Playing Switch


There is no good in arguing with the inevitable. The only argument available with an East wind is to put on your overcoat.

James Russel Lowell

 Watching a person have a massive heart attack and being unable to intervene in a meaningful way was a very frustrating part of cardiac care in the 1970’s. Now modern science has given us clot-busting drugs, angioplasties and stents, such that cardiac damage can be limited or actually aborted.

But in these early days having to just stand by and helplessly watch a catastrophe in evolution was somewhat analogous to the advice my Uncle Bill gave my mother on how to survive a tornado. It had been a few years since my mother had been home to Texas. She was sitting outside on the front porch with her brother, Bill, on a sultry hot summer day when the radio began to broadcast local tornado warnings.

My mother turned to my uncle to inquire if there were any new recommendations about what to do or what precaution to take if a tornado comes your way.

My uncle said not really, unless you happened to have a storm cellar, which he did not. He then said that after years of experience he had found the best plan to prepare for it was to simply stay put on the front porch and “play switch.”

My mother said:

  • Play switch, Bill? And just what in hell is that?

My uncle replied:

  • Well, Ruth. When ya see a tornado off on the horizon and ya don’t know what it’s really gonna do, or which way it’s a comin’; or if it’s gonna hit ya or just pass ya by; ya put your right thumb in your mouth, and ya put your left thumb up your ass. Then ever’ once in a while… ya just switch ‘em.


A Texas Twister

Photo source



  1. Living in the middle of the tornado belt I can tell you that Uncle is exactly right! Nothing else to do but sit on the porch and play switch while watching those twisters do what they will. Thank you for an enjoyable telling!


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