When Rain Is the Show You Came For

Note: I already wrote a blog post about our visit to Wrigley Field this summer. But then I put together this essay about how that trip to the Midwest was in part rain tourism for us dusty Californians. I was thinking of trying to sell it, but heck, I’ll just share it here with you. After all, the rainy season actually showed up on time in California this year, so this piece may have passed its sell-by date. Still perfectly good though! Enjoy.

How dry was our pandemic? 

So dry that my son’s Zoom class went nuts when one of their classmates announced, “It’s raining!” and focused her camera on the falling drops. I rushed over, squinting to catch a rare glimpse of precipitation.

The classmate was attending school from Puerto Vallarta, and there we were in the umpteenth year of California’s megadrought. To make things worse, Covid cancelled our annual visit to the grandparents in Wisconsin, where we usually received a welcome deluge in one form or another.

Finally, vaccines in arms, we prepared to fly East in July 2021.

“Please let there be a huge thunderstorm with pouring rain and lightning!” my daughter wished.

As our plane descended at Midway Airport, it looked like we might get our wish too soon. Lightning arced from cloud to cloud right outside the airplane window. Nutmeg, 17, and I gripped the arm rests, and I pictured my rental car hydroplaning on the Eisenhower Expressway.

Yet, once we touched down, the gray clouds languished, refusing to burst. They didn’t make good on their threats that night, or the next. My parents had to put the sprinkler in their garden plot.

As we watched fireflies blink in the grass, the radio predicted rain for the next day.

“It’ll end up passing us over,” my mom predicted.

It did.

Nearly two weeks later, our trip was almost over, and we hadn’t felt a one summer raindrop land on our heads. As we boarded a Metra train toward Wrigley Field in Chicago, it felt strange to head out for a whole day far from home without packing a jacket. We would never do that in the Bay Area, where the weather might turn frigid by late afternoon in any month. But Weather.com promised hot, steamy weather.

And no rain.

The Chicago Cubs matched the humid day’s sluggish mood, connecting with few hits and delivering no show-stopping catches. By the ninth inning, with the Cubs far behind, the only exciting moment of the game arrived: An ominous announcement appeared on the video board.

“DUE TO LIGHTNING IN THE AREA … SEEK SHELTER IMMEDIATELY.”

The field was still dry, but we obediently made our way down to the ground level concourse. 

As we walked, it finally happened. The skies released every droplet they’d been hoarding for the past two weeks. We stood around in the shelter of the concourse, watching Wrigley’s surrounding neighborhood transform into a water park. For the moment, there was nothing to do. There were only a few outs left in the game. Even if play resumed eventually, this wasn’t going to be a finish worth waiting for. 

Yet, we weren’t going anywhere in this weather.

We climbed halfway up the stairs of one of the front row seating sections, watching the crew roll out the Reynold’s Wrap branded field cover. An usher approached us — from his appearance, one of the many retired people who work at Wrigley Field for the joy of spending their summer days in the Friendly Confines. We figured we were about to shooed off the stairs.

Instead, he invited us to sit down, gesturing to one of the many empty seats under an overhang, with a theatrical view of the storm.

We sat and enjoyed the show we’d flown across the country for. The wind whipped the flags and turned the tarp’s puddles into raging rivers. Thunder crashed. The stadium lights glowed against the gunmetal sky. The occasional splash from above cooled our sweaty heads. 

Another senior usher, this one a woman, belted out “Singin’ in the Rain” for us, her captive audience. We cheered with more appreciation than we had found for our team in many innings. We watched the occasional player emerge from the dugout and look around like a meerkat before retreating underground.

When the rain tapered off, we decided to head to the L, even though the grounds crew showed signs of getting ready to roll back the tarp.

We didn’t need any more entertainment today. We had already gotten our money’s worth.

Note: After a 1 hour, 39-minute rain delay, the Arizona Diamondbacks beat the Chicago Cubs 7-3.

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