Intrepid Author Exposes Rain, Math, The Very Nature of Travel

What follows is the entirety of an article published on WTOP.com, not exactly the prime example of journalistic prowess, but still a local and reputable source of information.

It is, to date, one of the most insane articles I've ever read.


Dozens of cars parked in Baltimore-Washintgon (sic) International Thurgood Marshall Airport's long-term lot were submerged in water on Tuesday after record flooding in the region.

I'm going to take a second here and not that, for all intensive purposes, this article is over now. When you get down to it, the author could have stopped here and called it a day. He could have tweeted the whole thing.

Between 50 and 100 vehicles parked in the A and B lots at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport were at least partially submerged by Tuesday afternoon, the airport estimates.

A few notes:

  • "A and B lots" are the entirety of long term parking. This is another way of saying the same thing as the first paragraph.
  • The author writes out the full name of BWI again, although spelled correctly this time.

I could grant that drawing a distinction between "submerged" and "partially submerged" is relevant and an asset to the article as a whole.

Pictures showed the water level waist high or more in some places.

I will, for the sake of argument and in an initial attempt to give this man the benefit of the doubt, stretch "relevant" even further, to include the fact that water was at some points taller than a car, at other points almost as tall as a car, and at other points "waist high".

But what then? Did it precipitously fall from there, or were there places that were in fact "ankle high"? Were there places in the area, possibly slightly further away from the most flooded place but not completely free of standing water, where just the bottoms of my shoes would be covered in water, but the rest dry? This is pertinent travel information we're talking about here.

"This is very unusual," said Whitney Kidd, an airport spokesperson. "We normally do not have this amount of flooding."

Enter Whitney Kidd. Kidd, employed by apparently people, is quoted in an article about the flood in their parking lot as saying that a flood in a parking lot is not normal.

They have names for places where waist-high water is normal. They are called ponds. They are also called baths, depending on the integrity of your knees.

I don't have much faith in this Kidd person so far. Care to comment, intrepid reporter on the lookout for water of various depths?

She's right.

Sources close to the airport confirm the story.

At BWI, 6.3 inches of rain fell, breaking the airport's last record of 4.91 inches of rain set Aug. 12, 1955. The highest total recorded for Baltimore in a single day occurred during a 1933 hurricane and measured 7.6 inches.

Now, here's where I would have gone with this if I was writing it - how does 6.3 inches of rain in a heavily paved area turn into 5-foot-high water retention? What kind of incline coupled with what kind of drain stoppage produces a clogging of that nature? Was someone supposed to clean a drain that didn't? Who's repsonsible for making sure that stuff happens? Is this a private or airport-owned lot - that kind of thing sometimes makes a difference when it comes to off-hours effort.

But that's just me. Here, the author states that the amount of rain the airport received was record breaking, a fact that could have easily been included in the lede. Oh, wait, it was.

In an astounding feat of irrelevancy, the author goes on to state that, in other places, it rains more.

Eileen Whelan, an ABC7 meteorologist, said if the rain at BWI had been snow, it could have equaled 5 feet. While snow to rain ratios vary, on average, every inch of rain would add up to 10 inches of snow.

I don't know if you noticed, but this paragraph is entirely about math.

"Shane Doherty, of College Park, MD, also calculated that if the rain had been human semen, it would have been 6 times as dense, and would have given anyone in contact with said rain herpes, a sexually transmitted disease affecting students from the University of Maryland."

6 inches, times 10, equals 60 inches, or 5 feet. That's what that paragraph told us. In addition to being, at this point, insane, it also neglects the fact that at some points the water actually was five feet tall, because cars were under it. "Imagine if it was snow! The same thing would have happened!"

Because of the very nature of traveling, it is unlikely that BWI passengers knew their vehicles were flooded.

I keep coming back to this paragraph. It is what inspired me to write this whole thing, and I believe based on my current state of tension that it will haunt me in my dreams.

"Because of the very nature of travelling, it is unlikely that BWI passengers knew their vehicles were flooded" could be translated to mean "People don't know their cars are flooded because they're not there." It's beautiful in its simplicity, its obviousness, its intentional lack of transparency, its poetic nature. It's amazing, and yet if I were to come by a printed copy of this article, arriving at this point, I would mash it together with my hands forcefully smash it into the table.

BWI recommended that drivers who observe flood damage get on the phone quickly.

"We have a number you can call, our MAA (Mutual Assurance Administrators) office," Kidd said.

That number is 410-859-7777.

Kidd said that call shouldn't preclude a call to a personal insurer.

"You should probably call both, just to make a claim with your own insurance and with us," she said.

It was not clear Tuesday afternoon what, if any, coverage the airport would have for flood-damaged vehicles.

Forget the strange way the author selects which things he'll immediately quote and which things he'll paraphrase, and forget that these six paragraphs could easily have been four, or two, or even one. Forget even that he obviously heard the action in the first bit from Kidd and doesn't bother to attribute it.

This starts by saying one thing, and ends by saying something completely different.

  1. You should probably call somebody.
  2. That somebody should be the airport.
  3. Heres the airport's number.
  4. Um, on second thought, call your insurance company too.
  5. Yeah, definitely call both.
  6. The airport probably isn't going to do anything.

Rarely has it been so crucial that a reader should finish such an insane screed, but if they stop anywhere in that labyrinthine mess they could protentially be in a world of shit.

At this point, the author has left the scope of the original lede and moved in various directions, from absurdity to irrelevance to, well, math. How would they, then, close such a masterwork of insanity?

Parking in the lots costs $8 per day.