I walked out of the back room after my break. The first thing I noticed was that there were several people sitting on the floor, huddled up against the bookshelves. Some were clutching their backpacks or bags tightly, and looking very worried. An eerie calm filled what was usually a noisy store. What happened?
The big-chain bookstore I worked in was located in a small city in California. I didn’t grow up there. My husband and I moved to California from the Midwest, for many reasons. One of the big ones was that my job, in the same big-chain bookstore (but in a different state), transferred. The other was that he had family in California. We also got tired of the cold and snowy Midwest, where your sinuses freeze the second you walk outside in the winter.
As I walked through the bookstore, moving around the huddled masses, I was convinced that something terrible had happened. No one was speaking. It reminded me of how people reacted to the Challenger disaster or 9/11.
When I moved closer to the doors at the front of the store, made of either glass or something that looked similar to it, I saw another large group of silent people. Many in this group were also clutching their bags or purses. Some had their arms around each other for comfort.
I must have been standing there for a while, trying to figure this out. Eventually, one of the nicer managers walked up to me and asked if I was ok. I nodded.
“Why are these people so quiet?”, I asked, concerned. “They are all completely silent and seem freaked out about something. Did a disaster happen while I was on break?”
The manager looked confused for a moment, trying to figure out what I meant. And then, it dawned on her.
“It’s raining,” she said.
I shrugged. Rain, and other weather-related situations where water falls from the sky, were so common to me that they were beneath notice. If you lived in the Midwest, you had no choice but to get used to this sort of thing.
“They don’t see a lot of rain here,” she explained, “And this is a lot more rain then we’ve had in a long time.”
“But… it’s just rain!”
She shrugged, and walked away, toward whatever task she needed to do next. I remained in place, mystified by all these people who were afraid of rain. I watched the entryway grow slick with water that dripped off these people’s clothes and shoes. None of them had an umbrella. How did they get to be a young adult and not have the slightest idea how to cope with rain?
Our bookstore had a cafe upstairs. It had similarities to a well known coffee shop, but didn’t have the exact same menu. I figured the cafe was filled up with people, drinking a hot coffee, and staring worriedly out the huge glass windows at the rain.
Suddenly, the crowd by the door got loud. A man opened the door, and ran as fast as he could to the well known coffee shop that was… maybe ten steps across the way. People cheered for him as though he was the first guy to finish a marathon.
I shook my head at these people, cheering for someone who ran ten steps through the rain to the other coffee shop. Where I was from, this was unremarkable. In fact, most people back home would have just walked from the book store to the coffee shop, whether or not they had an umbrella.
When it Rains in California is a post written by Jen Thorpe on Book of Jen and is not allowed to be copied to other sites.
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