After three months of virtually no rain, the heavens opened a few weeks ago and it seems they have never stopped since. Most days, they last much longer than the customary hour or so in the late afternoon. Full-blown thunderstorms that seem to come out of nowhere. A glance at the Weather App on my phone shows me that we have an 80% or larger chance of a storm any time after lunch every single day of the week.
It’s pretty spectacular when it happens. The skies darkens from grey to black, filled with menacing clouds that block out all the light. Then rain pelts like hot, thick, soft, grey spaghetti down on the city. It can last up to four hours.
Josh and I, for some stupid reason, tend to time our trips out for the afternoon. In his first week here we sheltered in the orchid garden for well over an hour until the thunder and lightning moved away. Only then did we dare to make a mad dash to the car, check the car’s demist worked efficiently before to planning flood-hop our way home. It was on that day that I discovered that a) my husband can be damned annoying (yeah, aren’t they all?). His particular crime this time is his propensity to take very useful maps and things out of the car in the name of ‘tidying up’. On this day, my first experience in a thunderstorm, he had removed the car owner’s manual. Could I find the switch for the wipers? Could I blazes! Of course, the relevant stick can be found on the side I usually use in a failed attempt to turn on the indicators! All I achieved was drenching the front and back windscreens with more water! Where had Nissan hidden the dastardly wipe-really-fast-without-water switch?
In the end we found it and made it home before facing the task of working out how to turn the wipers off again. The next task was to give Ian and earful!
The other day, at about 3pm (mistake) we headed for the shops. Clouds began to gather the moment we entered the supermarket, of course. We had parked in the open air section because, although my companion had suggested we park underground in order to avoid a soaking on our way back to the car with bags of shopping, we hadn’t found one. And so we joined the sea of folk with laden trolleys inside the exit door and waited for the rain to slow and things to quieten down. After about 10 minutes the spaghetti-rain that bounced off car rooves and filled gutters turned into dodgeable rice noodles and we decided to make our dash. Like a miracle, a swarm of parking attendants, each carrying massive red umbrellas appeared to escort us to the car! Seems they have devised strategies to cope with daily downpours here.
Not so with the taxi rank.
Only the previous week I walked over the KL Sentral railway station to buy our tickets for the train to Singapore. When I left home the sky was blue but I took our largest brolly with me just in case. I felt confident enough to explore the new shopping centre beside the station, Nu Sentral. About half an hour into my foray I noticed rain splashing round my feet. Oh yes, it was coming through the ceiling! Damn! I’d missed my opportunity to walk home. So, knowing the ropes, I got myself a pre-pay taxi ticket from the booth, as you do, and walked to the taxi queue. I was relieved to see there was no queue despite the rain. Then Josh called me. He was on his way back from his Malay lesson and actually on a train to Sentral station. I offered to wait. Now, of course, in the space of a phone call, there were no taxis –because of the torrential rain. I walked to perch on a bench, under a glass awning, where the stair rods of rain bounced like squash balls. This was when I discovered that the rain got everywhere, the pavement was awash and my flipflops lost all their gripping power. Walking a couple of feet was treacherous. I could not have walked home even if I had wanted to. To cut a long story short, Josh missed the station, had to wait about half an hour for another train and the taxi queue reached 20 people long. Just one brave taxi arrived a minute. I got in the queue and waited my turn. I reached the front and at last Josh got on a train. I said I’d hang on. After all, no one could walk in this downpour.
“You can have my place. I’m waiting for someone,” I repeated to each person in turn, as I continued to reach the front and reverse a space, reach the front and reverse on my slippery shoes. A self-sacrificing hour after I had gallantly offered to wait for him Josh arrived, but by then the rain had almost stopped and taxis were plentiful.
Could I have taken my flipflops off and walked home through the rain, you may wonder? Nope. Not for me. You see, the week before, when we went to the botanical gardens for a walk around 4pm (mistake, remember?) the heavens opened, we decided to make a dash for it, who cared if we got wet? But when we reached the place where they are building a new tube station the workmen there insisted no one went any further and took shelter with them. We waited, with tens of other people while thunder and lightning raged overhead and something (was it thunder or lightning?) sounded like we were being pelted by machine gun fire. The irony of the saying ‘This too, shall pass” that decorated the hoarding outside the building site was not lost on me. Our wait lasted well over an hour when I could bear it no more, the rain slowed and we insisted we cross the road, who cared if we were calf deep in puddles? Who cared if it was still thundery and lightning?
That evening our friend Joe, who lives a few yards from us, sent us a text message saying a house on our compound had been struck by lightning at exactly the time time we’d left the sanctuary of the building site. He’d just spent an hour in his neighbour’s roofspace waiting for the fire engine while he emptied the contents of their water tank into the rafters.
A couple of days later a friend of mine claimed she had watched ‘our storm’ and in the four years she has been here it was by far the worst. She believed that there were up to 20 lightning forks in the sky at once.
So now you know why I will no longer make a run for it nor attempt to drive during a thunderstorm.