Thursday, July 24, 2008

Doused

Starting last weekend, the Boston area has been stuck in a weather pattern that can only be described as bizarre (or ‘bizzahhh’ if you want it in Bostonian). Our forecast has been ‘70s, Thunderstorms, Flood Watch’ since Sunday.

And what was Sunday?

Why Sunday was the BeachBum Second Annual Lobster Fest. We invited friends and neighbors over for lobsters, steamers, cigars (for two of us), a fantastic strawberry filled cake, and many, many beers. Over all a very good time and a great way to wind up vacation week.

However – and with me there always seems to be a ‘however’ – the weather wasn’t just uncooperative; it was downright mean spirited.

Being the great guy I am, I ordered and picked up the lobsters from a place here in Boston. They’ll cook and crack them for you, thus cutting down on the mess when you get them to your own house. 10 lobsters, 2 pounds of steamers and $150 later we were ready to roll.

As we cleaned up the yard (we were eating outside), organized the tables and chairs and generally did the prep work for the 4 pm start, clouds started moving in. I was picking up the lobsters at 3:30 and, sure enough, it started raining at 3:15 when I got in my truck to take the ride into the city.

Wait.

The term rain makes it seem like standard precipitation. This ‘rain’ started with a distant rumble of thunder, a very bright flash of lightning, a few minor moments of very large, scattered rain drops. What followed was a deluge. It was one of those downpours that make it feel like your car roof is going to cave in. Heading into Boston on 93 I couldn’t see 5 feet in front of me. Traffic was crawling along at 30 miles per hour.

Fear not. These storms usually last about 15-20 minutes before the sun reappears. I entered the new 14.6 billion dollar tunnel and in a few minutes I’m sitting outside Yankee Lobster waiting for a letup.

Quick side note: Say what you want about the Big Dig and it’s price tag, but getting in and out of Boston has never been easier. You can now get to any part of the downtown area simply and without hassle. Before the new configuration, getting to the Seaport District would have taken me a solid 30 minutes; taking the highway, navigating several side streets (most of which you used to take just to reverse directions), fighting for rare parking spaces. Even with the storm, I was parked in front of the lobster place in less than 15.

Where was I?

Oh, waiting outside the lobster place. Well, the rain let up a bit. Very tiny bit, but I didn’t want to hang out very long where I was. Let’s just say I was parked in a questionable spot. Technically, it was a meter spot, but it had a red hood over it that read ‘No Parking At Any Time’.

Fortunately, I was in Boston and it was Sunday and it was pouring out. The chances of an actual Boston cop stopping to ticket me was down to nothing. I jumped out of the truck and immediately went ankle deep into rushing water. Guess I underestimated things. I leapt out of the street gutter onto the sidewalk only to discover there was nearly as much water up there, too. What the fuck?

Still, no worries. The storm was letting up and my sneakers were old. I ran to the place (about 50 feet away) and entered the store in fairly good shape. I picked up my order and as I was paying there was a loud crackling sound and everyone froze in place.

For those of you who have never experienced a truly intense thunderstorm, there is a distinct difference in sound between thunder and the crack of lightning hitting something close by. Thunder comes rolling along, often building momentum before it hits it’s maximum volume. Every so often it will surprise you by cracking loud seemingly directly over your head, then roll off into the distance.

Lightning crackles. Even when hit hits something with a loud bang, you hear the static charge in it. This one hit so close the hair on my arms stood on end for a second. I was in the middle of handing the signed credit card receipt to the guy behind the counter when it hit and we both paused, looked at the ceiling and waited for it to either cave in or something close to explode.

When nothing happened, everyone resumed living. There was some nervous laughter from the other people in the store and then the sky opened up. I thought it was raining hard before, but that was a mist compared to what came down now. This wasn’t rain, it was a waterfall. It took less than 20 seconds for the street outside to turn into a river. It was flowing. No, that’s wrong. It was RAGING.

I was standing by the double glass doors and watched as the rushing water flowed over the curb, flowed across the sidewalk and began seeping under the door and into the store. Another woman and I had to step back to keep our feet out of it. A third and apparently very impatient woman decided that she had waited long enough even though she had only been standing there for approximately 45 seconds and barged out into the storm providing the funniest moment of the day.

As she stepped out the door there was an brilliant flash of lightning immediately followed by earth shaking thunder clap. The woman, who at this point was in a full sprint to her car, flinched, staggered and nearly fell flat on her ass. The only thing that saved her was the order of fish she had just picked up. As she went down, she used the bag of fish to keep herself off the ground; so she was in a three point football stance in 2 inches of rushing water. Me and another woman behind me laughed out loud, while the woman outside regained her balance and climbed into her SUV.

The woman behind me says ‘That couldn’t have been timed better’ to her boyfriend as the SUV boated off.

Unfortunately for me, crunch time was approaching. It was past 3:45 and people were arriving at 4. It was decision time. I either wait things out or make a mad dash for the truck. I waited another 2 minutes and, when it was obvious things weren’t improving, made my move. I got my keys out, stepped half out of the door, then sprinted. I was in the open for maybe 15 seconds and was drenched from head to foot. Dripping.

There are times, despite the gas prices and eroding ozone layers, that I love having a truck. The monsoon I drove through was one of those times. It was raining so hard I couldn't see the lines in the street. I just picked the middle and drove. Manholes and sewers were geysers, the water running through the gutters must have been a foot deep. I had the wipers on full speed and I still couldn't see.

At the end of the street is the entrance to the tunnel. I enter and drove approximately one mile. It might be more than one mile, but not much more. Maybe a mile and a quarter. I can tell you I was in the tunnel for 2-3 minutes. When I emerge barely north of the city (Charlestown and the Bunker Hill Monument are on one side and the Garden – home of the 2008 World Champion Boston Celtics is on the other. Barely past the North End of the city) it hasn’t just stopped raining – the sun is out! I look in my rearview mirror and see nothing but dark clouds over the city. Lightning is still flashing like strobe lights over the harbor.

There is a saying in New England that most people have heard many times. If you don’t like the weather, just wait 5 minutes. It’s an exaggeration in most cases, but not this week.

This week the weather pattern is schizophrenic. Rainy and cool followed by hot and steamy followed by intense storms followed by more cool air.

One final note: I passed along the storm story to a friend at work who lives in Quincy, just south of the city by 5 or 6 miles. Her response was ‘Huh, we heard thunder, but didn’t get any rain!’

Ok, final FINAL note: I woke this morning to more torrential downpours and another flood warning. It was cool and in the 60s when I woke. By the time I got showered and dressed it was nearing 80 and humid as hell.

Just make up your mind already.

Today’s distraction: What to do during a thunderstorm. I link to this because 10 people in the Boston area were struck by the same bolt of lightning over the weekend. Know why? Because they disobeyed the rule about making yourself a small target. Instead of getting in a car or squatting down they all huddled under a big tree. The tree was then struck and sent lightning into all the people at it’s base. Ouch.

2 comments:

son pere said...

Ha! Great description of the storms that hit New England! Loved it! Here's a question that any New Englander knows the answer to: What Follows Two Days of Rain in New England? The answer, of course, is M-O-N-D-A-Y!!!

Now, you said $150 for 10 lobsters and 2 lbs of steamers? Jeez, are you sure you got lobsters, and not crawfish? Good price, what?

BeachBum said...

I had a connection at the lobster place and used it to my benefit. Plus we ordered more than 10 and they grouped the rate for us. It was a delicious deal.