Some people have the knack for being in the right place at the right time. Others don't. I'm among the latter, especially when it comes to the weather. Vacations and work outings have led me into hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, and, as of last week, floods. The two things I hear most often on the road are "Sorry, we don't have your reservation" and "Yep, this Volvo-sized hail sure is unusual this time of year."
As luck would have it, I was in central Europe last week when the rains came. And stayed. And stayed.
The downpour was akin to houseguests who turn a weekend visit into a two-week torture session, leaving Post-It notes on the refrigerator saying, "Borrowed your car to go to Disneyland. Back at 10. By the way, you're out of beer."
And then the floods came. Some of the world's most beautiful architecture in Prague was suddenly underwater. So was the city's best riverbank restaurant, where the night before - when the waters first began rising - Sean Connery was among the diners who heard cries for help from a man clinging to a branch in the raging river. Rescue workers were instantly summoned and the man was plucked, naked, from the torrent. He had fallen into the swollen Vltava nearly five miles upstream, near Barrandov Studios.
The following night, Connery was among 50,000 others forced to evacuate their residences. In Prague working on a movie, Connery was so distraught by the city's plight he asked to make a televised appeal for support from the international community.
I was called upon to rally the usual media suspects and arrange a press conference the following morning. My mandate was clear: absolutely no mention of his film whatsoever. (I even had to stop one cameraman from shooting the back of a chair that was adorned with the movie's logo.) The purpose of the conference was strictly to raise awareness of the severity of the crisis. When a man like Sean Connery talks, people listen.
His heartfelt concern for the city's welfare was obvious, and enormously helpful, as global aid will be essential for Prague and other nearby flooded areas to rebuild. While the Golden City continues to grow into a tourist haven, it still does not have the wealth to tackle the estimated $2 billion cleanup alone. After the cameras and reporters have gone, the mess will remain. It will take months just to clean the muck from the basements and streets. A flood is definitely the yuckiest of Mother Nature's tantrums.
By the way, I'm heading to Malta this week. Based on my track record, anyone planning to go there might want to reconsider, unless you're interested in possibly experiencing a once-in-a-millennium typhoon or uncharted volcanic eruption.