Thursday, 20 October 2011

Big Rain

Last week I was in Brisbane when Big Rain happened.  Of course, I noticed the humidity the moment I stepped off the plane.  It was familiar.  I had come home to Brisbane airport most weeks for many, many years before I moved to Melbourne.  Feeling the warm, moist air even as I stepped into the air conditioned terminal, I was reminded of my life in Brisbane.

I stepped out into the night and could feel my hair frizz.  One of the things I don't miss.  Never have missed.

The next morning, it was the same.  Moisture everywhere - that feeling of never quite having dry skin.  My hair went straight into the ponytail I had worn for six months while I lived in Darwin.  Long, curly hair is quite impossible in the tropics.  Even the sub tropics.  Storms were predicted for later in the day and it felt right.

From the window of the building I was working in, I could see the sky darkening throughout the afternoon.  I could also see the purple Jacaranda trees.  They reminded me of university swot vac.  When the Jacarandas left their purple carpets of dropped petals, lectures were finished and exams were looming.  There were no exams or text books for me anymore, but still the trees bloomed marking out the semesters more reliably than any calendar.

When I stepped outside I could see why the receptionist had insisted on calling a cab.  For all the good it did. This was Big Rain.  Bucketing in big, fat, wet splashes.  Not even drops.  Then the wall of water.  It reminded me of the first downpour I witnessed in Darwin.  I had never seen so much rain.  You just had to surrender to it.  And forget about your shoes.  I lost a thong once.  It floated away in the deluge. Waiting under the roof for a cab while watching the peak hour traffic go nowhere is a lesson in patience.  There is nothing to be done.  As your hair frizzes even more, even from the restraint of a ponytail.

Then a cab arrives and you know your dry-clean-only suit is going to be soaked crossing the tiny distance between cover and the cab.  The cab driver is cranky.  His last fare took him half an hour to get from such-and-such to here.  Sitting in a cab that isn't going anywhere!  Imagine that.  I pointed out that the metre is still running, but he had some logic to rebut me straight away.  He almost convinced me that the last thing a cab driver wants in his cab is paying customers, even if the cab is caught in traffic.

Somehow, I knew this trip was going to be a debacle. 

He immediately started to drive in the wrong direction.  It may be over a decade since I left, but the streets are imprinted in my brain.  Again, he had some magical logic as to why we were actually going in the right direction - pointing in the right direction is a better description, because we were now part of the car park that was peak hour traffic.  I queried him again and he invited me to get out and walk.  I reminded him that would leave him trapped in his empty cab in the middle of gridlock, without the metre ticking.

Then water started to come through the seal in the window onto the sleeve of my suit jacket.  I thought the driver would like to know there was a leak, but reconsidered telling him, given his incredible ability to turn things to his advantage.  He'd probably tell me it was a mirage.  So I shuffled across the seat.  He looked alarmed and asked me why I was moving.  I told him the window was leaking.  He said it wasn't.  What did I know?  I only had a wet arm and my skin was starting to sprout a downy covering of mildew.

It only took twenty minutes to complete the circle and arrive back at the place where we had picked up the cab.  Naturally, I couldn't help but point this out to him.  This time he had nothing to say.  The fare was almost double what it had cost to travel from the hotel in the morning.

As we arrived back at the hotel, the rain had stopped.  The air was fresh and everything looked new.  I was reluctant to leave the cab and return to my hotel room.  I actually had more space in the back seat of the cab, than I had in the world's smallest hotel room.  The main advantage of the hotel room though?  The taxi driver who had an answer for almost everything wasn't in it.  He wouldn't have fit anyway.

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