Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Drought


One thing about a drought is that one tends to underestimate just how heavy the downpour will be when it finally comes.

In the Bay Area, we've been experiencing the worst drought in hundreds of years. For four years straight it barely sprinkled and at the time it began, I was quite grateful as I had a roof that leaked. As a poor college student, I couldn’t very well just move to an apartment that didn’t leak, and rent had just skyrocketed. I wouldn’t have been able to afford my own apartment at the time. So instead of rushing around with pots and pans for weeks at a time, I watched the entire state of California dry up like the desert. The water reservoirs were nearly empty, and there were no back up plans for water that I’d heard of, it was plainly that once they reservoirs were empty, entire cities wouldn’t have water. Then what? They’d start looking at draining the lakes to keep up with the agriculture? It was a nightmare, but I was quite happy to stay in my cocoon of “if it doesn’t rain, it won’t leak.”

That is, until the rain started. Last year “El Nina” began, and it was pretty laughable. The media made it out as being this “crazy storm” unlike “anything we’d ever seen,” so I called my landlord and again insisted that she send someone out to look at this leak, it’d been four years after all. Fix it. So when, as expected, nothing came of my anger and insistence, I was quite panicked as the rain began in November. It was coming down like cats and dogs through early December and I stayed up late, getting up every two hours, every night, to empty one of the six buckets around the house. I sent video after video to my landlady, she did nothing. It didn't even seem like reality.

Long story short, that was the first few months of 2016 for me. The rain only lasted until January, but it was hellish. Finally I was able to arrange a time with the housing inspector (he had to witness the leak, which meant, it had to rain when he was there) and after meeting him four times, he FINALLY witnessed it. My apartment has been leak free since February 2016 and yes, my landlady reimbursed me in a few month’s rent.

Well, I told you that story to tell you this story. El Nina started last year, she came full throttle this year. It is February 2017, and it has rained nearly every day since the start of the year. Ever since those four years with a leaking roof, I am finally over the PTSD and the rain is finally soothing again. I love to watch it from indoors because it isn’t raining indoors (anymore). But here’s the problem, in San Francisco, it isn’t really rain. There are no rain drops. It doesn’t pour, there isn’t sleet, or snow. It is a 360* horizontal mist hurricane, that drenches you from head to toe, but cannot be captured on camera. (I’ve tried, and was subsequently laughed at -- imagine standing under the “Mist” setting on your garden hose). This morning, my muni was late and I was standing on the platform for twenty minutes. My jacket was drenched through to my shirt. My jeans sopping wet. I looked like I’d taken a shower and the umbrella made no difference. When 22 mph winds are whipping your face and hair with stinging mist from literally all sides, an umbrella does nothing. I couldn’t see through my glasses and the spray stings your eyes. So when I finally got on the muni surrounded by wet dogs – ehm, people, I was shivering and my feet were the only dry part of me (Yay, rainboots!). Naturally, the muni delayed. Much like traffic on the freeway, the rain does wonders for timing and accidents. So I arrived at work, 30 minutes late, soaked to the bone and dripping.

But the reservoirs are nearly full in California.

Now, I’m inside and I have piping hot coffee. I’m sitting at my desk with a cozy blanket wrapped around my shoulders and my shoes are off and beside the heater. My jeans and hair won’t be dry until lunch, but at least I’m indoors. I guess, I’m saying, be thankful for the (leak-free) roof over your head. The shirt on your back, your access to internet, the blankets on your bed (and desk!), and the warm food in your belly. Because it gets really hairy out there, and you still have to trudge through it. Life goes on even though the weather is foul, and even when some rainy, arctic wind-filled days should be considered public “Snow Days”. But going out and soaking yourself to the bone is necessary sometimes to appreciate it. Because when you finally make it back to the warmth of the indoors, the rain sure looks pretty from the inside.  

All my love,
L.B.