On the way home the other day I saw a billboard that caught my eye. Most don't.

The golden age of billboards is long past. I don't miss the billboards for cigarettes, which basically said "Feel good about your habit because you share it with these people having a snowball fight who will later have intimate relations then smoke some more. Now a word from the Surgeon General, who is neither flavor-packed nor satisfying."

The liquor billboards were depressing. "Hey, you might be on your way to work, but it's not too early to start thinking about central nervous system depressants!"

The colorful illustrated billboards of the '40s and '50s were regarded as eyesores and retreated from the public landscape. No loss.

The billboards I see these days make me regret I haven't been personally injured in an accident, because that guy looks like he could really wring the nickels out of the other side just by staring at them.

The billboard that brought all this to mind was a public service announcement. It was for ready.gov/plan. Have a plan, it said, and showed a tornado carrying off a house.

First of all, .gov, I don't think you're in the position to be lecturing anyone about having a plan.

Second, if I ever see my house carried off to Oz by a twister, I think the relief of knowing I had a plan will be overwhelmed by the knowledge that I do not have a house.

"Where are we going to stay tonight, Dad?"

"Don't worry, I have a plan. Granted, it's in a file cabinet that's now circulating at 7,000 feet spewing papers over Stillwater, but I think I can recall the particulars."

Third, I actually have disaster plans, of a sort. I have emergency food rations for a month. Because every meal consists of Beef Stroganoff, I also have set aside cyanide pills in case we get a week into the stuff and realize it's just not worth living if there is only reconstituted stroganoff to eat.

Four: Maybe the image of a tornado taking away one's home isn't the best image for the twilight days of this year? Don't give 2020 any ideas, bro.

Five: It makes you wonder if we had any tornadoes this year, or whether we did but just forgot about them, what with All the Stuff. If there had been a tornado scribbling its way down Lake Street during the riots, we'd have thought, "Well, that's different, but not entirely unexpected."

Here's a thought. Maybe the masks prevented tornadoes.

Hear me out. You're aware of the butterfly effect, right? An insect beats its wings in the Amazon, it sets up a disturbance in the air that multiplies until it produces a devastating hurricane in Macao. I know what you're thinking: Someone should find that butterfly and put it in a jar, or something. But you're also thinking: masks? What?

Without masks, we breathe in and out, creating millions of disturbances in the air flow of the ecosystem like the beating of bug wings. Masks stifle the flow, and this leads to fewer tornadoes. Just you wait: Mask usage will drop next summer, and there will be more tornadoes. The sirens will go off, and people will curse the prematurely maskless.

To them I say: Try holding your breath throughout tornado season, and we'll see if that helps.

james.lileks@startribune.com • 612-673-7858 • Twitter: @Lileks • facebook.com/james.lileks