Life is but a walking shadow, a poor player who struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more, a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury and signifying nothing.


(On a really bad day) 

All the world’s a stage — if you want to look at it that way. But an intersection is a natural stage, and some days more than others, there is drama upon it.

The dramatic scene unfolding on Saturday afternoon at the intersection of Oak Park Avenue and Lake Street would be titled, “Cloudburst.” 

Clouds don’t burst, of course. If a cloud could feel and describe the sensation, it would probably be a great involuntary release and relief, a lightening of load. By the time it reaches the ground, however, it is dynamic, almost violent. 

That’s how it feels, anyway, if you’re caught in it.

No one seemed to see this coming. I had my umbrella, but I was tucked safely inside Red Hen, high and dry, with a front-row, picture-window seat. My timing was fortunate. I could wait it out. One of life’s great consolations is watching a cloudburst from a protected vantage point — the best location being an open porch, outside yet out of reach. 

This was the next best thing, sipping an iced coffee, watching the thunderheads converge and merge overhead, slowly erasing the final few patches of blue. What had been a beautiful summer day turned stormy around 3 p.m.

Rain fell, slowly intensifying until the long, gravity-stretched droplets grew into dollops, striking the pavement with impressive splash force. The gutter in front of me turned into a rushing stream, heading down our barely visible ridge toward the nearest sewer — a handy device we take for granted until something clogs the openings, which happened across the street on the northwest corner, the accumulated storm water quickly coalescing to form a small lake, invisible to westbound motorists on Lake Street, who plunged in unawares, producing impressive symmetrical sideways tsunamis of displaced liquid. 

Scoville Park, as it happens, was filled with white tents, manned by artisans selling their wares. But they’ve been through this, and worse, before. Down came the flaps, quickly zipped tight to safeguard objets d’art. They looked like a band of Bedouins bedding down for the night. 

Those who had not thought to bring along their own tents were left to their own devices. Umbrellas unfolded and resisted the onslaught until a strong wind swept the rain sideways. People hurried along, to the best of their ability and age. Some simply surrendered to the drenching with “Oh, well” smiles on their faces. Others were still in the initial throes of being soaked, faces contorted, shoulders hunched with discomfort. Some ran to reduce exposure time, splashing through the lake like swimmers about to dive in headlong.

One refugee, a young girl, entered the coffee shop with one flip-flop, so Dad nobly braved the downpour to cross the street and retrieve the prodigal sandal, returning with a triumphant smile.

A resident of the Oak Park Club, a block north, hurried south in the direction of the Green Line, or perhaps the Avenue parking garage, carrying an extra umbrella, and returned a short time later with two loved ones hovering beneath it. 

I couldn’t help wondering about the Micro-Brew Review on Marion Street where hundreds turn out to sample the products of craft breweries. Maybe they didn’t care — except for watering down the beer.

The burst lasted the better part of an hour before the spent mass of moisture broke up or moved on or whatever it is clouds do after they burst. The storm strutted and fretted (and splattered) its hour upon the stage and then was no more, leaving this tale to be told by an idiot (hey, wait a minute!), full of sound and fury and signifying … something. Surely something.

That life has its disruptions. That some are prepared and some are not. That some respond and some merely react and some (presumably) continue guzzling their watered-down beer.

Snug and smug inside my shelter, I felt the complacency of benign fortune. Timing is everything, and I had dodged the dousing. But I’ve been caught before and will again. 

One thing is certain: sooner or later, everyone gets soaked. 

But in the final analysis, it’s all good.

Because we need the rain.

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