It’s monsoon season here in Southern Arizona. From July through mid-September, moisture is pulled up from Mexico and, when conditions are right, thunderstorms develop, often violently. Hot air rises quickly from the desert floor up into higher, colder air, creating huge rain clouds that drop heavy amounts of rain in localized areas. This sudden deluge often forces damaging winds outward ahead of the storm. At least a dozen times over the past ten years I’ve watched seventy mile per hour winds cause the huge, sixty foot tall Eucalyptus tree which stands menacingly close to my house to hunch over like a dog trying to pass the dental floss he ate from the bathroom trash the night before. I’ve no doubt that one day the arboreal beast will fall on my house, with me inside it, flattening both and sending brick and bits of small intestine flying in every direction. I’m convinced that the tree’s expansive root system and its intricate, romantic embraces with my home’s sewer and water lines is the only thing that keeps it standing. Should said lines ever decide to spurn the tree’s advances, I’m done for.
Many Tucsonans call monsoon season their favorite time of year. For one thing, all the snowbirds have scattered like beach-going Japanese when the ground starts to shake. While visitors flock by the tens of thousands to enjoy the mild winters here, they are deathly afraid of the summers. I’m not sure why; they rarely spend any time outdoors anyway, and because of the high humidity so common in the places from whence they came (Indiana, Iowa, and the Land of 10,000 Ponds), the living conditions in their home states are often more miserable than mine. (I was once in Washington, D.C. when it was eighty-eight degrees, with a relative humidity of an equal percentage; I developed a heat rash in the shameful regions and spent the day on the national mall walking like a giraffe sidling up to a watering hole). No matter; I say good riddance, because traffic is so much lighter when they’re gone. Good thing, too, because the monsoons do their number on the roads as well: with them come potholes, some of which could make a Smart Car look dumb. (As if there were no other way).
Recently one of my customers greeted me at the door in a back brace and neck halo; were he wearing a diaper and floating in some dense, eerily colored fluid, he could easily have passed as an experiment in a bad science fiction movie. He had been enjoying a deliberate and mostly persistent pedaling of his bike (this guy is ancient) on a major Tucson surface street, when he went through what he thought was a puddle; it was, in fact, a puddle, one whose brackish, oily water hid a deep hole with sharply defined edges. Though he couldn’t have been going more than a couple of miles per hour, he nevertheless went bum over elbows, landed in the street and fractured his back and neck in several places. (Granted, had he squatted and missed the chair in his living room he would have likely suffered the same fate. I wish I had seen the mishap; since it wasn’t me, and none of you know him, we can all laugh about it now). It’s a common occurrence, however; I’ve hit potholes in my truck that sent my steering wheel into a full grand mal seizure and my testicles bouncing in my throat like lottery ping-pong balls.
The other characteristic that Monsoon-loving Tucsonans share (other than silent, mutual disdain for winter visitors) is air-conditioning, both in their home and cars. The rest of Tucson, the proletariat if you will, use swamp coolers (a contraption that pulls air through water-soaked pads and then blows it through the home’s air ducts; effective when the air is dry and useless when humidity is high) to “cool” their houses, and drive with their car windows down. Do not attempt to engage these people in conversation while driving. Many would not hesitate to “trade up” and take your air-conditioned vehicle before the light changes. They hate monsoon season, but are best adapted to survive it; the fittest of these desert dwellers will represent the southwest in the post-apocalyptic olympics, while the rest of us simply wither and die.
Often the local television news is dedicated, almost solely, to the weather in the event of a significant storm; each station has their own “Monsoon Alert” or “Extreme Weather” team, and fight to be the first to report someone attempting to drive through a flooded wash. (Though I’m no believer of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, wash-drivers lend credence to his Theory of Natural Selection). In a desert where rainfall average is perhaps twelve inches per year, an inch of rain is certainly news worthy. Were Tucson to get four or five inches in a twenty-four hour period, which happens frequently elsewhere, we would essentially disappear from the map.
House-flattening tree aside, I do enjoy the monsoon season. It adds a bit of excitement to an otherwise uneventful summer of toil and suffering (work), and some color to an oft-brown desert. Don’t think for a minute that my endorsement constitutes an invitation, however; you should stay where you are. I’m sure the summers are much nicer there.