Lo and behold, this Spring it’s rained here and there, now and then, in Barcelona. Or that’s what they say: I’ve been kept busy most days and I hadn’t even noticed until I saw a load of loons on Twitter start to do the rounds as correspondents explaining how the downpour was doing, borough by borough. Then I looked out of the window and I saw that it was actually raining: for once I hadn’t been cheated by fake news.
The years of drought does not register in the ranking of “Barcelona’s top problems”. Rain is rather an externality, an unwanted side effect, a bit of a nuisance, see. Something that hampers our everyday rat race to nowhere. It’s not that it doesn’t know how to rain here, it’s that Barcelonians don’t know how to live with rain, and our manuals on seny i rauxa—the sanity and madness Catalans like to think characterises them—say nothing of how to get wet. The Galicians in NW Spain think nothing of it: they don’t even use umbrellas. When it rains in Barcelona, tempers prevail and drivers let loose (even more) invectives. No matter that the rain sweeps the bird droppings off their windscreens, rain means swearing and bad manners. Suddenly, the buses are packed and whiff of damp, the platforms in the Metro fill with puddles, from the leaks. Some smart-aleck throws down some sawdust and it all ends up a sloppy swill. No taxis anywhere and trying to get where you’re going on foot guarantees you ending up as wet as a drowned rat and chain sneezing the next day. A drag.
In the centre, rain means the tourist bus puts up its awning and the Japanese pull out those bright rain ponchos they bought at Eurodisney: being disciplined as they are, they’ve dragged them around all day because the iPhone told them to. And dozens of Pakistanis who have undoubtedly checked the weather online first thing in the morning, come out right on cue, like snails at the first drop of rain, selling umbrellas at three euros. The tourists who have thought ahead stand out from the crowd with their hotels’ complimentary umbrellas—Melia, Hotel H10—huge, unnecessary, creators of even more jams and collisions in the narrow streets of the Gothic Quarter. Of course, in the Raval, the prostitutes and pimps playwright Pau Miró describes in Plou a Barcelona—It Rains in Barcelona—end up drenched. You know that girl is hipster with her transparent umbrella, you know that is a native, with the plastic bag over her head to shield her perm. The flip-flop seller in the Plaça de Catalunya yawns, conscious that he won’t do much business today, proving the local trader’s adage—wet streets, dry till. The only ones filling their tills is the shoe shop next door, where all those wearing flip flops rush to buy proper shoes. In the Burger King’s toilets, a mother, red as a prawn, tries to dry her son’s socks with the hand dryer, since his little shrimp loves to splash in the puddles. If the fates have wished a gale upon us, the bins will be filled with crumbling umbrellas that have not held out in the battle, and if there has been a real downpour, the bars will make a killing as long as it lasts, with Voll Damm beer for those who take it easy, and the huffing of those who check their watches because they’ll be late who knows where.
Luckily the rain in Barcelona doesn’t last long, just time enough for this quick essay. We will once again put away our umbrellas—or we will likely lose them somewhere—and the terraces, suddenly emptied a while ago, will come back to life: a waiter will spend his time wiping the water from the tables and chairs, an old-timer will lament slipping in the wet, and everything will go back to normal.