Maxed out 

A ray of sunshine amidst water torture

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It was raining in Tiny Town. A steady, persistent, rain somewhere between drizzle and deluge. An ornery rain that had overstayed its welcome, like some tiresome politician trying to grind out one more vote in a pointless election. Grey clouds blocked the sun, rumoured to be somewhere in the heavens, and painted the world in muted shades of dark and light, a damp charcoal drawing starting to run together and lose its definition at the edges. Wisps of fog — cloud droppings — cascaded down the many drainages like mosquito netting over beds in a malarial jungle.

I noticed it most walking around the village; it was easier to ignore sweating over a computer screen trying to write pieces about ski trips that seem like distant memories, blocking out feelings of being cheated out of what should have been an epic spring skiing season. But in the village, people danced the dance of misery. They hunched their shoulders, snuggled down into their overcoats and parkas hoping to keep the trickle of cold water sliding down their necks from reaching their backs. They looked at their shoes, just beginning to get squishy and sodden. They talked to themselves as they walked along. When they looked up — if they looked up — their faces were screwed into scowling grimaces. Especially the tourists. “Guidebook didn’t say anything about raining all the time, dammit.”

Some long-ago time, back in the days of the bourgeois dynasties, the ancient Chinese were reputedly the first civilization to recognize the demoralizing, deranging effects of persistent rain. Over the course of many centuries, they realized the slow, steady drip of simple water could wear down great mountains. If rock eventually capitulated to dripping water, certainly men would do the same… and since it probably wouldn’t take centuries, it’d be way more fun than watching mountains melt.

This geo-cultural insight arrived just in the nick of time. Grasping the obvious, they immediately realized just how useful this knowledge would be when the British showed up to trade opium for tea. Reputedly, the first English Gentleman they guinea pigged water torture on laughed and called them crazy. After several hours, he was in a more conciliatory mood. By the end of the day, he was reluctantly willing to eat chow mein and not call it “filthy Woggie swill”. After a couple of days, he actually admitted Chinese Checkers was a superior board game to chess. When a week’s worth of drips had dimpled his forehead and he was completely starkers, barking like a Yorkshire terrier and speaking in tongues, he finally capitulated fully to their outrageous demands… agreeing to bathe.

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