Rain down on me

People like to complain about insignificant things. Some people complain about the weather. Some people complain about people complaining about the weather.

There is a myth in the Caribbean about the cause of rain. It rains, the myth said, when the devil beats his wife. But when devil and she-devil are talking and laughing and loving, the sun is shining and the weather is fine. When this was mentioned in a class discussion, someone joked that the devil must beat his wife an awful lot in Portland, or something similarly lame, and a chuckle spread throughout the classroom. On that day, in mid-May, the very middle of spring, a look out the window showed a bright shiny day; the temperature was about 83 degrees.

This begs the question: What is wrong with the people of Portland?

They complain about the weather. A lot.

But with Portland’s dry, rainless, perfect summers, and winters in which it rains but almost never snows, even a cursory glance around the country shows that not only is Portland’s weather not that bad, but that, compared to other major cities, the weather here is pretty good.

Compared to Chicago’s weather, which is similar to that of New York City, Portland’s is outstanding. Whereas Portland summers are dry, with stable temperatures from day to day, Chicago summers are the opposite: humid, with occasional 40-degree temperature changes from one day to the next. The summers are so humid that the healthier goldfish can swim right out of their bowls and, moving through and breathing the air, accidentally swim right into your mouth. Native-born Chicagoans are quick enough to catch the goldfish before the fish reach their mouths; they then sprinkle the goldfish with lime juice and have themselves a healthy mid-day snack. During the summers, people in Chicago carry little plastic faux-lime bottles (with real lime juice) on their hips for exactly this purpose.

When a heat wave strikes along with the humidity, Chicago summers can be deadly. During five days in July 1995, for instance, a heat wave killed 522 people, and the city had to create a “hot weather” plan, which created a network of both private and public resources that is activated during hot-weather emergencies. The city also created the annual “Chicago Heat Awareness Week” to inform people about the dangers of heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heatstroke.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, for the 30-year period from 1971-2000, out of 100 major U.S. cities, Portland tied Seattle for 55th place in average annual rainfall, putting Portland behind Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia, New York, New Orleans, Nashville and Memphis, Miami and Tampa, etc., etc. Our Portland isn’t even the rainiest Portland in the country (the other, in Maine, gets over eight inches more rain per year). For average annual days of rain, Portland ranked eighth, receiving only one more day of rain than Pittsburgh. And for total snowfall, Portland ranked about 70th, with just over half a foot per year.

Chicago, not known for its rain, gets 36.27 inches per year, 0.80 inches less than Portland. Chicago, however, also gets 38 inches of snow. And other major cities, like Boston and Cleveland, get even more rain and snow than Chicago.

So while Portland has no hurricanes or tsunamis, rarely has deadly heat waves, rarely has deadly winters, and has earthquakes so inconsequential that you find out about them the next day in The Oregonian, other major cities – Chicago, New York, Boston, etc. – suffer much worse. The humidity in New York, like the humidity in Chicago, is horrendous. It can get so humid that when you get out of the shower you’re already covered in sweat. When you towel off you’re all sticky, as though God himself had ejaculated into his palm, just for you, and smeared it all over your body with a manly, though gentle, godly touch. By the time you reach your bedroom you are again covered in a sweat in which you will remain until your next shower, after which God will fondle you again, and so on.