Angelenos react to rain like most people react to an airborne toxin: stay inside and tremble with fear. Yesterday it drizzled, very lightly,but still I heard lots of, “Did you survive the drive?” The town shuts down completely; the unnatural presence of water in this desert is that unnerving. I’ve been stood up because of the rain. “I would come but it’s raining.” Of course, this means it’s drizzling. Northern California understands what raining means, and Los Angeles understands drizzling. But it’s very, very dangerous drizzle.
Umbrellas are a necessary form of body armor, protecting perfectly coiffed hair. People hover at their windows, eyeing the sky mistrustfully. Traffic grinds to a halt. One very LA friend always texts me when it’s raining, just so I know that the apocalypse is nigh.
Yesterday, the outside mall, across the street from my work, helped fuel the panic, placing giant “CAUTION. WET FLOOR” signs around the mall. Unaccustomed to walking around fluid or on moist surfaces, the unsuspecting Angeleno pedestrian will panic, flail and fall. They never evolved puddle defense mechanisms. Plus the mall’s in Beverley Hills, so their designer heels will fly out from under them, and their litigator husband will have to give the mall a piece of his mind in the form of a lawsuit. Yes, drizzle can be very dangerous.
Of course, occasionally, when it does more than drizzle, rain does pose an actual threat. The river can threaten to flood the entire town, but this happens rarely, and there’s usually plenty of warning. The accumulation of oil on the road does make things very slippery, and this combined with the way Angelenos drive, can be poisonous. I spend so much time in the car that I race to every stoplight, even if it’s red. People drive like their car is an extension of their ambition–pushing them further and further towards that Academy Award. I was used to Santa Cruz drivers, who drive like it’s a Sunday afternoon and they don’t want to harm the environment by accelerating unnecessarily. So, it’s the fear of crazed drivers and slippery roads that keeps most people indoors during the rain, but I think it’s interesting that any sign of weather, something beyond Angeleno control, brings such alarm.
When you live in a city, and the weather is always perfect, it’s easy to imagine that you’re the center of the world. Nothing is bigger than you. I imagine that people who live in Minnesota are forced to face their humanity and mortality a lot more than Angelenos. This makes them nicer. They aren’t that impressed with themselves. Then again, I’m reading a lot into some fuss over the rain. Maybe the only person who takes the LA rain too seriously is me!