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Sunday, March 12, 2006

It's the Weather, Man

It's the Weather, Man

Seattle weather can be broken down into a few simple elements. There is rain, sunshine, cold rain, warm sunshine but not Miami warm—more like 48ยบ North warm, freezing rain, partly cloudy but rain can be expected, driving rain, sunshine that is not exactly warm but you can take your hands out of your pockets, and light rain. For several months of the year, especially March, these disparate elements can be experienced all in the same day. I have never owned so many coats in my life since I moved here and there have been days when I could have worn every one of them to counter the ravages of the meteorological vicissitudes.

You can look out your window to make your coat choice for the day, but if you are planning to be outside for more than five minutes this casual approach to coat selection will probably come back to haunt you. Let's say that I look out my kitchen window to check the weather and the normal oblique view of the Olympic Mountains is obscured by what appears to be a water cannon firing directly into my open window. I will struggle with both hands to close the window, turn on the bilge pump to drain the kitchen, file the requisite insurance papers, and then leave the house wearing a rain parka and carrying an umbrella.

What I failed to calculate in my choice of external wear was wind velocity. Two steps out of the front door to my apartment and my umbrella explodes. My umbrella is now garbage and my shoulder has been torn out of its socket. I stuff the umbrella into the first trash can I pass which is filled with other dead umbrellas. Most Seattleites never bother with umbrellas, which leads me to believe that I will never truly be a local. I continue to use umbrellas, and there are even days when umbrella use is appropriate, but more often than not it will quit raining and I'll be stuck carrying this now useless appendage. I would feel slightly less self-conscious walking around downtown wearing a bikini than carrying an umbrella when the sun is shining.

The weather forces upon Seattleites choices that don't end with coat selection; there is also the matter of transportation. Say it is pissing down rain and you have to travel six blocks. Do you drive, walk, take the bus, ride your bike, take a cab, or stay home? While staying home is the safest option, being cooped up in an apartment half the size of Anne Frank's hiding spot forces you to make one of the other desperate choices. Even Bill Gates probably balks at springing for a cab every time he walks out in the rain (October through the July 4th weekend). I'm too lazy to drive, walk, or take the bus which leaves the most foolish option: the bicycle. Do you remember that summer when you were a kid and you rode your bike off the end of the dock? Riding a bike in Seattle in the rain is like the last part of that ride except it's not summer.

Then there is the question of style. In hurricane conditions the only sensible coat choice is a Gore-Tex parka but if it stops raining, and it probably will, you are stuck wearing a dorky rain coat instead of a more stylish jacket or no coat at all. I am too vain to wear fleece in any environment where man-made objects are visible even though this would be a practical choice on many occasions. I'm sure that the lousy weather is responsible for making Seattle just about the least fashionable city in the world. I can’t tell you how many times I've been sitting in a nice restaurant trying to figure out the identity of the grunge band at the table next to me only to decide that they are a soaking wet family of four.

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