31 July 2008

Rain--something sacred in the South

Today, I had a goal to fulfill: to begin unpacking my teacher materials in my new classroom.

But first, I had to clear out all the materials left by the previous teacher before I could begin unpacking my things. Preplanning is next week, and I want my room up and running before I have to commit my time to meetings and paperwork. Typically, I would spend time on the weekend prepping my room, but it's an impossibility at this school. They lock the gates to the driveway at the end of the week, prohibiting anyone from coming in during their free time. I may eventually come to appreciate being shut off on weekends.

Back to my goal for the day...

The air conditioning in the school building hasn't run all summer, so my classroom was stinking hot. Hotter than other rooms in the building because it's upstairs. The school's bookkeeper told me it probably wouldn't be as stifling indoors today, since it was overcast and the outdoor temperatures had fallen a few degrees. Even though I genuinely adore her, I still knew better. A stuffy room was quietly awaiting my arrival, ready to make me sweat more than I do at the gym.

I came prepared: I wore a loose sundress to avoid swelling up from oversweating in clothing that fits more snugly. I had a large box fan running the 3 hours I spent in my room and paused every few minutes to stand in front of it for temporary comfort. I made use of the water fountain down the hall, filling up my Chik-fil-A cup 3 or 4 times to stay hydrated. I even fashioned a cooling device out of paper towels by soaking them in water and wearing them around my neck.

You think all this effort would help cool me...

But every movement I made caused me to sweat: hairline, back, knees, elbows, neck. I felt slimy, but I had work to do. I had to make neat piles of the things that weren't mine, dust shelves that had never met my friend Formula 409, sweep glitter out of drawers, fix the crooked hanging file holder frame. My organized "to-do" list on the white board was ignored--when I saw something that had to be done, I did it and poured more sweat into it.

And then relief finally came. In the form of rain.

My blinds had been closed to shut out any extra heat energy. I didn't see it or hear it coming down. I just had that crazy 6th sense feeling that told me to peek out the window.

I was glad I did.

I didn't even hesitate or give it a second thought. My sandals were off my feet in 0.2 seconds flat and I was out the door and down the stairs, looking for the closest exit. A flower pot just outside the door was heavy enough to prop it open (so I wouldn't get locked out).

All it took was 30 seconds. 30 seconds of twirling in rain that fell in sheets. 30 seconds of fulfilling my duty as a former GHPer who doesn't try to avoid a shower at all costs, but lets the rain soak her to the core. 30 seconds of wondering if I applied waterproof mascara this morning, and then realizing that I shouldn't have asked the question in the first place. 30 seconds of asking myself why I didn't do this more.

The rain cooled and relieved me, and at the same time, put me at risk of ridicule from my new co-workers moving about elsewhere in the building. I had let the rain drench my hair and clothing. My feet squeaked slightly on the tiled hallway floors. And if someone had stopped me to ask what had happened, I would probably would have responded, "I was hot."

Sure it had been overcast all day, but with the drought, days like this are usually just a tease. Rain has become so sacred in the South that we no longer curse it for its inconveniences. We find ourselves sitting in front of the nightly news, fingers crossed, ready to do a rain dance for extra luck. When the weatherman tells us it's finally coming, we celebrate as if we have won the lottery. We'll take it any way we can get it.

Today, I took it like Gene Kelly in Singing in the Rain: with utmost joy.

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