Rain

What is it about rain that makes people act so crazy? We have been suffering from a 2 year drought here in California, and finally last Thursday we got a well needed, long delayed good old fashioned rainstorm…I got soaked on my daily 16 block wake up walk around the neighborhood, just drenched, but accepted it for what it was, a necessity of nature…I changed my clothes and went on about my business…

But later that day I was driving around town and noticed how most people, at least here in San Francisco, absolutely, positively cannot STAND rain! I mean, they will almost run out into traffic, literally risking life and limb, frantically scurrying for cover and clenching their umbrellas with a death grip…And paradoxically, the car drivers seem to be impervious to the conditions, and drive just as fast and dangerous, especially on the freeways, as if there was no rain, until they too have to exit their vehicles and confront the rain themselves…

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We all know intellectually we NEED the rain to counteract the drought, but emotionally the rain is a shock, like cold water getting thrown in your face, and if you are caught outside on foot in a rainstorm, you will do anything to get away from the slashing sheets of rain that seem to invade your personal space on the deepest level….It is like a wet slap in the face!

I was born and raised in Chicago, in the heart of the great Midwest, and people back there take the rain in stride, and slow down when driving, watch out for pedestrians more, and in general just drive accordingly…But even back there, I think most people would rather go through a snowstorm rather than a rainstorm…I guess it is just something about the immediacy of the wetness of the rain, how it splatters in your face, drenches you and soaks right through your clothes, your shoes and socks, chilling you to the bone…It is like an up close and personal insult!

Snow, on the other hand can be dealt with by just layering up with several extra layers of clothing, and you can just brush it off if it accumulates on you…Snow is more of an inconvenience than an assault on the person, way less of a sensory overload than rain is….Although driving in the snow and ice is no picnic, people do slow down when driving…. The city puts salt on the streets to melt the snow, and the city also has snowplows to push the melted or drifting snow off to the side of the road so people can get to work or school or whatever…

I have had several people tell me that they are more scared when walking than driving in snowy weather, not so much because of the snow itself, but because of the treacherous ice that layers up on the sidewalk, often underneath the snow and out of sight… And this is a true fact, but in San Francisco we never get snow or ice, so it is a moot point here…

Growing up in the Midwest, I just took walking through the snow for granted, but I can see now in retrospect that the city takes a lot better care of the streets and roadways than they do the sidewalks…However I did develop a great sense of balance, because although I did indeed slip a lot, I rarely fell, I was always able to catch myself in time….I guess when you are growing up you just take everything for granted, and adjust accordingly…

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I should add, for the sake of accuracy, that in Chicago, every property owner is responsible for shoveling the snow off of his sidewalk, be it his house, his apartment building, or his place of business….And of course they always do, eventually…. Or face the prospects of a lawsuit from somebody slipping and falling on their property…However, it is not like they are out there 24/7, so you do have to exercise caution when walking…

There are no such niceties for rain however….Rain stands alone, and you must confront it in your own fashion, in your own personal way, in your own time and space, your own personal frame of reference….I personally hate being caught in a gusty, windy rainstorm where literal sheets of rain are driven sideways right into your face and body, and no umbrella can protect you….In fact, I have seen hundreds of umbrellas get blown inside out permanently ruined by the intensity and ferocity of a gusty rainstorm…

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TORONTO, ON- APRIL 9 -   A woman tosses a broken umbrella back to the ground in Chinatown, April 9, 2015  Melissa Renwick/Toronto Star Melissa Renwick/Toronto Star

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That is why I never use an umbrella, because to me, it seems they are essentially useless in all but the mildest of rainstorms…I would rather rely on my trusty hoodie to keep me dry, even though of course it gets soaked too, but it will never be ruined by rain like an umbrella, and you can always just hang it up to dry once you reach the sanctity of your own home or apartment……

I have been caught in some fierce rainstorms too, and there is nothing to do but soldier on to your destination….Have you ever ridden public transportation, like buses, trains or subways in a torrential rainstorm? The people in these public conveyances are soaked to the skin, and even brushing up against one of them is like challenging them to a duel…

There are always slippery floors and pointy umbrellas and dripping plastic ponchos inside these buses etc. to deal with, and as a standee you have to be pretty agile…And the air itself is wet and nasty, a scant but welcome relief from the driving rainstorm outside….And when a person finally does get up from a seat to exit at his stop, they always leave a puddle behind them too!

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It’s not so bad coming home from work, but if you are caught in a rainstorm in the morning, on your way to work, you are pretty much guaranteed a long wet, miserable day at the office…And there is nothing you can do about it, unless you have extra clothes at work to change into, which most people do not, thank you very much! You just have to dry yourself off to the best of your ability and carry on!

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Guests wear ponchos in the rain during the Let Freedom Ring Commemoration and Call to Action to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC on August 28, 2013. Thousands will gather on the mall on the anniversary of the march and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famous "I Have a Dream" speech. TOPSHOTS/AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEBSAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

A man walks across Spadina Ave as Toronto begins a few days of wet weather. Randy Risling /Toronto Star

So, all in all, I still personally much prefer the snow to the rain, but maybe that is because over the years I have forgotten how bone chillingly numb the cold weather and the snow and ice in tandem can affect you….Sometimes, in the Midwest, it gets too cold to snow! That sounds crazy, I know, but it is a meteorological fact of nature….

I actually moved out here to San Francisco to escape the frigid Midwestern winters and the suffocating heat and humidity of the summers, so maybe that is why I can say I prefer snow to rain: because I no longer have to deal with it! I guess no place is perfect, it’s always six of one and a half dozen of the other!….

Right now, I know intellectually we need the rain, to counteract the 3 years of drought,but I would be lying if I said I welcomed it…If only we could make a deal with the weather gods to only rain at night, when we are mostly all already home!

Well, that won’t happen, so Californians and fellow San Francisco residents, get ready for an unusually wet and fiercely rainy winter, with a series of storms set to slam into our fair city…The El Nino weather system practically guarantees it…Just try to remain civil, don’t act like it’s the end of the world, and just do your best to endure it and realize nobody likes getting soaked, nobody likes getting drenched, and make the best of it….

All in all, we have the best weather in the country, so appreciate that…I know I will! As Pink Floyd sang in their hauntingly beautiful ballad “Wish You Were Here,” I know that’s “cold comfort for change”…..But it’s also true, it could always be worse…

OMG what do those poor people in Buffalo, New York think of our complaining about the rain? I am happy to be right here, right now, so bring it on, and I will survive, and so will you!

For more blogs by John Whye, see http://www.johnwhye.com

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