Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Step 3: Reward Yourself

The day I met Tom Glass dawned like any other typical prairie summer day.  Not a hint of a cotton-ball cloud above but the temperature was rising quickly and, by our scheduled afternoon interview time, the sky had changed into an angry black mess.

End-of-the-world clouds boiled across the horizon as I arrived at the rural fairgrounds where I would interview Glass, a famous chuckwagon-racing cowboy and, now, movie stuntman and stunt car driver.  I congratulated myself on dressing appropriately for an interview that would take place in a dusty farm field.  Since I was on assignment for the Calgary Herald, a major daily newspaper, I did not want to be remembered as the "stupid reporter in high heels." 

As it turned out, feeling smug was my first mistake.

Pulling into a large area filled with motorhomes, horse trailers and Brontosaurus-sized trucks, I parked my car at about the same time that the radio reported four funnel clouds off in the distance.  With an eye on the sky, I checked my make-up and hair one last time and stepped out of my vehicle which was my second mistake.

At that instant, a dust devil hit me, engulfing me in a violent vortex of dirt, fairground garbage and undetermined organic matter (I'm pretty sure there were molecules of horse poop in there somewhere).  Like a giant flytrap, grass, debris and other unmentionables clung to my hair, make-up and lipstick while I hung on to my car's antenna because it was the only thing I could see.  Finally, the dust devil, feeling satisfied with its assault tactics, relented and moved off in search of a new victim.

Looking like I'd been roughed up by some school bullies, I made my way over to meet Glass.  My clothes were dishevelled and covered in a fine layer of dust.  Twigs and other icky stuff was stuck in my long hair.  I tried to pick the dirt off of my lipstick and brush the grit from my face but it's safe to say that I was sporting the freshly-sandblasted look.

Glass said nothing but offered to conduct the interview in his shiny black SUV which seemed like a good idea since I was fairly certain that other dust devils were still out there, hunting me.  Joanne, his wife of 18 years, was already inside, with every hair in place and looking gorgeous because, well, Mother Nature liked her.

When Glass opened the back door for me, I made a dive for the safety of the SUV, arriving head-first and with about as much grace as a hippo doing a belly flop into water.  The silence that followed was a tad awkward and, feeling the need to explain, I gathered up the tatters of my dignity, smiled brightly and simply stated "I guess I'm not a country girl."  They considered this for a moment, laughed and nodded understandingly.

The truth is that Mother Nature and I go way back and this was not the first skirmish.  Many years earlier, I had been flying a plane back alone to my local airport when I was hit, mid air, with a suspected microburst.  I went from flying straight and level, in a perfect sky without a wisp of cloud in sight, to standing on one wingtip in a heartbeat.  Now, as scary as that sounds, it was fairly easy to recover from (my commercial pilot's test ride was a lot worse) and I was left with nothing stuck to my lipstick so, all things considered, it was a win-win.

But, unfortunately, Mother Nature was not done with me.  A few years after the Glass interview incident, I was sitting outside on a mall bench, minding my own business and waiting for my ride to pick me up, when I noticed a dust devil forming in the parking lot.  The day was beautiful, sunny and warm, I had my favorite pair of sunglasses on and my toes were delighted to be in sandals after a long winter.

Feeling quite safe, I watched the dust devil grow in size and become more visible as it skipped across the mall lot, picking up winter gravel, dead leaves and dirt as it went.  Suddenly, it veered straight for me and quickly overcame me in a maelstrom of filth.  I swear I am not making this up.  I put my head down, closed my eyes and did the only thing any self-respecting woman would do – I protected my lipstick.

Somewhat shockingly, as it whirled around me, I actually felt myself lift off a little from the bench.  Then, it was over and the dust devil danced its way across the lot and dissipated.  I sat there, stunned, and wondered if I had imagined the sense of weightlessness.  I checked my condition and, in addition to the usual crap stuck to me, I discovered that my sandals now had a layer of dirt between the bottom of my feet and the footbed of each sandal.  Wow, I had actually lifted up enough for the entire inside of the sandal to be covered in debris which, later, made walking interesting.

My ride showed up shortly thereafter, took one look at me and asked "what happened to you?!" 

"Tornado magnet," I answered.

To be honest, my relationship with Mother Nature has been pretty shaky for most of my life and it all began when a bat flew into my hair when I was 12 years old.  Needless to say, there was a lot of flapping and thrashing about – mostly on my part.  There may have been some screaming as well.

That incident set the tone for what was to come.  Birds dive bomb me, little furry woodland creatures think I'm a Disney princess and coming running straight for me and I'm not too thrilled about my role as the insect whisperer either. 

In what may have been one of her better moments, Mother Nature chose an airshow as the setting for my next humiliation.  I had taken no more than a dozen steps onto the field when a giant grasshopper leaped upwards and landed on my forehead, dangling from my bangs while hanging on for dear life.  This put him squarely at eye level so that all I could see were grasshopper legs and underbelly.  Again, I am not making this up.

Since my hands were full with a lawn chair and backpack, my options for swatting were limited and I was also frozen in mid-stride.  The grasshopper, perhaps sensing a meltdown coming, jumped off but not before first using my forehead as a launching pad.

Later on, when I went to work in government and began my career in disaster communications, Mother Nature upped the ante significantly as we battled over wildfires, windstorms, flooding, earthquakes and more.  But, she taught me some valuable lessons – mainly to be prepared for anything including, but not limited to, predatory dust devils, invisible microbursts and mutant Ninja grasshoppers.

STEP 3: Reward Yourself

If you've been following the Prep for Free steps, then you're going to particularly like this one.  It's simple and fun!  Here's how to do it using the many shopping reward cards out there.  If you don't already have a wallet full of them, then it's time to sign up for all that you can get.

Option 1: Redeem your reward points for a cash discount on your purchase and then use those savings for items that you'll need to buy for your emergency kits.  As an example, if you redeem your points for $10 off your everyday purchase, take the $10 you've saved and add it to your growing preparedness piggy bank.  Or you can spend it right away on a preparedness item if it costs $10 or less.  If you're shopping used items on Kijiji, Craigslist, Varage Sale or one of the many online free ad sites, then $10 can buy a lot.  If you live in a city with a Dollar store, these outlets are a great place to shop for emergency kit gear especially during camping season.

Option 2: Redeem your reward points for other gift cards.  Some programs, like Air Miles, allow you to redeem your points for other gift cards.  If you redeem for a fuel card, food card or entertainment card, you can then deduct that amount from your regular budget and re-direct the funds to your preparedness efforts.  For example, using this option, a $50 gas card would allow you to divert $50 out of your day-to-day budget for preparedness items.

Option 3: Redeem your reward points for tangible items like camping equipment and so much more.  It's amazing what items are offered on certain programs.  In a previous blog, I talked about this LED lantern which I got for free through my reward points.  I've also used my points for binoculars, a telescope and a solar power panel like the one shown below.

No matter how you use them, your points can amount to significant free stuff for your emergency kits so go ahead and reward yourself.  You deserve to be prepared!

Next week, I'll be taking a break due to more travel to deliver corporate crisis communications training but please use that time to keep working though the Prep for Free program and I'll be back with step 4 soon!

Take care and thanks for reading,


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© Copyright 2015 Nancy Argyle


  1. We picked up a Canon T1i camera a few years back. Came with 2 lenses and a very nice case. The 300mm lens enables us to do some different kind of snap recon. High def images are a boon for the thoughtful prepper studying routes, locations while on a practice run or scouting mission.

    We got the thing for 35 bucks US. How? We redeemed some Best Buy gift cards that we scored from our bank. You see, we were part of a rewards program that we didn't even know about. When the teller asked me what we were going to do with all these points we earned, I had no clue! Did the tally, did the redemption dance and the card showed up.

    It is possible that you are part of a program about which you know nothing. Or maybe you have forgotten about that day you said "yes" at the check out lane or bank counter. Might be worth it to keep your eyes and ears open, or to even ask. It paid off for us. Our current rewards programs are American Express, two different auto parts chains, our Credit Union and a hardware store chain.

    1. I never thought about programs that people may have forgotten about. Great observation and use of the rewards programs!