An odd thing happened in the OC this winter… it rained.
Seriously. California is winter’s promised land in Elsewhere, USA, and Orange County is its prime showcase, a mecca for many. Sunshine is our platform, our right, our spirit animal.
In a significant failure of Promise, it rained cats and dogs and elephants in the OC. Business was reportedly down at car washes—which once flourished as essential elements of the CA lifestyle—as vehicle owners gave up to rain’s rule. Not merely random and scattered droplets—or no rain at all, like during our four-year tenure with drought—enough to relentlessly splatter quarter panels with grime and/or to speckle the hood of a freshly-washed car.
On a positive note, TV weather prognosticators actually had something to do. Rather than meander in front of a California map, frantically gesturing while mouthing banal words.
Seasons seldom mattered here, so female forecaster’s necklines had plunged, and antics had escalated. Florid techno flourishes—employed to create excitement—jarred, so many people skipped that portion of the nightly news, in favor of DVRed shows and Netflix. Some of us read magazines and books.
When one moves from Elsewhere USA, one gets accustomed to frequent in-home visitors, a sort of free BnB for Midwestern friends and relatives. My husband and I have a deep well of tedious houseguest tales and remarks that I won’t bore you with here. A common comment, as our visitors visited the surrounds—Disneyland, Knotts’ Berry Farm, and the beach, the beach, and yet another beach—was “Where are all the laidback Californians?”
My response, “Busy working to pay the sky-high mortgages that evolve from sky-high home prices.”
While abundant rain’s been great for our landscape and home budget—reducing our water usage and bills—rain was not great for me:
- My lungs don’t like rain and my mild asthma became intense. My physician prescribed a steroid inhaler to replace my occasion-use rescue inhaler. Alas, I gained weight and my knees suffered.
- I got to wear all the great-looking boots that lined my closer floor, ready to step out. Alas, boots are hard on ankles and I developed an injury. Physical therapy, acupuncture, and pain relief meds ensued.
I also gained a cane.
As I limped and gimped through daily tasks, in the new world of cane-assisted walk, I began to notice the busy-ness that is the OC brand. The laid-back CA lifestyle had been replaced.
While there’s little crime, portrayed as LA hallmarks in movies and TV (believe me when I state this is relevant. Elsewhere thinks the OC is LA, just a single dot on the map, rather than a sprawling megapolis separated by an hour’s drive from the OC), the OC pace has decidedly not been beachy this winter. The atmosphere was not flip flops, margaritas, tapas, and tacos. Not sun-blessed.
People grimaced as they scurried to-from their vehicles as they stalked life’s success, worried, and/or sought to protect hair sculpted by product. Saddled with sky-high apartment payments, a relentless drain on happiness equal to rains.
My life-in-the slow-lane-due-to-cane was overwhelmed by a race without grace, eye contact, or awareness of others. I was invisible, a ghost of non-productivity. All comers-and-goers seemed entrapped in their plans, heads in their phones and/or the next thing to do. Deference to elders, slow walkers, or otherwise disabled citizens was canceled due to rain.
I experienced this most at our community gym, where hustle-bustle was the predominant dance. Though not be-suited like the White Rabbit of Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, everyone seemed to be late for a very important date, looking at an Apple watch rather than a pocket watch. Busy-ness as Badge, the new validation of self-worth. “I’m in a hurry. I am vital. Watch me furrow my brow, hustle, and haste.”
The swirl almost capsized me several times as I plodded, with swimsuit and other water aerobics gear in a backpack, to-from the parking garage. Wariness—and a certain level of fear—overwhelmed my happy-go-lucky self. I began to look many feet ahead, to pick my path, and/or remain still. I tried saying “Hi” sometimes, to gain the notice of the hyper-fit and intrude into their inner attention. No response, though most swerved due to my shadow—or the noise I’d made.
I seldom felt safe. Never secure. Yet I couldn’t remain in one place. I had stuff to do, too. I couldn’t be crippled by circumstances or rain.
One morning, after a physical therapy session, the skies began to sprinkle… again. But I had one more errand before I could amble home. I had to stop by my bank to pay my Visa Card. While my injury was new—and I hadn’t had time to apply for the appropriate sticker to show my need to park in the assigned spot, I parked in the handicapped parking spot.
With its proximity to the bank’s door and a ramp to ease the path of a person new-to-cane, the space was a boon. I glided in and parked, galumphing into the bank.
My imperative: to pay a high-dollar Visa bill. I couldn’t afford to be a laidback California. I could not be late. I risked a huge fine for parking illegally in the designated-for-handicapped individuals’ space because I required it.
I invented my right. The interest paid on my Visa Card would have been greater than the parking violation fine, I’m sure.
While bipedal human traffic remained rapid and narcissistic, I noticed one good outcome from the recent winter’s continual deluges: drivers proceed with more care and seldom jump off the lights. Slower in the cities, returning to the pace expected for a laid-back Californian lifestyle. Vehicles are looking sharp and shiny as people are returning to car washes with the advent of spring. Inside the cars, drivers are smiling and wearing colorful wildflower clothes.
Further, the hills and dales are as green as Ireland, and likely will remain emerald until Mother’s Day. Bets, anyone?