaving your cellphone on the roof of your car when you left your friend’s house 35 miles back, although that could be a real problem. Or, forgetting that your boss and his family are coming over for dinner and you forgot to mention it to your wife until about 30 minutes before they are coming!

I mean, suppose that a tornado is coming straight toward your house! Or, you hear a burglar in the downstairs foyer at 1:00 AM. What would you do? Would you panic? Would you scream? Would you run? Would you be calm, cool, and collected?

Maybe you have faced such an emergency and handled it very well. Then, the question might be did you just react in a frightened way but it turned out well by sheer luck, anyway? Or were you cool and calculating, making precise decisions at just the right time to avert disaster? When I talked to a fighter pilot about how quick thinking they had to be, his response was that it was all a matter of training. They trained and trained to handle every possible scenario so that when the time came, they reacted automatically based on the training. But for most of our emergencies, they happen to us without warning and with no preparedness training in most cases.

I was driving into Atlanta one morning back when they were rebuilding the downtown connector. Every morning, literally, the road went in a different direction. It was an amazing feat that they accomplished to rebuild an entire heavily travelled interstate system that was under constant usage without shutting it down but it kept the daily drivers on their toes. That morning, it was raining and had been all night. The new asphalt was saturated and slick.

Have you ever noticed that when driving gets dangerous and the speed should be 45 MPH there is always someone determined to drive 55 because they consider themselves better drivers than everyone else? They can see through the water spray and rain better than everyone else. Their car grips the road better than everyone else’s. Their brakes are better. They can react faster.

The traffic was moving along at about 55 with cars on my left and right. There was a car almost even with my passenger door on the right side and a car was overtaking me on my left side. I had seen him in my mirror as he had been maneuvering from lane to lane to get ahead of everyone. He was now coming around me on the left.

The car just cleared my left front fender and he was going to change lanes again when a strange thing happened. Apparently, the car was going at just the right speed to hydroplane, because the car started to slowly pivot in a clockwise motion. It was like everything had slowed down to slow motion. I watched the car slowly turning on its axis as it went forward at the same time at 55- 60 MPH. It rotated 180 degrees and I was looking at a car, in my lane, headed back the way we had just come from and I was looking at the drivers face for a brief moment, but it seemed longer. Face to face with potential disaster. For sure an emergency situation had developed!

I actually did think about what I should do. There was a car immediately on my right. No place to go there. There was a car immediately on my left. Likewise, there was no place to go. And there was a car on my back bumper and a lot more behind him which would have had a hard time stopping on a dime even if we could on the wet road. So, I did what I concluded I should do in the 2 milliseconds I had to do so. I did nothing. I kept driving, I did not put on brakes, and I did not try to change lanes. And, I did not panic.

The car had turned 180 degrees, slid over into my lane facing me and then continued to move across in front of me directly in the path of the car on my right and they hit head on in 8:00 AM traffic in downtown Atlanta with hundreds of cars around them. I and most of the people directly behind me passed without incident but a number of other cars piled up in a chain reaction. Had I tried to slam on brakes, no doubt my lane would have done the same.

I just kept driving. I did not think stopping in the middle of the situation would serve any purpose and there were going to be plenty of people there to assist anyone that needed it.
I exited a couple of miles up the road at Howell Mill Rd and drove to my office on Chattahoochee. I pulled in the parking lot and found a space.

I reached over and got my briefcase and opened the door to get out. I couldn’t. I could not get my legs to work. In fact, they were now shaking violently! I was shaking violently! The reality of how close I had just come to being hit head on there on the downtown connector was now coming into focus! I had been scared almost to death! It took me several minutes to compose myself where I could go in the building.

I don’t know what I would do under similar circumstances if it occurred again today. I really don’t think I could predict, but I would bet that if I had the same situation 5 more times, I would likely react differently 5 more times. Some of those reactions might end up badly for me.

The point being, we often can second guess what someone does in the face of an emergency but we would not know for sure what we would do unless we were thrown into the same situation. Maybe better than them or worse than them.

One Saturday afternoon, we were at our home out in Sandy Point just doing normal stuff. I don’t recall if all of our boys were at home at the time, but for some reason I can only remember my wife, our youngest son, and me being there. He was about 9 or 10 as I recall.
It started to rain and there was lightning and thunder so we all went inside. Wade, our youngest, went into his room which was on the back of the house.

We had a small table with chrome legs and two chairs that matched it. It was used for games, homework, and drawing and just about everything. Wade pulled one of the chairs over to the window and propped up on the window sill watching the rain blow across the pool. I was in the den and my wife was in the kitchen. It was still lightning and raining hard.

Then there was a huge lightning flash, a boom and our phone rang once. The lightning had hit, apparently, the telephone junction box about 1000 feet up the driveway by the road
and fried our telephone line. They later had to replace the entire underground cable that ran from the road to the house.

A minute or two later there was another flash of lightning but this time it sounded like a large BAM! It was more like a big limb snapping or a heavy slapping sound. Not a BOOM.
And it sounded like it had hit the house.

Then we heard our son yell. He was lying in the hall and shaking all over. He was screaming, crying, shaking and we were trying to calm him down. It was then that we realized that the noise we had heard was the lightening hitting something outside, we later decided it must have been the air-conditioning housing which was right outside the bedroom, and our son.
He had positioned himself in the metal chair, on the carpeted floor and was looking out the window. His feet and/or part of the chair were on the metal air-conditioning vent. The lightening had knocked him out of the chair and into the hall, about 12 feet.

We did not have 911 at that time and the lightning had already knocked out the phone. We worked at getting Wade calmed down and he was talking and breathing normally and was beginning to seem like he was going to be ok. We were trying to decide what we should do and started looking him over to see if there was any injury.

He had a blister across the small of the back that looked like a water blister. It was nasty looking, about 3-4” wide and we were trying to decide if we should take him to the hospital to have that looked at. There were some red streaks going down his leg that looked like the picture of a lightning bolt. By now, he seems ok except for the blister.


I could see something unreal happening right before my eyes. The red streak was starting to disappear, but that wasn’t too surprising. What was surprising was the nasty looking blister. When I first saw it I would have believed the skin would be peeling off like any other severe burn. But, now, I could see it starting to disappear. All this was happening in about 10 minutes.

So, I did what every concerned father, faced with such an emergency, would do on a Saturday afternoon when his son has just been struck by lightning: I ran and got my Polaroid camera! There were no cell phone cameras and no digital SLR’s. The “high tech” camera of the day was the Polaroid.

I took several pictures of the evidence. The picture quality of these photos is not the best and by the time I took them, both the streaks and the blister were quickly disappearing. The pictures really do not do justice, especially on the blister.

We have somehow lost some of the Polaroid’s but we have these remaining.

So. There you have it. I know exactly how I am likely to react in a life threatening emergency: I get my camera and take some pictures! Some might say I have impaired judgment. They most likely are right!

What will you do when lightning strikes?

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