Polite people don’t talk about politics, religion, money, or climate change, so let’s just talk about the weather.
They say San Diego is the world’s largest air conditioner, an awkward metaphor. Yet it is factual, and even funny in its simplicity.
I grew up in Romania where the climate is temperate, with four distinct seasons. It snows in the winter and it’s hot in the summer. The heat in the summer is dry. Then I moved to the United States and I lived my adult life on the East Coast, mostly in Columbia, Maryland.
I remember my first encounter with humid heat. In Romania, all you had to do was get out of the sun. Here, the humidity surrounds you, and the air feels thick like fog. There is no escape. The heat follows you in the shade, and envelops you at night. Temperatures are lower after sunset, but you remain wrapped in that warm and wet gauze you cannot pull away from your skin.
You look at the clouds on gray afternoons and think it will rain, but it doesn’t. When it rains, it keeps going for days. The forest I admire from my window becomes wet, saturated. The soil is mush. Trees fall over. The cedar siding on the shaded part of my house gets covered in moss. Inches and inches of water pour down from the sky. The only escape is the air-conditioned indoors.
When I bought my first car, a few weeks after I came to the States, the dealer asked me if wanted air conditioning. “Air conditioning? Why pay for it? I’ll keep my windows down.” I found out in a hurry that I had made a big mistake, and I paid for it all through the years I kept that first car.
In Maryland, in every season, there are beautiful, very beautiful days. We have the glorious fall when the leaves turn, and the mild breezes of the Indian summer. In winter, on rare occasions everything is pristine, covered in shimmering snow. Everyone is happy on snow days. People don’t drive to work. Then comes spring — the perpetual cycle when leaves are budding on brown branches, the grass turns green and life is exploding anew.
After graduating from college, my son moved to San Diego. My wife and I visit him often and on one of those early trips, we went for a walk in Balboa Park. My cell phone rang. It was a call from my office, and, after we settled the matter at hand, the discussion turned to weather. In Maryland it was 34 degrees and windy. They were expecting sleet and ice on the roads. I looked at the people strolling around me nonchalantly in their light, colorful outfits and short sleeve shirts. The sky was blue. It was February. “Sunny California. What a blessing!” I thought.
My son got married in September, almost a decade ago. In March of that year, I was discussing his wedding with him. “We’ll have it right here, in my backyard,” he said. The backyard is beautiful, with palms and orange trees, and an eight-shaped blue swimming pool. The green lawn is manicured and lush. “Are you sure?” I asked. “What will you do if it rains?” “It won’t,” he assured me. On the day of the wedding, just as the caterers were setting the tables around the pool, my wife’s phone flashed a weather alert. A few minutes later it started to sprinkle. The table cloths and the flower arrangements got barely wet and in a few minutes the rain stopped. That’s a San Diego weather alert for you! The air cooled, and the wedding proceeded as planned.
We lead a bi-coastal life and each time we are in San Diego, while we speak with nostalgia about the variety and beauty of four seasons, we enjoy the warm weather and the predictability of it.
Once in San Diego, my wife was on the phone with Microsoft, trying to resolve an issue with our computer. The tech support person on the other end was a young woman by the name of Puja, sitting somewhere in India. While software was downloading and they had a little time to kill, Puja, like any polite and well-trained customer service person would do, asked my wife, “So Vicki, how is the weather today in San Diego?” “Puja,” my wife said, “today in San Diego the weather is sunny, 74 degrees during the day, and 69 degrees at night.” “Oh, how lovely,” Puja said. “But Vicki, how was the weather yesterday in San Diego?” “Puja, yesterday in San Diego it was sunny, and we had 74 degrees during the day, and 69 degrees at night.” “How nice!” Puja exclaimed. They had some more time to wait and Puja asked my wife again. “So, Vicki, what is the weather prediction for this coming weekend in San Diego?” To which my wife answered without batting an eye, “Puja, this weekend in San Diego it will be sunny, 74 degrees during the day, and 69 degrees at night.” And that pretty much sums it up.
We came to San Diego to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with our children and grandchildren. I had heard that the San Diego area had experienced some much-needed rain and the total precipitation amounted to one tenth of one inch. “Not too much, and better than nothing at all,” I said to myself with a know-it-all grin. Then the day before yesterday rain appeared again in the forecast. “Another tenth of an inch,” I guessed.
In the morning it started raining and it poured, on and off, the whole day. Sometimes it came down like a curtain of water, and other times it whipped sideways, while the wind howled and swirled. The trees in front of our windows bent and rustled. Leaves flew through the air. Scooters laid abandoned on the glistening sidewalks. The homeless in the Gaslamp District were all gone. My son worked from home. TV weathermen and women had a ball. During a break in the downpour, I went on a short walk to the supermarket and the bank. “What do you say of all this rain?” the cashier lady asked me. “Well, is it nasty enough for you?” the bank teller echoed. Then the tone of his voice changed. “Stay out of the rain. The climate is changing here, too.”
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