It has been raining for a few days now in Pittsburgh, and I anticipate a lot of complaining from the writers of Moral Hazard as a result, replete with insults directed at the city and those who voluntarily live here.
I could make a very long list of reasons why rain is terrific. I could make an even longer list of reasons why even if it’s not so great, it’s not so bad either. Most of these reasons, however, provide little in-the-moment consolation to the walker with soggy feet, wet and tangled hair, damp clothes and clammy hands.
One of these reasons is different though. There is one feature of rainy days that makes me feel completely elated, so much so that I would forgo dry feet on many a day in favor of rain. This special advantage is the extra concealment afforded by the darkened skies which accompany rain. Think about this a little bit before you decide that only creeps and criminals would take this line of reasoning.
I really enjoy walking; the fresh air, extra exercise, leisure, solitude, and thinking time I experience every day as I travel are an essential part of my life. As much as anyone else, I find it easier to think and relax while I walk when I’m relatively dry and relatively comfortable temperature-wise. There is one thing, however, that ruins my walks far more than rain ever does. That thing is intrusive exposure and attention, and it seems that rain is the only thing to completely eliminate it.
During the day, on any busy street I have to walk around other people, watch turn-signals on cars, watch street lights, and basically pay attention. This isn’t necessarily annoying; think of it as a neutral scenario. For a more relaxing and solitary walk, I just take a different path. Through the park, perhaps. The problem is that as the number of fellow walkers decreases, my own weight on the scene seems to increase. Perhaps I imagine much of this phenomenon, but I can’t help feeling exposed when I’m the only person walking down a road in broad daylight, sun over me, and no cover. It certainly increases the chances that I’ll be noticed, which puts a damper on my walk.
The obvious solution is to travel at night. Fewer people are out at 4 a.m., so there are fewer people to take notice. The darkness provides shelter; it should be the opposite of the maximum exposure of the sun reaching into every corner.
Should be. Except that every car that does happen to pass shines its bright headlights right into my eyes. I am invariably startled, usually jump, and feel far more exposed in the light of headlights than in ordinary light. In the same way that a smaller number of pedestrians focuses more attention on each individual walker, fewer cars on the road means that the ones that do pass pay more attention to the people they pass. This causes the horrible habit of late-night drivers to offer rides. This is the most clear-cut intrusion of solitude possible. Not only is it a major nuisance, it makes me jumpier than do headlights alone, since it’s generally a creepy thing to do.
Rainstorms offer the best of night and day walks, without any of the major drawbacks. These are the rare times when it is possible to walk without feeling exposed and without having any internal dialog interrupted. When it’s raining, I can walk down the street in the middle of the day and it’s dark enough that I can blend in with trees and fences. The heavier the rain and the thicker the fog, the more concealment the pedestrian has. There are enough cars on the road and just enough people out that nobody has any particular reason to notice me, especially at such an unexceptional hour as two in the afternoon. If cars have their headlights on, there is enough light from the sky and enough moisture in the air that I don’t feel blinded or jump off the sidewalk every time a car passes. These are perfect walking conditions; walk when it’s raining, and you’ll feel fairly invisible – free to enjoy the air and the solitude and the thinking-time, with nobody to bother you, for once. Whether you’re a fan of rain in general or not, a good walk is worth wet feet once in a while.
After all, as a previous post seems to indicate, too much sunshine and cheery weather is linked to stupidity. Maybe it’s because people don’t get as many chances to think in places where it doesn’t rain much. You might be less likely to smile when you’ve just walked in from the rain, but at least nobody will mistake you for a happy dumbass.