“Sorry about the rain. It’s an important delivery. I would say wait for another day, but...” said my boss over the phone.
“No problem, I actually love the rain,” I assured.
Silence. Aside from a few people who also watch rain channels on YouTube, I was usually met with this kind of pause when I professed my true feelings for the act of water falling from the sky in some form, strength, or capacity.
With a cup of coffee in the car console and a lengthy music playlist, I started the long journey to Lleida from the outskirts of Barcelona with a small box on the back seat.
The sky was cloudy, big purposeful drops hitting my windshield and spattering out in a million tiny designs and patterns, lines, and streams. The rain always made everything look green and magical, mist rising from the brownest brown dirt into the atmosphere.
I breathed in heavily. Although I couldn’t smell the passing forests, I knew what they smelled like, and it filled my mind and soul with pure gratitude. This was my latest job, and I was settling myself in for a long scenic drive three hours northwest of Barcelona.
I don’t really remember how I got this job. But after graduating from university with a Ph.D. in Meteorological engineering, I knew I couldn’t sit in an office. My major had taken me worldwide, studying atmospheric conditions; rain, snow, sleet, intense heat, extreme temperature fluctuations, and how these phenomena impacted or informed building design and construction.
In Ho Chi Minh, I had balanced my laptop on my knees, typing a paper under a tarp during a typhoon. On another trip, I wondered if my sunscreen and hat would be enough to survive an hour on a construction site in Riyadh but was interrupted by the joyful shouts of locals dancing in the street. They were enjoying an unexpected and short drench. A rain that only happened a few times a year, if at all. I happily joined in, overwhelmed with the bliss of finding others who loved rainfall as much as I did. Tropical, subtropical, urban, and countryside, I knew a lot about climate but especially rain.
My friend Marsha could tell you everything you want to know about snow, but if it’s rain you’re curious about, you should probably talk to me. So when the time came to finish up and get a job, I knew I couldn’t resign myself to a small cubicle and endless meetings.
At first, I was in awe. Amazed at my luck in finding a job that would allow me to make a decent amount of money and get out and see as much of Spain as these papers and little boxes would let me. And if it was pouring, well, that was just the icing or freezing rain on my cake.
I guess you could say it’s a kind of elite courier position. As I never load my car up with box after box, it’s always one envelope or box at a time. At first, I figured they were court papers, documents and people were being served a summons or something like that, but then I would get a rash of little boxes one a day for weeks.
I wondered why this company had hired me, a foreigner with limited Spanish and even less Catalan, but I realized it made sense. I knew just enough to read the road signs but not enough to ask questions or offer information to sometimes hostile recipients.
A box from the Sarria area in Barcelona needed a two-hour drive to Olot. Documents from Poble Nou had to go up to Cadaques asap.
Once, I picked up a tiny box from an office building near Placa Catalunya that needed to be delivered all the way down to Valencia. That was a long trip, a few days, and I was paid a thousand euros for it. No cat-and-dog weather on that trip, so it wasn’t as good as I had hoped.
I had started this courier position in September, just in time for the wet fall, winter, and spring season of Northeastern Spain. People don’t realize that about Spain. They think it’s all Flamenco dancing, tapas, and sangria, but it’s a lot of showers and snow in some parts.
Consumed with the mist rising from the green grass, rain tip-tapping on traditional Catalan clay or metal roofs, horses and cows, often cyclists zooming by, I never gave the packages much thought.
But one day, when I was pulled over to the side of the road trying to wait out a Singapore-like flood- my mind wandered.
What was in these packages? Especially when I dropped them off at huge homes with palatial front gates, often with security, tough-looking men, or even guard dogs. Who were these people? What had they done in their lives to make themselves so important that they needed to receive items from someone like me? Or live in these massive homes with security? If I was paid so much to deliver them, they had to be significant.
Once the box was bigger than usual, and the pay was two thousand euros to deliver it to a small town called La Garriga. I was nervous with that box and almost thought I could hear a heartbeat, but when I arrived at a house, not a hospital, a man had taken the box, signed for it, and left it on the doorstep while he sat down and ate a sandwich.
Splash, a large puddle, battered my door when I drove through it. It reminded me of the time I got stuck in the mud trying to back out of a driveway in Begur. That was the house with the dogs and three men standing around on the other side of the gates speaking an eastern European language. It was documents I dropped off. But they didn’t look pleased to receive them. The Dobermans barking, one man struggling with his umbrella while the others debated who would make a phone call. There I was trying to back out of the muddy driveway, tires stuck, frantic.
There was pelting rain now on my windshield at an angle influenced by strong gusts of wind. I liked this rain as well. Different than the large drops, this was like little arrows sent by a million archers in raincoats at once. Sheet rain often accompanied by hail made for a more anxious sound and reminded me of growing up on the great lakes of Canada. I would run down to the dock to grab life jackets or pull a canoe onto dry land before rushing inside for dry clothes and a hot cup of earl grey tea.
I turned onto a dirt road. According to my GPS, I would be on this road for at least twenty minutes. With a mature forest on either side reaching out like an umbrella across the road, I sailed along for a few minutes through the drizzle, peppered with shards of sunlight, like the Waikato region.
Then as the trees disappeared behind me, a steady, monotonous smattering reminiscent of the Bordeaux countryside, followed by a torrential downpour that had monsoon season in Taipei written all over it.
Here, I decided it was best to pull over. While waiting for the rain to let up, it was at this moment that I wondered about my latest little parcel sitting in the backseat. It was well wrapped, in brown tape, and probably not easy to open or at least to open without someone noticing. That was the problem. I bet this job was often available because after a while when it’s just the driver, the parcel and the open road, we can forget that we are not alone. That what we do on these trips does matter.
What would happen to me if I opened the box? What if it was shocking or chilling, and I wished I had never seen its contents? What if it wasn’t anything, but I couldn’t close it properly and lost my job? I think it’s against the law? Was there ever a scenario where I would be better for having opened the box? I didn’t think so.
Unless it was some critical stolen documents, the cure for a horrible disease, or a long-lost family heirloom. But who would I tell? Where would I take my discovery? The police? Even if the Mossos or national police had an English interpreter, they would laugh and ask me to wait until they returned from their siestas. Which I knew they didn’t take, so I would just be waiting around until I lost interest and left. Then I would be on the run. I would be hiding out from gangsters, crime lords, the Spanish postal service, or my boss wondering why I was stealing packages?
A large splash like the rolling three-foot breaks brought on by summer storms off Easter Island hit my car as another car passed by and slowed down. It made me nervous because I was afraid the driver would think I was in trouble and pull over to offer help. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, especially as my language skills were so bad, and I was forever too mentally exhausted to struggle with google translate.
I pulled onto the road and drove slowly. In under ten minutes, the little parcel occupying my backseat was safely delivered, this time to a little old lady with an even older dog waiting patiently by the roadside. She was delighted to receive the parcel and spoke excitedly in Catalan, but I could only make out, happy... birthday... an old friend from childhood... expensive... didn’t want to miss the big day.
I smiled as I watched the little old lady and dog hobble up to their home with their new treasures. I loved this job- the people, the packages, the mystery, driving in the rain.
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But what was in the parcel? She didn't rip it open right there so we could see what was inside? She didn't exclaim, "Oh, my ___arrived!" You left us hanging! OH MY! The harsh cruelty of your words after the build up of the whole story...:) What a great story...it was fabulous and I am just teasing. I loved your way with yours. Nicely done. I could feel the rain.
Lol! So funny. Maybe I should have made something up. Maybe it was a porcelain hedgehog or a small cuckoo clock? Thanks for reading!
Love it! Thanks for satisfying my curiosity! Porcelain hedgehog! Perfect! Carrying an umbrella, of course!