Thursday, July 27, 2006

What a day

Today was, without a doubt, one of the strangest days in my short existence on this planet. That was decided well before two o'clock in the afternoon.

The beginning of this series of utterly bizarre events took place when I was caught outdoors in the midst of a torrential downpour, sans umbrella, sans raincoat, sans basically anything useful for keeping oneself and one's possessions dry. I fled — or rather waded through the streets — to the nearest establishment specializing in drinkable forms of caffeine, and before a fraction of the two minutes it took me to arrive there expired, I was drenched to the bone, sopping wet. The other people in the coffeeshop started laughing when I entered. As I realized upon seeing myself in a mirror, I was cutting a very comical, pathetic figure. I figured a warm beverage was in order and asked for a medium size mug of hot chai; the really nice girl behind the counter (probably my exact same age, maybe a year younger) took pity on me and decided to upgrade my drink to a large without charging me extra. After ordering my drink, I went to the restroom with the hope of wringing some of the water out of myself and my hair, but every single piece of me and my clothing was hopelessly waterlogged. I had not much success drying off; it was a bad day to have worn jeans.

By the time I got back to my chai, water was flooding through the front door to the coffeeshop. It came faster than the employees could mop it up, stuff the cracks around the door with towels, and scoop it up into buckets. Fortunately, the place had a back door: they locked the front and motioned through the glass to any bewildered would-be customers outside to enter via the back entrance. The rainwater outside had flooded the street and crawled up the sidewalk so that the bottom of the door was technically below sea level. I should mention that it was raining hard enough and fast enough to make a monsoon envy, and the few people still foolish enough to be driving their cars about town in deep water were leaving wakes like motorboats.

A few of us customers started helping the shop's two employees fight the water. I abandoned my Spanish translation of a colonial era Quechua play — it wasn't like I was going to get any serious reading done with this excitement anyway. The electricity flickered now and then. We had to improvise a levee system out of newspapers, towels and rectangular dishtubs, and even once that was in place we were bailing water and dumping buckets of it down a sink in the back. Unfortunately, newspapers and towels are kind of porous. Hence, constant and continual bailing.

The harried-but-surprisingly-cheerful employees (laughing, one declared, "this is officially my worst day ever" — in addition to the shop, her apartment was flooding) were trying to get their boss on the phone. They decided that those of us who were working against the water needed free coffee or tea, and one of them started working on that at the same time as working the phone.

Then, a fire alarm or two went off in the building.

Further craziness ensued. One could smell smoke. It takes fire trucks longer than usual to show up when streets are flooding. I got the offered free chai, though, as well as a trash bag with which to cover my backpack (and the iPod, library book, video, folder of schoolwork, and other things that really should not get any more wet within), and headed in the direction of home.

It was slippery outside in addition to still raining (although not quite as hard), and the sandals I was wearing made the situation worse rather than better. I walked the mile back to my apartment barefoot and getting further drenched, but the contents of my backpack were safe, and that was what I was caring about. My apartment, thank God, did not suffer water damage.

In summary, it was a crazy day that's not even close to being over, I've imbibed far more in the way of caffeine than is generally advisable, and should I come down with pneumonia within the next few days and stop posting for a while, you'll have an idea as to why.