This is not a column about the weather. However, when I woke this morning, to quote Henry James, “I liked that it was raining.” The sounds and smells of a rare summer downpour drowning out fires in our neighborhood filled me with delight and, perhaps, sparked a foolish notion.
Dad always told about when he and Uncle Dick relocated to the Willamette Valley from Nebraska. They found work on a farm, but when they ducked into the barn to wait out a storm, the farmer who paid their wages informed them, “Boys, if you don’t work in the rain in Oregon, you don’t work.”
I thought I’d apply that philosophy to walking, too, since I’m serious about my daily excursion. So I seized the opportunity to road-test my brand-new rain poncho.
The pasteboard label on the package read, “Disposable, for travel, outdoor activities, and more.”
I’m not sure what the ‘and more’ referred to, maybe eating spaghetti blindfolded with a spoon, but it sounded as if the possibilities were endless. The four people on the package, modeling the ponchos so that we know which way we’re supposed to wear them, appeared dry and happy. Of course, it wasn’t raining indoors where they posed. I wondered if they got paid.
The label proclaimed, “One size fits all.” That was a scary thought that meant it could potentially have been roomy enough for Tim Duncan. Since the rain gear began as a flat, folded square of clear plastic the size of a bingo card and was big enough to cover Tim Duncan, and said plastic was approximately the thinness of Dollar-store TP, the unfolding was tricky. I managed to poke only one hole.
I pulled it over myself before leaving the house, thinking I’d rather have it on than wrestle with it like an amateur in front of fellow walkers. It was pouring. There weren’t any other walkers, but more on that later.
I started off and noticed it worked pretty well so long as you didn’t need to be entirely dry — if you were OK with being partly wet, it was fine, like from mid-thigh down on your legs and forearm to hands. Also, they made the hood for someone with a head the size of a chipmunk’s, so no way would it stay over my cap. Not one of the four pictured poncho models had the hood on, I noticed.
With the clear Glad Wrap-type material over my blue jeans and gray T-shirt, I resembled a grande burrito left in a dorm-room fridge over the holidays. Scratch that. There’s no such thing as leftover food in a dorm. But I’m sure some starlings eyed me as the wind played with the edges of my wrapper, and they know leftovers.
I did feel conspicuous, but intrepid, nonetheless. I enjoyed far more friendly or sympathetic waves and smiles from passing motorists than on your average, dry day. A few may have been laughing. So what. I had the pathway to myself except for two boys in shorts and shirtsleeves who were impervious to weather of all extremes.
My torso stayed dry, so cold wasn’t an issue. In fact, the plastic wrap didn’t allow for any exchange of air, so I was actually sweating underneath — not like a pig, more like a hippo, with no correlation to size. (See column from two weeks prior. You don’t want to miss these.)
At the first erp of distant thunder, I thought to test the material’s response to a sudden about-face. Because the garment clung like a second skin to my trunk by now, it performed admirably.
Upon reflection, I’d bought three of the disposable ponchos for a buck at a yard sale. I might have taken a clue from the fact that someone tried one and marketed the rest. But, I paid 33-1/3 cents for an item whose biggest claim to usefulness was being able to throw it away. I could have gotten that for a quarter, but it was true to its claim.
Peggy Dover is a freelance writer who works from a 1900 farmhouse in Eagle Point. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.