No plan survives first contact with a flood warning

It’s been raining a lot around here lately. A lot. A lot.

On one hand this is good. California has been in a drought for a while and we could use the water. On the other hand, my mom sent me a photo of the Mercury News front page at some point mid-week…

This is the next street over, just north of where I live.

When I moved up here, I left my 2+ year full time position at a flatbread bakery down in Gilroy. Last week, I got an email asking if I would be willing to do some store demos in my area for (a) old time’s sake and (b) $20 an hour. Naturally I said yes, but as this week progressed I started to realize that the only way I might be able to get out of my neighborhood would be by boat.

Luckily, our house is on a hill. That’s not the problem. The problem is that all the ways out are downhill. The road we’re on floods at the creek, right before a postage-stamp sized town, but there’s a back way out. That back way, however, is mostly flat. To either side of the road are vineyards and those flood. It’s not much lower than the road, so after a while the road will flood too, although we’ve yet to see that actually happen since we moved up here. All of this would be less of a problem if it hadn’t been raining for most of the end of December, leaving the ground pretty saturated. Flooding this weekend and into the week will probably be the worst we’ve seen yet.

Yesterday was fine. I arrived in Petaluma for the demo on time, because the main road out had not flooded yet. Once I was at the store I was delayed for another half hour because I had to find where the heck they kept the olive oil and buy some, find an outlet for the toaster oven, find an extension cord to plug into the outlet because the bakery had accidentally sent me a computer cord, and borrow a step ladder so I could plug in the extension cord to an outlet above a refrigerated display. From that point on, I spent three and a half hours in front of the refrigeration unit, keeping warm by holding my hands over the hot toaster oven.

Surefire way to look like a dork: take a selfie in a Safeway.

Side note, I am not a salesperson. I’m not a people person. But I can sell this bread, because (a) I did marketing and sales support for 2+ years so I know all the talking points, and (b) it’s genuinely good, so I don’t have to try and fake my enthusiasm. If you’re like me and ever get stuck doing demos, here’s a tip: Some people are going to ignore you. You can recognize them by the way they keep their eyes totally averted from you and your table as they approach and pass. Save yourself the time and social awkwardness (on all sides) by not asking if they want to try some. At most, say “Hello.” This saves you from rudely ignoring them back and also from pestering anyone dead-set against being interested.

Also, here are a few food safety rules to keep in mind. If someone doing a demo doesn’t follow these, maybe you want to not try what they’re sampling. Take it from someone who was, at one point, officially certified as a Food Safety Manager.

  • You’re not supposed to touch your face, hair, phone, etc. while wearing gloves. If you do, you have to change them.
  • You’re not supposed to eat, touch your mouth, etc. while wearing gloves. If you do, you have to change them.
  • Seriously, the point of wearing foodservice gloves is to avoid possible contamination, people. This also includes picking up and sipping from a Starbucks cup.
  • No earrings or other jewelry. They might fall into the food. Do you want to feed someone a hook or a stud backing? I don’t think so.
  • Per the USDA, the “Danger Zone” for letting food sit out is between 40°F and 140°F. Below 90°F, perishables can only stay out of cold or hot storage for 2 hours. Above 90°F, that’s down to 1 hour. Basically, use a cooler or a heat lamp if the demo is longer than 2 hours. (In my experience, most are usually 3 to 4 hours long.)Why? Because bacteria.

… Anyway.

This morning I set out for my second demo. The first road out was flooded, so I tried the back way. The first leg of that was okay in the sense that it had not flooded, and if it did probably wouldn’t flood very badly, except for some low spots where puddles were already starting to form.

The next leg was a disaster, and I almost didn’t even have to drive on it to know that. It hadn’t flooded yet, but it was going to. When you see bodies of water starting to form on either side of a nearly level road, it’s not a good sign. There were a couple spots where it was already on the road, but not deep and only on one side or the other. There were several spots with thin sheets of water flowing across the road, though these mostly weren’t near any obvious puddle spots. I checked the weather forecast — not only was it expected to rain all day straight, but it’s supposed to rain for the next three days as well.

I called off the demo. Luckily, I’d already warned my friends at the bakery earlier in the week. They’d tried to reschedule them for me to a safer weekend but it was a no go, so they understood when I texted in today saying I wouldn’t be able to do it. While I was out, though, I took the opportunity to stock up on some groceries really quick.

In the time I’ve been typing this, my phone received an emergency alert flood warning for the area. Who called it? This girl.