Commentary: It never rains in California?
Except when it does.
Which isn't often. Usually, when it rains, we apologize to tourists and visitors, take out our (perpetually) almost new raincoats and say things like "We need this" and "Don't you just love the rain?"
Then it goes back to being 70-something degrees and sunny for a few more months, and we don't even bother to check the weather. The Maytag repairman and the Los Angeles weatherman could hang out.
Except for those few days when the elements take over.
It has been raining for five days.
No one is saying "we need this."
There is a learning curve to life in California. For newcomers, earthquakes tend to loom large. After your first or second, you wonder how people can live here, in Pompeii, commenting on the number of days of sunshine. You research cities like Austin, Texas, and wonder if you could live there. You put your tennis shoes in your trunk (in case you have to walk home through broken glass). And at some point you stop moving the perfectly good tennis shoes from the old car to the new car, and you return them to your closet, and you have become a near-native.
Somewhere along the way, you get to know the minor disasters. Once you've bought in to whole-hog denial of "The Big One," a.k.a. the San Andreas Fault, fires mostly in places you've never been are easy to view as traffic alerts. And after the fires, you get the mudslides -- but mostly those are in the places where the fires were, where everyone certainly knows someone, but most of us just watch on television like people a few thousand miles away. My mother used to call me whenever there was a natural disaster in Southern California. I'd have to explain that my only contact with the location involved was that I used to read traffic reports when I was on the radio, so I knew how to pronounce it.
And then it goes back to being 70-something and sunny.
When I go back East, where I lived for the first 30 years of my life, I am always struck by how much time people spend talking about the weather. Ditto for local news. Sort of like traffic reports in LA.
In the East, people make plans and change plans -- not to mention endlessly discussing plans -- in light of the weather. Californians, which is what I've become, like to laugh about that. About 95 percent of the time, we can plan for the clouds to clear by midday and be followed by sunny and pleasant.
We expect the weather to be pleasant and the planes to be on time. (Weather delays where it never rains?) And we don't even appreciate it.
Until it rains five days in a row.
A surprising number of people, even successful and well-dressed people, simply don't own a raincoat. My daughter, home from the East for the flood, asked me where we keep the umbrellas. I looked at her blankly. I couldn't even remember the last time I had seen an umbrella in the house, much less where I'd put it. I bought her one, but couldn't break down to buy a second. It should stop by tomorrow, I said, three days ago. Wrong again.
The forecast for tomorrow is rain.
The prognosis is gratitude.
One of these days, it will be sunny and 70-something again. We'll put our raincoats away in the back of the closet, hide the umbrella in some perfectly logical but forgettable place and put our light jackets back on.
But maybe, after all this rain, we'll smile a little more brightly and be that much more grateful for the blessings of a beautiful day, of which we have many. Not a bad lesson for this time of year.
Susan Estrich's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.