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  Yammer #16


Feel  you that but for
a filiating fear
all Paradise could break
loose around here?


Yini Yohans






Late August in San Francisco. Itís summer and the weather page editors at the big newspapers are earning their keep, deciding if tomorrowís forecast is morning fog followed by sunny skies or sunny skies after morning fog. It didnít rain yesterday, it isnít going to rain today, and it isnít going to rain tomorrow. The calendar, however, trumps todayís clear skies and it isnít too soon to start fretting, worrying, and whimpering about next winterís rain.

Bike messengers, for obvious as well as less obvious reasons, are extremely concerned about the weather. We read the weather page like a doctor reads an EKGÖ the data is serious. With a few masochistic, Portland, or Seattle native wierdos as exceptions, itís nearly unanimous: rain is BAD. The streets are slippery, itís wet and cold and unpleasant, it takes longer to ride anywhere, it takes time to protect packages, and the feeling of being seen as a fringe-type cartoon character is exacerbated by walking in and out of warm, cozy offices looking like a dripping dog. Often enough I wonder if itís crazy and self-destructive to ride a bike on city streets for a living. When itís raining, I donít wonder. Traffic is uglier and road rage increases. Pedestrians, when they arenít letting their umbrellas fly into the street, deal with rain by looking straight down when they walk. Ask any biker to describe drivers and pedestrians in the months between October and April and youíll get the same line: instant assholes, just add water.

We get paid by the distance and urgency of our deliveries. When it rains and the office slackers and smokers stop volunteering to take the short deliveries themselves, we are called to do these Frisbee-toss-length jobs. In spite of being busier and more stressed, at the end of the day weíve made less money in the rain.

Drug and alcohol abuse, always a problem in the messenger world, increases dramatically during rainy season. Irish coffees, a joint in a warm hiding place, and much stronger drugs all make sense when you already feel like youíre dipped in a bucket of cold water and sent out among the steely predators. Most people call the winter of 1997Ė98 the El NiŮo year. A messenger would never describe that year with less words or details than "the year it rained 47 curse curse curse curse inches." For years we older riders told tales of the 30-inch winters of the early 1980s to the young pups we worked withÖ then came 97Ė98Ė99 and promoted everybody to grizzled rain vet. Steady rain and cheap, smokable Mexican heroin started dope epidemics in more than one company as the easy-to-consume dime bags increasingly became known as "rain hats."

As with many of lifeís unpleasantries, the anticipation is often worse than the actual event. Itís easy to forget that when it isnít raining in the winter months, it isnít raining. Itís the unpredictability and unfairness of it all that makes me fear rain well before the first drop has fallen. We look at the daily rain stats in the paper as if the rain really will stop, regardless of month, when the total reaches the 21 or so inches we are supposed to expect. The aforementioned total, of course, has no real meaning for messengers. Each year brings its own mix of on-duty or off-duty rain and, as any messenger will tell you, in spite of your weekend plans, commuter nightmares, or the outdoor sporting events scheduled in your free time, rain that falls after 6:00 p.m., before 7:00 a.m., or anytime on the weekend, wellÖ that isnít rain.

Steel Monkey (bjksf@wenet)