As a little kid growing up on Puget Sound, I used to love to play in the rain. When I managed to get out the door without my mom catching me, my "rain gear" would usually consist of hand-me-down wool shirt (of the sort you might call a lumberjack's shirt). No boots, no hat, no raincoat, and certainly nothing with a hood.1 And in the Northwest, where it rains a lot of the time but rarely much more than a drizzle, that really was sufficient, my mother's concern notwithstanding.2
I've made some adaptations over the years. In my teens I started wearing jackets; in my late 20s my hair started thinning, and I started to actually feel the rain on my head, so I learned to wear hats.3 But overall I've kept my native Northwesterner's attitude about how to dress when it rains. And my childhood fondness for walking in the rain.
So after doing stuff around the house most of the day, I took a look outside this afternoon and went What a lovely blustery day. How 'bout I go for a walk in the rain and get some groceries?
Thing is, for most of the time I've lived in Boston, I've had a car. Not entirely coincidentally, I've been fat and inactive most of that time too. So about half an hour into my walk, I realized several things:
- The only times I in the last fifteen years I've walked more than ten minutes or so in the rain have been when I was on vacation, either back home in the Northwest, or in England, which I love in part because the weather reminds me so much of home.
- Boston weather is not like home. It rains a lot harder here. It's still fun to walk in, but just casually throwing on a jacket and a hat do not cut it. I used to know this.
- Come to think of it, this is probably the first time I've gone for a more than ten minute walk in the rain anywhere in something like five years.4 Which would explain how I forgot how much harder it rains here.
- Damn it, I'm soaked to the skin and a half-hour from home.
I guess this means I'll be buying some rain gear. But I'm going to feel really weird about wearing it.
1 I think I was four years old when I declared to my sister "I hate hoods!" And it holds to this day: unless it's so cold I'm at risk of frostbite, I refuse to wear anything that covers my ears.
2 Mom grew up what we called east of the mountains: in the rain shadow of the Cascades, where rain was rare and tended to be heavy when I did happen. So she thought of rain as something you dressed for. I doubt any of us ever had the nerve to make fun of her for it to her face, but we were amused and maybe a bit embarrassed about it. There wasn't much in the way of class distinctions where I grew up, but one tribal distinction we were all aware of was the one between natives and newcomers. And one of the key tribal markers was that newcomers wore rain gear.
3 Jacket is such a vague term. When I first bought one, the kind of jacket I wear was called a parka, but now that word seems to only be used for what was then called a down parka. When I was fifteen I took the Greyhound to Seattle (an hour from home) and spent the night camped out in the parking lot of the original REI in order to be one of the first hundred people through the door for the annual spring sale. I bought a Jansport "parka" whose outer layer was such finely woven cotton that when it got a little damp it became nearly waterproof. It had a heavy-duty two-way zipper up the front, covered by a flap with snaps, a hood that could be zipped off (which I happily lost), hand-warmer pockets, big gusseted patch pockets, inside zipper pockets, and other pockets I'm forgetting. I paid ten percent of list for it, and it took me better than ten years to wear it out. I've worn pale imitations of it ever since.
4 One of the delicious ironies of my stroke: When I was sixteen I broke my ankle, quite badly. They did what they could, but my right foot isn't quite on the bottom of my leg straight. About five years ago I stopped being able to walk more than a mile or so without significant pain from that old injury. Two weeks before my stroke, I finally got a shoe and orthotic combination that let me walk without pain.