I was walking down the high road — a nice London term which we should start applying to ‘The Strip’ (an ugly term) — when I was splashed by a vehicle.
This is nothing new. I am frequently splashed by vehicles when they drive through puddles beside of where I am walking on the sidewalk. That’s why my clothes are often muddy when you see me.
(So you see, you should not pity me, you should feel outrage on my behalf.)
The difference this time was that the vehicle was a semi, and the puddle was long, deep and wide. It was the perfect storm of vehicle splashing; six axles went roaring through the puddle, and each axle threw a sheet of cold, molten ice over me — an evil early spring slurry of ice cold water, mud and gravel.
Plus, in this puddle was a manhole, around which the pavement had cracked and potholed away, creating a sort of “puddle within the puddle,” which, when tire after tire passed through it, threw up a kind of secondary splash, hitting me from below, while at the same time great waves were crashing down on me from above, from the tires passing through the rest of the puddle.
I noticed this about the “puddle within the puddle” because when the semi had finally passed on, I turned to look at the puddle beside the sidewalk, noticing how long, deep and wide it was, and how the broken pavement around the manhole had created a sort of “puddle within the puddle,” and that’s when the second semi, following hard on the heels of the first, passed through the puddle, splashing me again, in the exact same fashion, only this time I was facing towards the puddle.
Some people would react quickly in such a situation. Some people, when the semi first hit the puddle, would be able to do a tumbling routine as soon as the first drops of water hit — a series of backflips out of harm’s way. Some would snap open their umbrellas in a flash and duck and cover, and the dousing would be minimal. Some people may teleport into another dimension in the blink of an eye, an alternate reality chunk of sidewalk where it would be hot, dry and puddle-free.
But in my case, I found that when getting drenched with great sheets of icy water and mud, the only reaction I was capable of was to just stand there, letting out a long continuous shout of shock, followed shortly by another long continuous shout of shock.
It was a balmy early spring day when this happened. And as I was only going a short distance, to get a coffee from down the street, I had decided not to wear my coat. In fact, I was wearing a short-sleeved shirt — a little too summer-weight for the season. “But I’ll only be outside for a minute,” I had thought. “What could possibly happen?”
Looking back, it would have been better if I had been walking down the sidewalk full-on naked. I would have at least had dry clothes to put on when I got back to the office. Next time I go for coffee …
The Big Splash, as I think of it, had a very limited time window. One day it was the deep heart of winter. March 1 set a record for cold on calendar date. The next days brought more than 12 centimetres of snow, with all the accompanying insanity. And in the following days, the temperature soared, and all that snow turned into water just like that.
Over a two-day period, that water had nowhere to go but into our basements, seeking its own level as it were. So at the same time that I’m complaining about the Big Splash, I’m also aware that many of you were also getting a big splash of your own, wading around in your suddenly watery basements, cursing, and dialling various emergency numbers. You have my empathy, for in this short, violent transition to spring, water in the basement seems like one of its rites.