surinenglish

The rain in Spain

At the time of writing, a rabid thunderstorm is raging over Malaga, shaking windows and rattling walls but the times they aren't particularly a-changing; this has happened every year since I've lived here, heralding the arrival of winter and, with any luck, some colder weather.

When the rain lashes down outside, you just know intuitively that any arrangements or appointments you have made for the day are now deemed invalid. If you're meeting someone at eleven o'clock, for example, there's a ninety per cent chance that they simply won't show up. What I had never understood until quite recently, however, was why nobody ever called to say they wouldn't be coming; they'd just fail to appear and leave you to draw your own conclusions. It only took me about twenty years, but eventually I realised that for many people heavy rain around here is really a sort of code in itself; it means all bets are off and is understood as such by all parties. So, if you're woken in the morning by the roaring thunder and the rain battering your windows, you think "Aha! Everything I have arranged for today is almost certainly not going to happen." So far, so confusing. The key point, however, is that you also think "Aha! Everybody I have arranged to do something with today also knows that it almost certainly not going to happen." When that's the general understanding, it kind of works out. Kind of.

Problems begin to arise when people who weren't immersed in this cultural phenomenon since they were kiddiewinkies, arrive and expect a different response, e.g. a phone call to explain. This inevitably results in their tearing out lumps of hair and jumping from foot to foot like Yosemite Sam in the blindest of rages screaming, "All they had to do was call to let me know!" With time, however, you learn it just doesn't work like that.

I've just spoken to my colleague about an air conditioning technician who hasn't shown up at the appointed hour, or, indeed, any hour. He hasn't called to say he won't be there or when he might be able to make it. The incredulous tone of my colleague's reply, after I'd expressed my disappointment, made me feel like a child of six who can't understand why he can't eat the whole tin of biscuits. The reply itself was simple enough, as was the tone and the little sigh that preceded it.

"Yeah, well, it's raining."