With Covid19 sweeping the planet, I’m in desperate need of humor. Fortunately, I got a good dose of it a couple of days ago.
Laura, my fellow WriteOwl, texted me a link to an old news story about the Oregon highway division blowing up a dead and rotting whale that had beached in Florence, OR in 1970. As it happens, my husband, Fred, and I are having a house built there and will be moving to Florence in just a few months, and I’m currently writing a story about whales. (There’s even one that beaches and dies in Act 1.)
Though I’d heard about the infamous exploding whale incident, I’d never seen any footage of the event. It was hysterical! I watched it four times, then watched it four more times with Fred. My favorite line was, “… when the blast blasted blubber beyond all believable bounds…” delivered by the reporter in an utterly deadpan Walter Cronkite style.
I was so enthusiastic about the video that I texted the link to my brother (who lives in Florence), my mom and my sisters. Unfortunately, I am not the most tech savvy person and clearly don’t have the knack of group texting. My mom only received a partial text. One that apparently alarmed her.
Mom’s follow-up text to me: [head blowing up emoji] I got the strangest partial message about something exploding in Florence. What’s exploding?
I was just typing my response when Fred came into the house and asked for my help in the garage. Evidently, when I set my phone down and toddled out, I somehow hit send without realizing it, so all my mother got was—
My text: They blew
While Fred and I were out in the garage, mom, a little freaked out and more than a little confused kept texting me back, seeking clarification—which I wasn’t giving her because I was out in the garage without my phone.
Mom’s text: [Holy freak out emoji] who blew??? What blew???
Mom’s next text: Was it a gas explosion?? Is the house alright? Are Larry and Marina alright??? Was it their house??? What happened???
And another text from Mom: There’s nothing about it on the news! What blew????
At that point, I came back into the house.
My text: They blew up a beached whale. It was in 1970, but I just saw the news cast which you can watch by clicking on the Twitter link I sent you. If you’ve never seen it, you have to watch it. It’s hilarious!
Mom’s text: What Twitter link? I didn’t get any stupid Twitter link?
At that point, I just called.
Clearly, mom and I haven’t quite mastered the art of communicating via text. We both still use punctuation and neither of us uses initialisms, though mom’s great with alarm emojis.
So what does the exploding whale have to do with writing?
Well, later that evening, I had an epiphany about one of my characters. I had had it anchored in stone in my head—and my outline—that one whale was The Mother. I’d never thought to question that before, but while I was cooking dinner, I realized that if I changed The Mother into a sibling, every character’s arch would be bigger and the tension in the story would ratchet way up.
That utterly tangential video somehow triggered a chain of insight in the back of my brain. Maybe it’s because I was thinking whale all day while not forcing myself to think about my story. Maybe my subconscious just needed a wacky laugh to see the world through a different lens. Maybe it was just the fabulously inspiring alliteration. All I know is that I’m grateful for the laugh—and the major insight!
Thank you, Laura. (And what bizarro rabbit hole did you go down to find that tweet in the first place?)
If you need some humor, here’s the link. Who knows, you may come away with a literary epiphany, and if not, you’ll at least have a good laugh.