As native Angelinos, we’ve cultivated an unrealistically macho relationship with rain. When it rains, it sprinkles. And if it sprinkles long enough, our iconic coastal highway has to close down due to some big chunk of cliff breaking free and blocking traffic. But you won’t see many umbrellas popping open. In fact, most of us are so macho we only use our windshield wipers on the “interval” setting. Rain in Los Angeles is something we always “need” and rain gear in Los Angeles is more fashionable than useful.
The first time it rained in Florida our “macho” got drenched in a matter of seconds and never recovered.
The boat we’d boarded at the Wilderness Lodge was in the process of docking at the Magic Kingdom when the cloud obscuring the sky finally exhaled. The captain said something like, “Better take cover, it’s comin’ down,” but our macho rain ears were drowning him out. We were big kids, we were snorting to ourselves as we disembarked. The inexpensive waterproof hoodie Amy had bought at EPCOT earlier in the trip when it looked like rain was still in her daypack, and Mark’s light waterproof zip-up that made him look like a Space Mountain cast member was just as conveniently on-hand. By time we’d made it from dock to covered shore, which took about seven seconds, we were soaked. Humbled, we pulled our rain gear from our packs and suited up for the sprint to the park entrance.
“It’s really coming down,” Mark exclaimed as we approached security.
“Yeah,” Amy remarked, a bit stunned. “Glad we’ve got hoods”
Mind you, we were unaccustomed to covering our heads in the rain, but this, we were realizing in stages, was no ordinary rain. These drops were of prehistorical proportion! We were each looking at the ground and noticing how quickly the wet was overtaking the dry.
We made it all the way to Tomorrowland before the heavy rain beat us into submission. We took cover beneath the monorail track.
“Wow, I never noticed there was a waterfall there,” Amy pointed at an ivy-covered monorail support fronted by a wall of water.
Mark beheld the water feature, clearly trying to figure out why it wasn’t adding up. Then finally: “Because that’s not an intentional waterfall!” We both gaped, two drought-country denizens amazed by the volume of water falling from the sky.
“Wowwww,” Amy was taking it in, at which point it occurred to her she should take a picture. At the time, she had only a pocket camera, which she’d conveniently stored in the front pouch of her inexpensive EPCOT pullover. Unfortunately, she hadn’t thought to zip it up in her haste just to get it on and it was now filled with enough water to house a carnival goldfish.
“Ohmygod! Ohmygoddddd!” Amy was frantic. She pulled out the camera and quickly tried to dry it with the wet shirt beneath her fishbowl hoodie. She raised the camera to her eye and held her breath as she snapped a shot. Miraculously it fired and recorded the image. Thank goodness for digital. But then she realized she was wearing a pouch of water. “What should I do?” she looked at Mark with hapless disbelief. It seemed like a ridiculous problem to be having, but she was having it, nonetheless. “I can’t just stand on my head!” Mark just looked at her blankly. He was still marveling at the size of the raindrops. Finally, Amy used her arm as a squeegee and got most of the water out of the kangaroo-inspired pocket. “What a stupid design,” she blamed the garment.
“You wouldn’t be saying that if you’d zipped it up,” Mark’s objectivity silenced her.
As the rain subsided, our awareness of how wet we really were began to sink in. We were really wet. Really, really wet. The kind of wet that makes children squeal and adults fret. There was still warmth in the air, but the wet created an undercurrent of cold that made its presence known as we entered the Space Mountain space station. “I’m a bit chilly,” Amy announced as they got close to boarding.
Though Mark was less willing to admit it, the wet was getting to both of us, and one more ride did Amy in. “I’m getting cranky,” her self-awareness proclaimed, so it was decided we’d go back to the hotel to get dry and warm.
Lesson 1: Nothing dries in humidity
By time we got back to our room, we looked like we’d been in the rinse cycle too long. We draped our wet clothes over the retractable clothesline in the shower and stuffed our shoes with crumpled newspaper pages (a helpful tip we’d read somewhere). To Amy’s surprise, our daypacks also weren’t waterproof. By morning, our shoes were slightly dryer than our daypacks, which were by far dryer than our clothes, but nothing was, by definition, “dry.” Mark used this incident to highlight the value of the poncho, which Amy has persistently insisted on resisting.
“What do you have against the poncho?” Mark asked with a hint of exasperation.
“Start with I don’t like looking like a Tootsie Pop!” Amy spewed on cue. “And my body doesn’t like being in a tent! My arms lose their sense of identity and there’s no quick escape! I hate it! It’s stupid and it’s ugly, and I feel like a head on a stick!”
Mark stared at her. He had expected as much, but hoped her bout with being cold, wet and cranky would have softened the edges of her sharp opinion. No such luck. “I think we need to bring ponchos to Florida next year,” was all he said, and Amy huffed. There was no point in arguing about it until they needed to deal with next year’s trip.
As the next trip loomed on the calendar’s horizon, so did the poncho, which sent Mark and Amy each into high gear to find a better alternative; Amy, for her loathing of the poncho, and Mark, for of his love of Amy. Reams of online searching for stylish-yet-practical rain gear and numerous in-person try-ons produced few results, which were subsequently nullified for one reason or another, until finally, in the end, there remained but one solution: the rain poncho. Drag, drag, drag, Amy stomped like a sore loser.
Mark’s solution was to go to the high-end outdoor-oriented stores in the hopes of at least finding a better-than-your-average-bear rain poncho. For Amy, going to camping stores was equal in unpleasantness to wearing a rain poncho. But she went along with it, in the back of her mind hoping she’d find that perfect rain jacket that would somehow fit over her daypack in such a way as to make her look stylish, despite all logic to the contrary. Instead, they found rain ponchos. Thirty-dollar rain ponchos. Thirty-dollar rain ponchos in a choice of dark-drab blue or dark-drab khaki. Amy curled her lip in disdain. Mark gave her a choice: Settle for one of the drab, costly ponchos or keep going to outdoor and travel stores in search of something better. “Fine.” Amy resigned herself to just getting it done and therefore accepting her fate. “I was hoping for something brighter,” she grumbled, “but I’ll go with army over navy. You look better in blue than I do.”
There. It was decided. Mark grabbed a blue and a green poncho, and–only, wait… the blue poncho was even more costly. Unlike the green one, the blue could be used as a makeshift tent in an emergency. So two ugly green ponchos it was, and that was that. “At least they’re good quality,” Mark insisted.
“Good. They’ll last forever,” Amy sulked.
Lesson 2: A pricier poncho does not a better poncho make
Our first day in the Magic Kingdom picked up right where we left off: with a downpour. Thank goodness we had our ponchos. Despite the drab color, Amy reluctantly concurred that she was glad we had them as the rain blew across our faces in the open boat ride over to breakfast at the Grand Floridian hotel. We expected a wait, as we hadn’t made a reservation, but instead, a large woman with a Haunted Mansion presence beckoned us sternly, and Amy hastily pulled her poncho over her head and stuffed it in her backpack. She wanted to enter the immaculately styled Victorian dining room with a respectful air about her, instead of as a drab-flavored Tootsie Pop. This, it would turn out, was a fatal mistake.
Back in our ponchos–and the Magic Kingdom–we headed over to our favorite Fantasy Land attraction: Mickey’s Philharmagic. The line wasn’t long, but there was a line, and as we stood there, protected somewhat from the shards of water shooting from the clouds, Amy began to squirm inside her tarp. Mark was busy smiling at all the familiar details and Amy was busy trying to un-cling herself from the plastic wrap. Finally, she pulled her arms inside to work out the conflict, and there she found her answer: she was wet! How was it she wet? In fact, the entire inside of her poncho was wet! How could that be? As Mark’s gaze was everywhere but on the struggling drabness in front of him, Amy solved the puzzle: When she pulled her poncho off at the hotel, she turned it inside out, thus exposing the inside to the outside, which was wet. All right, so at least her poncho didn’t have a hole in it, but now she was humid and sticky inside her poncho and she just wanted to be free. The struggle escalated and then… suddenly… plmphhh: her thumb had broken through the barrier and emerged in the grey and soggy light of day, unbeknownst to Mark.
The line started moving and Amy retracted her thumb from the gash in her poncho, which Mark still hadn’t noticed.
It wasn’t until we finally stopped in Liberty Square, en route to Bear Country Jamboree after visiting family at the Haunted Mansion, to get a beverage and a snack, that Mark noticed the rip in the front of Amy’s poncho. “Where did that come from?!” he exclaimed with a double-take.
“My thumb,” Amy informed.
Mark was still dumbfounded. “But when?”
“In line at Philharmagic.”
“It happened right in front of you!”
“Well, that’s perfect,” he laughed, “you managed to have a working poncho for all of an hour.”
“Sorry,” Amy was ashamed, but only because she’d unintentionally busted a $30 poncho.
“You and ponchos,” was all Mark could conclude as they marched on to Bear Country.
“Sorry,” Amy was contrite that she wasn’t more contrite.
Lesson 3: Finding the hidden Mickey poncho
The gash in Amy’s poncho was significant enough to render it mostly useless in the on-and-off torrents of rain, so we went in search of the ubiquitous Mickey poncho, which was being paraded by the majority of park guests big and small, young and old. But where were they being sold? One shop after another, we expected to see them in stacks by the door, but no. They were nowhere that the naked eye could detect. Finally Amy asked at a store in Frontierland.
“Oh sure,” the helpful woman behind the counter smiled and reached behind her, “here ya go,” and with that she produced a flattened square of vinyl that unfolded to an adult-sized Mickey poncho for a third of what the high-end drab version cost. Amy put it on before leaving the store.
Each arm had two oversized, rubberized snaps that served to separate torso from limb and that was about it.
“You just wanted a Mickey poncho,” Mark smirked accusatorially.
“I did not!” Amy was defiant. At least, she didn’t think that’s why she destroyed the first one. “I think you’re jealous,” she turned the tables.
“Maybe I am.”
“Do you wanna trade?” Amy wanted to prove that one poncho wasn’t any more favorable than another.
“No-ooo,” Mark didn’t want to be seduced. “Besides, you’ll only wind up destroying it.”
“Then we can both have Mickey ponchos!” Amy perked, but to no effect.
“Let’s just let things be and move on.”
It was clear Mark wasn’t pleased with all the poncho bother, but done was done, and we moved on. Amy, however, was now legitimately contrite. So much so, that she never let on, even for humor and irony’s sake, that she’d managed one at a time to rip each snap from its setting until she really was just wearing a tent with a hood.