The sun is shining brightly outside my window, so brightly in fact, that it's hard to see the computer monitor. Whoever would have thought that I would come to prefer dim rooms with little light for the sake of reading words from a little screen?
Despite the bright sunshine the weather forecast promises thunderstorms. Now thunderstorms are the bane of the computer addict - close and severe storms mean powering down to protect your machine. Separation anxiety can overcome you within minutes.
But thunderstorms are greeted in my house with as little fanfare as possible. I don't want to have the children overly-anxious about lightning as I was when I was a child. A healthy respect for its power and the dangers it possesses is fine, but my mother knew how to instill deep and lasting fear.
Most people know how to avoid the most obvious dangers during a thunderstorm - turn off the computer, maybe turn off the TV, don't talk on the cordless phone, don't take a bath. Don't try to emulate Benjamin Franklin's lightning rod experiments. But my mother had much more detailed rules.
Windows all had to be closed. No one was allowed near windows or doors. We weren't allowed to tread upon the carpet as it might contain wool fibers, and she was convinced that wool was a great conductor of electricity. For similar reasons, we weren't allowed to pet the dog, not even if she was dry. She felt that dog hair was probably as good a conductor of electricity as the carpet. So we were a family of 5 sitting on the couch with our legs crossed under us, yelling furiously at the dog to go out to the kitchen until such time as the storm had passed.
They say the odds of getting struck by lightning are about one in nine million. Strangely, although I don't know nearly nine million people, I personally know three who have been struck by lightning. None of them were walking on the carpet or petting the dog.
My rules for thunderstorms are a little more lax than my mother's. No playing outside in the rain when there's lightning, no holding steel rods out the windows. You can watch TV if you sit on a chair a good distance from it until the power cuts out. If there is more than one crack of lightning in a row that sounds like it just blew up your garage, it's probably best not to sit too close to an open window. If the power goes out, only the mother can light the candles and no, you can't take one to bed with you.
The truth of the matter is, if you don't do anything really stupid, the chances of being struck by lightning are one in nine million. Let's face it, if it's gonna get you, it's gonna get you. Might as well watch the end of American Idol.