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Braving the rain

| Friday, September 14, 2018

My hometown’s almost daily forecast of constant sunshine and temperatures that fall on some scale of warm to “I am currently burning in my own skin” did not give me experience in navigating Midwestern weather. Even when it did rain back home in Tempe, Arizona, it was usually a comfortable sprinkle that lasted for no more than a few minutes. On average, Tempe receives 9.33 inches of rainfall per year. This is much lower than the United States annual average of 32.21 inches (2017) and certainly pales in comparison to South Bend, Indiana, which receives a whopping 38 inches per year. Given this information, it should be of little surprise to anyone that I was pretty much completely unprepared to handle any kind of extreme weather when I first moved to South Bend a little over a year ago. My inability to handle rain specifically has granted me more than several embarrassing experiences that, looking back, I should have learned from and did not.

During the first week of my freshman year, I was walking on God Quad wearing my Arizona summer uniform of shorts, a T-shirt and my favorite flip-flops from Old Navy when, out of nowhere, it started to pour. Of course, I didn’t think to bring an umbrella. As I began to sprint to get out of the rain, I passed an upperclassman who screamed at me, “Run, freshman, run!” Soaked and annoyed, I did not comprehend the humor of this situation until far later.

In hindsight, I probably should have figured out that flip-flops are not appropriate footwear when there is any chance that it will rain. Yet, I didn’t. The next week, I walked to the Notre Dame Activities Night with a group of of people, as is the awkward freshman rite of passage, wearing the very same shoes. Though it had rained earlier in the day, the skies were clear before it was time to walk back. Things were going smoothly until we reached the stairs by “the Rock.” As I began to descend the steps, the slippery stair combined with the slick bottom of my sandal sent me tumbling down the stone steps until I landed in an undignified pile at the bottom. In addition to an impressive bruise on my tailbone, this event caused these steps to be dubbed by my friends as “the place where Claire fell on her butt.”

After this, I stopped wearing flip-flops altogether. Thinking that this one change had me prepared, I thought I had South Bend weather completely handled. Turns out, I could not have been more wrong. At the Notre Dame-Wake Forest game in November last year, I made the mistake of wearing my favorite white Converse sneakers and no rain jacket. No flip-flops? No problems.

Or so I thought.

Instead, before the game even started, my feet were soaked through to the point where I could not even feel my toes, and my sweatshirt was completely sodden. Unable to bear the cold, I left the game at halftime and promptly walked back to my dorm to order a pair of rain boots on Amazon.

Now equipped with boots, nothing could touch me. Right?


Just a few months later, I decided that boots weren’t needed for the light mist of rain outside. I donned my Converse and began the trek to LaFortune to study. The moment I stepped outside, it started to bucket rain. Instead of doing the intelligent thing and going back to change, I kept walking. It was a horrible walk that led to me, upon arrival, wringing out my socks and shoelaces over a trash can. My pride took a serious hit that day.

Now a sophomore, I feel like I should have learned something from my freshman experiences. But I really didn’t. Walking out of Observer production a few nights ago, I stepped in a deep puddle, soaking my leather Birkenstocks. As I frantically tried to dry my shoes, I couldn’t help but laugh at my own stupidity. Some things never change.

I still have at least three years left in the Midwest, and to be honest, I’m not sure if I’ll ever figure out how to handle the rain. But in a strange way, I’m a little relieved that even though I live in Indiana now, I’ll always be an Arizona girl at heart. And in footwear.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Claire Rafford

Claire is a senior from Tempe, Arizona majoring in English and minoring in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy and Business-Economics. She peaked when her team won the Battle of the Books state championship in 2011.

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