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Last night, having put the girls to bed, I was sitting at my desk next to the window for that last-minute Facebook check, that last look for e-mail. My house was quiet except for what I thought might be one of the young single men next door flinging tiny rocks at my window. Drunk again, I thought. At least they’re not shooting pellet guns at my front door like last time. I don’t know why they can’t just use the telephone. And then I thought, You know, it’s been years since they’ve misbehaved like that…that noise is probably something else. Bugs, that’s what it is, bad stupid bugs hurling themselves against my window trying to get near the light. Must be fairly good-sized bugs because they’re really going at it. TAP. TAP. TAP-TAP-TAP.
And then it came to me: Rain. Of course it was rain. How silly of me. It’s August in Arizona and that means the occasional cloud and a little precipitation, especially at night. I listened to the raindrops hitting my window for about a minute and a half, and then it was over. I was glad to have heard at least that much.
Anybody who lives in Arizona knows how special rain can be. Most of us are from someplace else—someplace where it rains a lot. We like to run in the rain, play in the rain, and watch a good storm from our open garages. However—and I don’t know why this is—many of us cannot drive in the rain. You would think we were making our way through a hurricane, lights on, bumper to bumper, crawling down the streets and freeways, hoping and praying we get home in one piece…when you can count every drop of rain on the windshield. It’s not that the roads get slippery or the rain is coming down so hard you can’t see; it’s the paranoia of having an accident. And the fact is, people do have accidents: they rear-end each other because they’re following too close, then they have to pull off to the side of the road which slows traffic down even further because everybody has to rubberneck.
I had a friend once who had an accident in a rainstorm—but it’s probably not the kind of accident you’re thinking of. Doug was stuck in traffic, no surprise, going about five miles an hour, creeping down the freeway on his way home. Suddenly, Doug felt the distinct urge to “go”…and I’m not talking “number one”. Oh no, Doug had the pressing need to erupt from the back side. The night before, his roommate had made a big pot of pea soup and it was the best pea soup Doug had ever eaten, so he ate all of it. Now the pea soup was back to haunt him. It wanted out, and it wanted out now.
As Doug told me later, he suppressed the urge to go many times, squeezing his cheeks together as hard as he could every time the pea soup knocked on his door. But Doug was ten miles from home, sitting in rush hour traffic, bumper to bumper in the left lane…and it was raining. He wanted to wait—believe me, in the worst way—but, he could not.
The main image that has always stuck in my mind from Doug’s rendition of this story is that he ended up sitting about six inches higher in the driver’s seat after his “accident”. There was that much pea soup in his pants.
Doug eventually made it home, pulled into the garage, and carefully stepped out of his truck. He took off his pants and threw them in the garbage, then found a sleeping bag and walked into the house with that wrapped around his legs. His roommate was having a party and a few people asked what he was doing.
“I’m going camping,” he said, and walked into the bathroom to clean up. Doug was always a little goofy and he did like to camp, so that was that.
If you ever find yourself caught driving in the rain here in Phoenix, Arizona—going nowhere fast and all upset—think of Doug and how much worse it could be. And if you find yourself in the same kind of pickle that Doug found himself in, know that you are not alone in the world.