Noe Valley Voice March 1998


By Douglas A. Konecky

It's got to be the rain. It has been raining for days, weeks, months. San Francisco has become Seattle, Portland, Zaire. My basement has water bubbling up through the concrete. The carpet downstairs has a suspicious round wet mark on it that won't go away. The 50-year-old skylight over the 100-year-old kitchen table drips brown rainwater into my soup. The cat won't go outside. She keeps peeing on the floor. She looks up at me and says: "Hey, it's not my fault. Make it stop raining."

Last fall I put in a new garden in the back yard. Little did I know I was creating Lake Powell. These days are dark, gloomy, dreary, and all the adjectives that combine glumness with moisture, like stormy, blustery, turbulent.

It starts to work on your head. Nothing seems quite right. There's a reason that overpriced coffee began in Seattle. Their brains have become soggy up there. For the first time, I understand.

Here come the early-morning showers. Or are these last night's late-evening showers? I am trying to start Danny's car. Danny is my 22-year-old son. He is down in Santa Cruz, finishing college, with my car. I am attempting to get his 13-year-old Toyota moving, so I can take it down to Don's Friendly Auto Service to have his defroster fixed.

But it's been raining since Toyota put the "To" in Tokyo. Dan's car won't start. I try to pop his hood but his hood latch is broken. I need a pair of pliers. The pliers are in the house. The house is down the street. I will also need my wife's jumper cables and her car, which is parked down a different street. Now the heavens open with a huge inundating belly laugh and I am quickly drenched. I run under a tree.

I have no time to ask myself why I am standing in the rain trying to get my son's car started. It's 8:30 a.m. In 10 minutes the little Cushwoman will come zipping by and give me a ticket, followed by the android who sweeps the streets, never mind that it's been pouring since September and the streets are brilliantly clean, antiseptically clean. It's going to cost Dan and me $25 if I don't get his car started, and Dan has $0.

The car starts.

It's streaming buckets of sloppy rain. I'm down at Don's Auto Service. "You know, Doug, HEH," laughs Don, a nice man, one who has been putting his own children through Stanford aided by monthly donations from three-car-family idiots like ourselves, "this ain't gonna be cheap."

It's never, never cheap. "Naw, Doug, HEH," he chuckles, "it's like computers, one day they're workin', next day they're obsolete, you know, HEH?"

Raining like Custer saw Indians. All day, all night. I can forgive bad humor. I'm in bad humor myself.

"Just call me when you're all done, okay, Don?" I say, and walk back up Mission Street with my half cup of cold coffee. Don's shop is at the confluence of Mission and San Jose, and I always use Mission when I leave Don's, under the demented delusion that he might think I live in those banged-up apartments over there and therefore go easier on me when it comes time to present the friendly damage.

It's deluging lightly. Or drizzling heavily. Or raining mediumly. The intersection at San Jose and Randall is immense, fully 10 lanes wide. The traffic light cycles and cycles, then finally changes to green. I see a gray-bearded bum in a red sweatshirt leaning against a power pole. As I am thinking to myself how happy I am not to be homeless in weather like this, I finish my cold coffee and step out into the street....

The sound goes like this: WheeeeeeeEEEEEEE gulp WA WA WA WA WA WA WA dup dup dup dup dup KA-THUUMP crackaBOOOM!

A lady driving a late-model Taurus, straining to beat the light wheeeeeeeee, guns across the intersection EEEEEEE, belatedly notices that the traffic ahead of her is completely backed up gulp and hits her brakes WAWAWAWAWAWA, but it's raining dup dup dup dup dup and the intersection is too wet for anything but salamanders so she slams into the back of a little Honda KA-THUUMP which rams into the J-car island crackaBOOOM!

I run across the street to the crunched Honda. A woman is weeping in the front seat, cradling a baby in her arms. An evil-looking man in a hairnet is already flying out of the Honda heading for the car that hit them. I spin around.

The young woman driving the Taurus is in absolute hysterics. She is being comforted by the bum in the red sweatshirt. She is hyperventilating dangerously. "It's okay, lady, no one's hurt WOOWOOWOO, it's okay, lady, no one's hurt WOOWOOWOO, it's okay, lady...."

For a moment I forget the rain. I run to the Shell station, call 911. "Can I help you?" says a measured, unemotional voice. No rain down at the 911 office, that's for sure.

I explain what has happened. "May I have your name?" "Douglas..." "Are you involved in the accident?" "No, I'm just trying to..." "Do you wish an ambulance to be..." "No, I don't think..." "May I have your address, phone number, proof of insurance, name of favorite TV show, opinion on Iraq..." "JUST SEND A COP WILLYA LADY!" I scream and before I can even get back to the corner, he's there.

Everybody's irritated, except the cop. He's like a cozy hot towel. "Slow down, everybody, it's just a little rain," he says. I leave him my name, shake the good samaribum's hand.

Ten minutes later I'm home. I open the front door. An acrid, pungent aroma blasts me in the nose.

The cat peed on the floor. "I warned you," she says.

Douglas Konecky is a writer and musician who runs the San Francisco Songwriters Workshop in Noe Valley.