Spoiler alert: this lousy weather coupled with the inconvenience of having to be out in it make me very cranky. I cannot promise I can discuss this rationally. Text will certainly contain profanity.
I have, for some time now, been on the hunt for appropriate wet weather gear, including footwear, for all of us. I found some cute and stylish Wellington-type boots, but at $100-$150 a pair, and up.
While I’m all about cute footwear, I am not convinced that Wellies are what one puts on for a 30-minute walk on concrete. Puttering in the garden? Sure. But not for a hike. Am I wrong?
Yesterday, the Spouse called upon arriving at his office. He left the house wearing a raincoat. I think he even had an umbrella with him. But Moscow’s streets and sidewalks are veritable lakes and rivers. His shoes and socks were soaked. He took them off, but his office is now unheated (no one has heat in Moscow anymore. Not until next winter . . .). Cold, bare feet were not helping increase his productivity. He eventually ratted around in a box and found a spare pair of socks and appropriate shoes.
He was lucky.
Armed with this knowledge, I left the house yesterday in reasonable shoes. I meant to wear my winter boots, but people! It’s the end of May. The sun is now in Gemini, for Pete’s sake. Winter boots are not what springs to mind.
A lake forms in front of our building door when it rains. I exited the building, realized the lake surface indicated that it was raining, again, and had to go back up to the seventh floor to get an umbrella.
Sheltered under my umbrella and wearing a raincoat, I thought I was well prepared. But nothing prepared me for the rivers of water on our street. The street runs downhill from our house to the corner. This makes leaving the house a sprightly, energetic experience (down hill), while returning home is just uphill enough to be punishing after a long day or a trek from school carrying a kid’s fencing gear.
Combine a downhill grade with a heavy rain and the result is rivers of water. On the International Scale of River Difficulty, I’d rate Moscow at Class III: Whitewater, medium waves, maybe a 3-5 foot drop, but not much considerable danger. May require significant maneuvering.
You think I’m joking. But here’s the truth: one can either maneuver with an umbrella against throngs of other pedestrians, many also carrying umbrellas and playing a sort of urban Chicken Game (Let’s See Who Yields First! aka It’s Only Fun Until Someone Loses an Eye!) or one can elect to walk in the less densely populated but profoundly muddier park. Our park has sandy pathways that, when it rains, turn into something resembling the battlefields of the Dordogne.
But never mind. My shoes are already squishing before I even reach the park. Even my socks are now completely wet. My pant legs are soaked and clinging to my shins. It’s 2:15 in the afternoon, I’m heading to school to pick up the girls, and then I get to hang out while Baboo has her fencing class. My ETA for home and clean, dry feet: 7:00 p.m.
Adding insult to injury, as I turn the corner and head up Rozhdestvenskiy Bul’var, the sidewalk is covered in one of those construction site walkways, the kind designed to protect pedestrians from falling debris, misplaced steel beams, errant welding sparks. But in some sort of practical joke, all of the rainwater rushing down that hill has somehow been channeled into the walkway. I am ankle deep in cold, dirty water and cursing.
Another amusing feature of Moscow architecture are the building downspouts. Here’s a picture of a typical downspout on the street near the French school.
Note how the downspout ends right about knee level. On an especially rainy day, the collected water comes shooting out of this pipe with a great deal of force, ricochets off the pavement, and splashes the hapless expat. Some design flaw at all building eaves results in water spraying over the top of the gutters that line the roof edge. Each occurrence of a downspout means a shower for one’s knees, but also a vigorous dousing from above.
I wish I had photos of the Muscovites’ footwear. You’ll have to believe me when I tell you I saw high heels (some even with open toes) and elegant men’s dress shoes. Lots of tennis shoes or "trainers,” if you will. All of them wet. But nary a boot. At the girls’ school every kid, every single kid, was wearing tennis shoes. A few of Skittles’ friends arrived wearing Wellies. When I asked the mothers, “Where did you buy those?” the answer was unanimous: Paris.
A Russian acquaintance confirmed what I was beginning to suspect. Never mind the weather, she told me. The Muscovite credo is “Just Be Gorgeous.” Translated: You won’t find rainboots here. Not easily.
I know I promised profanity in this entry. But an afternoon of wet feet and not-warm-enough layers has either lowered my resistance or coincided with a virus incubation period. In any event, I am today a muted version of myself: throat sore, nasal passages on fire, eyes heavy. I’ve sneezed three times while working on this paragraph. I feel too shitty to swear, that’s how bad I feel.
Oh, and the weather outlook? More of the same. Except colder. Until, say, about next Thursday. When the forecast is for warmer temperatures. And continuing rain.