Southern California's Favorite Guest

Go ahead and walk down the street—any street in Southern California—and ask as many people as you can if they like the rain. Ask them if they think it should rain more in Southern California. Do you want to know the answer you will very likely get? In spite of the fact that we are in a major drought and that we probably only get an average of about ten days of rain per year, my guess is that the answer you will hear will be a thunderous and nearly unanimous, ‘No!’

Sure, we know that we need rain; but are the rainstorms really worth all of the disruptions that come along with them? For example, traffic in L.A. is notoriously awful; yet, in the rain it somehow finds a way to become worse. Patches of the freeway are transformed into mini-rivers, and the whole 405 evolves into a massive and winding collage of skidding tires, foggy windshields, and frustrated drivers encountering any number of unexpected situations. During last month’s major downpour, it was brought to my attention that my windshield needs to be resealed. I say that in the most literal sense, as I had to watch large spouts of water drop from the top of my windshield onto my lap in random intervals while driving to work.

I then arrived at the restaurant where I work only to find that the roof was suffering from a similar malady—an inability to cope with all of this wetness. The main dining room was littered with strategically placed bus tubs that had been given a new job assignment for the day. Rather than enduring the typical strain of carrying dirty plates, half-eaten pieces of salmon, and jagged steak knives that poke and prod at their every corner, these bus tubs were asked only to stay stationary for the day and take in the soft, yet noisy drops of rain as they squeezed through the cracks in the ceiling and landed into their growing reservoir.

Plop, plop . . . plop.

The very foreignness of heavy rain in Southern California is utterly apparent in all the ways we have to adapt to it. The alternate routes we have to take on our morning drive to work. The warm jackets we have to locate from the inner depths of our closets. The creative methods we must employ to calm our children down when they hear thunder for the very first time, and want to scream and run wildly around the house or the classroom because they’ve been cooped up inside all day and honestly believed that thunder was just something out of the movies.

Ah yes, rain in Southern California.

But, for all of its inconveniences, its foreignness, its overbearing way of inviting itself into our lives, I must admit that I absolutely love it. I love it in its incongruity—it’s inability to make up its mind. Shall I be soft and melodic, or shall I be relentlessly passionate in my downpour? Why not be both? I love the way it forces me indoors and asks me to do things I might not otherwise allow myself, like curling up on the couch and watching marathons of LOST. I love the way it just slips out of town, ever so subtly, and leaves us with a bright blue sky that for a very brief moment, is completely clear of smog. It lifts that dirty veil that usually disguises every mountain range and allows us to witness their intricacies that are usually so hard to decipher from a distance. The mountains—that are always so covered that we often forget about them entirely—are actually topped with snow on their peaks. They actually have crevices and patches of greenery and elements of grandeur more engaging than even the Hollywood sign that rests within them. Who knew?

And after the slate has been cleaned and the city of Los Angeles has been given a much needed bath, when those first few rays of sunshine force their way through the clouds, when the air is clean and fresh and smells of wet pavement, I am always filled with a sense of renewal, as if we all get to start again from scratch.