Everyone has experience rain. There is nothing new about this experience. Each person living in their own cities has seen the umbrellas come out and people trying to avoid the water that falls from the sky. Yet no matter how many times you see it, when you are in a different place it seems different. The habits of the people in new places are different. And so it was when I first experienced rain in the city of Buenos Aires. Very familiar, and yet different.
It was just another morning as I struggled to open my eyes after yet another late night. There was a strangely familiar noise outside which sounded like wind, but when I had opened the windows and shutters I realised that it was actually rain. It was pouring down too, not like a gentle falling but as though buckets full of water were being poured out all over the city.
An Empty Street
Hurrying to dress, I raced outside to see how the inhabitants of my new home dealt with this new environment. Perhaps not seeing rain for over two months also added to my eagerness. When I reached the street level, what I saw surprised me. Down a street where I cannot enter without choosing a space between all of the people, there was only a handful of people to be found. All of these were hurrying down the street along the edges, with only a couple of brave souls wandering down the middle, something I had only ever known to be full.
Of course many of the people making their way down the street had an umbrella, but I was surprised at just how many people were without them. Both the umbrella people and those without them were competing for the very narrow and highly inconsistent areas of shelter underneath the shop fronts as they made their way hard up against the sides of this pedestrianised street.
As I wandered along the streets, it became obvious that the shelters under the shop fronts were almost useless. Many leaked as much as it rained, and there were often large gaps without any shelter. Not only that, but since everyone had the same idea, there was also the hazard of being spiked by an umbrella or pushed into a puddle by someone scurrying off to their destination.
Puddles were the real hazard here in the rain though. With so much of the sidewalks in disrepair, the missing tiles and holes in the sidewalks became perfect places for the rain to gather, and instead of merely depressions in the walkway there were now great puddles. Added to all of the other puddles, walking became a real hazard. Not only were puddles found along the sidewalks, but also many sections of the roads and gutters had such great sags that the puddles in them were as large as ponds.
In addition to the puddles were the hidden traps, tiles that had long since come unstuck but were still in their place. Stepping on one of these would release the water lying underneath in a strong squirt that reached up inside clothes and along legs. The resultant liquid, mixed as it was with ground tile dust, created a sloppy mud effect wherever it happened to land. Trying to keeping reasonably dry and clean in this new environment was a full time effort.
The rain had presented a new opportunity for enterprise too, and instantly there were umbrellas for sale in every second shop along the way. Each shop ensured that their umbrellas were prominently displayed to the passing pedestrians, some of which were drenched in water. Enterprising men holding a handful of umbrellas in their arms were also competing for sales, wandering the streets and approaching every person without one. Some had set themselves a display at their feet, sheltered by whatever protection they could find.
As the rain began to ease, people started flooding back onto the streets again. As they appeared I was able to clearly see the effects of the rain. Many people soaked right through included business men as well as those more casually dressed. The sound of squelching feet created after plunging the foot deep into a puddle blended into the other sounds of the street. And people who were soaked through, not from the rain, but from drivers that took glee in spraying people from the deep puddles of water beside the roads.
By the time I returned home, rain still falling intermittently, I had learned that the hazards of this place simply increased with rain. Now, not only could I be run over, pushed over, sprain an ankle, or be robbed (some being more likely than others), I could also be skidded into, slip over, submerge my feet, be splashed, sprayed or squirted, and have my eye poked out with an umbrella.
So after this I decided that I like sunny days better. After all, it only happens when it rains.