In the now four years that I have been a regular bike commuter, I have only been caught in monsoons twice. Both times I was pedaling home from dinner with my husband, so the soaking rain seemed carefree and romantic. I didn't think about wet hair, the mascara running down my face or clothing plastered to my skin. I focused on the refreshing feeling of cool rain on an otherwise overheated body (the temperature rises into the high 80's in Flagstaff), the sound of the rain as it hits the ground, and the exaggerated scent of nature. Getting caught in the monsoon has thus far not been a problem to be avoided but another EXPERIENCE to be relished. Until 9 a.m. yesterday morning.
I have no photographic documentation of the events of Friday morning when I set out on my bike for the latest in my three-year dental odyssey to correct the effects of gritting my teeth to the point sleep depriving pain and creating fractures requiring crowns (so many I've lost count), extractions, dental implants, and a shockingly expensive bite guard. I am on the verge of going on a rant because this odyssey has been extremely expensive (I am grateful for dental insurance, a flexible spending account, and an understanding husband) but I will say that when you find yourself gritting your teeth to the point of constant jaw pain interrupts your sleep STRESS is often the culprit. I will reiterate that bike commuting can be a wonderful pre and post stress remedy. That and a good therapist. Truly, a good locally owned bike shop where they know your face and greet you with a smile and a Masters or PhD level therapist are a great remedy for acute stress. Forget those stupid stress management seminars that shame participants for "victim" thinking or "glass half-full" orientation. As a former therapist with 10 years experience working primarily people suffering from acute stress and trauma, I can assure you that such presentations are about as useful as an episode of Oprah or that ethically-challenged television personality "Dr. Drew". Oooookay, I'm going on another rant again . . . . this is a bike blog, so back to bikes.
So, yesterday morning I had to have my new tooth placed on the implant that my dentist inserted last year. As I readied for work, I looked out the bedroom window and prognosticated (I have absolutely no training in predicting the weather, mind you) that the rain would begin at or around 3 p.m. and that I could safely miss the downpour. I would pedal down to my dentist's office, stop 10 minutes out and consume my happy pill (my dentist and I agree that given my past history in his chair, that the happy pill determines whether the procedure requires an hour or four hours of his time; I am that bad a dental patient), arrive, have my new tooth placed, and Bob collect me and the bike in the Element to transport me back home. Once home, I am disallowed from returning to work or leaving the house for any reason short of natural disaster because I might speak to someone without the benefit of a functioning "filter" (that part of the brain that prevents one from saying exactly what is on one's mind at any given time). I am also disallowed from getting near the gas stove or even considering making tea. Naturally, biking while under the influence of the happy pill is also prohibited.
At approximately 8:20 yesterday morning, I glanced out the window only to see that the rain had begun. It was heavy. Monsoons don't usually last long, Heavy rain for 10 minutes or so, then the clouds give way to sun. I didn't worry and continued my work. About 8:45 I glanced out the window to find the only light showers and was glad that I wore my yellow Eddie Bauer trench coat and a linen bucket hat from Sage Brush Trading Company. I'll be fiiiiiiine!
At 9:05 I shut down my computer, tidied my desk and rolled my Dahon out the front doors of the Airport where I work and pedaled past the taxis and rental cars loading and unloading passengers.
My romantic journey to the dentist's office begins: Why, yes, I smile, I am an attractively dressed woman riding a bicycle in the rain. But it's only a light rain, very refreshing, and I'm sure to bike out of it within a half mile.
At about 9:15 I am about a mile out from the airport and my JCrew Cafe Pants are soaked from mid-thigh to my ankle. I stop at the ramada in Ponderosa Trails Park, having decided perhaps I had miscalculated the exact time the rain would arrive and that I should call Bob and ask him to pick my up at the fire station on Lake Mary Road and take me to the dentist. Seriously, this trench, Audrey Hepburn worthy as it is, fails the water-proof test as the moisture is gradually penetrating the sleeves and I am pretty sure I'll freeze in an air conditioned dental office. Oh, merde! I left my cell charging next to my desk at work. Quel dommage. Nothing left to push on and hope that I pedal out of the rain soon. I remind myself that the daughter of a U.S. Marine does not under any circumstances complain about a little rain, after all it's not nuclear fall out.
A mile further down the road, I pedal down University Drive next to Target. At this point, the rain has not lightened is coming down a bit heavier and I am unquestionably soaked to the skin. I consider that this might have been the day to forget my no Lycra on the bike rule and bring wear my running tights and pullover for the ride and change back into my regular clothes at the dentist's office. I scold myself for not remembering to put a comb in my pannier since my hair will surely be a mess upon arrival at the dentist's office. Coulda, shoulda, didn't. This is an EXPERIENCE I remind myself, and I am learning for the next time.
What I am truly worrying about is the possible reactions of the dentist's very nice staff who are always helpful with my scheduling needs and patiently endure my version of stand-up comedy when I have taken a happy pill pre-dental procedure. "You rode your bike in the rain?", "Oh, my God, you are soaked to the skin; you poor thing!" I really dread the potential for a "you poor thing". I am not a poor thing. I am not brave. We just can't afford two cars living here and I made the best decision I could about how to get to my appointment. And to quote the later, great Peter Falk, "It ain't cancer". By the time, I pedal through the campus of NAU on the urban trail, I actually realize I am smiling. I acknowledge a few people also traveling by bike, most likely faculty, and see most of them are also soaked. Some of them are not soaked because they are wearing rain gear. Must get some rain gear but I can't worry about that now because I am smiling. Really, without any effort. I am drenched but okay, and I haven't even taken the happy pill yet.
So, I arrive at my destination at exactly 10 a.m., slowed by a few detours I made in order to avoid being splashed by cars going through large pools of standing water. I lock up the bike and enter the office, peeling off my trench and bucket hat as I check in with the front desk. As predicted, while used to seeing me arrive on a bike, they are shocked that I did so on a rainy day. I am indeed called brave but not poor. The air conditioner hums along but the dental assistant has a nice polar fleece throw that I can cover up with head to toe. Soon I have a new tooth, my clothes are mostly dry, I see that my hair really doesn't look to bad thanks to a great cut from Mr. Paul Ray (with salons in Las Vegas and Flagstaff), and my husband has arrived to carry me and the Dahon back to our house.
I am now sitting on the front porch writing this post and waiting for the pending monsoon of the day. The Planner Guy and I consoled a recent disappointment over a strong pot of morning coffee, the newspaper, Weekend Edition, and the unconditional love of two little dogs. Disappointments hit me hard. Probably harder than they should but I am not gritting my teeth, and I can finally see an end to my dental odyssey. I finally got caught in a soaking rain on the way to an appointment but pedaled though it without tears. Arriving with wet hair and clothes was only slightly embarrassing but not a big disaster. Rain is not an insurmountable obstacle to bike commuting. I needed to purchase some rain gear a long time ago anyway.