For the first time since they were rescued from more than a decade of captivity in a Cleveland house of horrors, three women speak to the public via a video camera.
CLEVELAND - The city has its collar pulled up high around its neck, trying to keep the cold, wet, and uncomfortable from dampening its shirt. It is a cold rain that has pushed Spring off the calendar, at least in Cleveland.
The people here are dodging puddles so deep with water, they hide the potholes left from winter's cycle of freeze-and-thaw-and-freeze again. The meteorologists on television -- where I ply my trade as a journalist -- say the only relief from the pouring from the clouds is still days away.
So the water flows like a bathroom shower where the faucet broke in the "on" position.
Mark Johnson, Jason Nicholas and Christine Ferreira take an inward pride in being right with their weather forecasts. They roll our their charts and put a radar scan on the television screen that shows blobs of green, yellow and sometimes red.
Precipitation is the word they use to describe the weather. Rain (as in 40 days of) is the word the rest of us use. I don't think they take a personal glee in all the weather we are receiving, but the rain usually puts them at the top of any broadcast.
The average Cleveland rainfall for the month of May is 3.5 inches for the entire month.
"We've had 3.54 inches of rain so far this May and we're only halfway through the month," said Christine in her television weathercast.
She detailed the weather with a smile. Off-camera, at the news anchor desk, where I sit a couple of times a day, I grimaced, figuring most our audience was feeling what I was feeling.
So the people of Cleveland and the rest of this part of the country are huddled under umbrellas, trying to keep them from turning inside-out as the wind whips through this city, pushing a steady rainfall that can pelt your face and take away whatever crease the dry cleaners put in your trousers.
"When's this weather gonna let up?" asked a man I passed on the sidewalk.
"In a few days," I responded.
"Well, I ain't gonna last that long," mumbled the man as he sloshed in to a puddle-filled alley, where his parked car would be a kind of dry oasis from the wetlands.
The whole city is wondering where is Spring. The season, as we in this part of the country like to think of it, always comes later than many other parts of the land. Here, even professional baseball has been known to start with snow around the edges.
However, in mid-May, most of us think the season has enough of a foothold to have some traction.
"But that ain't happenin'," as the security guard at my company's parking lot said it. "I guess all we can do is bundle up and try to stay dry."
"Yeah," I grumbled, trying to sidestep a long discussion because the water was running down my collar as it was his.
Even the Cleveland skyline has disappeared. Well, not all of it, but the top half of the tall buildings are not visible from the ground. They are shrouded in mist and fog. I guess the workers in the top floors of those buidings must feel they are on an airliner, flying through the clouds with no ground visible.
On several corners that I frequent in my travels, even the hot dog vendors have given up trying to make sales from their wagons. Each has a big umbrella over his cart, but there is no umbrella large enough to hold off Mother Nature's rainfall this week. The hot dog salesmen have scampered away.
There would probably be very few sales anyway of someone passing by hungry enough to stand in the rain and wait for a dog to be put in a bun and then slathered with mustard.
There are other parts of the country dealing with weather problems significantly worse than what we are dealing with in Northern Ohio. We feel for them as they try to stay dry from the Mississippi River, which has stepped out of its banks and taken a wide pathway, flooding entire communities.
It is the same rain patterns that are affecting those areas. At some point, the low pressure systems that have stopped in place and are just turning on the cold shower will move on. Until they do, we are all dodging puddles and huddling under umbrellas.
I guess I am used to this kind of weather in Cleveland. I grew up here and know that a warm-temperature Spring is no guarantee as we get deeper into May; maybe even early June.
My friend, Sam, is a newcomer to this part of the country. He grew up in Texas and for many years lived in Florida. When he moved to Cleveland recently, Sam knew this was a northern climate. But he did not expect this.
I've watched Sam walk through snow almost to his knees. He never grumbled. He felt the north wind come off a frozen Lake Erie. Sam understood that happens. When spring arrived on the calendar, I cautioned him that Mother Nature does not follow the same calendar we follow.
But to be in the middle of May and still wearing a coat with a zip-in lining was too much for Sam.
"I just couldn't believe it," he said when he checked the temperature and Cleveland was in the mid-40s.
"Welcome to Cleveland," I told Sam.
He smiled sheepishly, thanked me for the welcome, but was probably dreaming
of sunny Florida.
In the rain, which has not yet let up, Sam will make his nightly walk to his car and turn on the windshield wipers. They will slap away the water on the windshield, but none of us can slap away the rainfall that has made Cleveland its home for more than a week running.
More than a half-century ago, Gene Kelly, the great dancer and musical actor, performed himself into Hollywood history books when he danced along a rain-drenched street made in a studio. "Singing in the Rain" was a big hit and still draws a big audience on cable television movie channels.
However, that was Hollywood. Kelly soaked up a lot of water dancing in a downpour and singing in a studio man-made shower. He soaked up a lot of money, too, performing that number which became his signature song.
For those of us in Cleveland, there is no Hollywood camera focused on us as we try to deal with a lumbering low pressure system that is slow to move along. As I said, Spring comes late to Cleveland and the rest of this part of the country. This year, with temperatures more like late October, it feels the season may not make it at all. Maybe Spring got washed away and flowed down the drain.
When I walk to my car at the end of my workday, I usually have a song I sing to myself. "Here's That Rainy Day" is probably my one-man concert today. If you hear me, don't applaud me. I'll know you really don't mean it.
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