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Somewhere in the Deep South, nine old men in the back room of a seedy bar are discussing "subverting consensus reality" while outside the rain falls down from the heavens like it wants to blot the red earth out entirely. They are smoking unfiltered Lucky Strikes and drinking straight bourbon and cracking inside jokes about people who died years ago.

The rain is clanging on the corrugated aluminum roof of the honky-tonk like a jazz percussionist who's had a few too many, and the jukebox is off and the men's slightly drunken laughter is tinged with an edge of palpable dispair. The men are holding an Irish wake for a dream, the dream they once all shared. All of them have an image in the back of their heads the FBI pointing a shotgun mike at the joint and getting all the proceedings down on tape, but in fact they are wrong, the only surveillance on the place is being done by Mossad and the internal security department of the Walt Disney Company, which would be some small consolation to them if they knew.

Couteau raises his glass as if to make a toast and says in his soft Quebecois accent "Remember Norfolk? We had the motherfuckers' backs to the wall in Norfolk! If they hadn't found our man with fliers, it would have been a very different story!" And everybody in the room laughs sadly, considering the man with the fliers in Norfolk. The Mossad man makes a note on his laptop, taps a few keys and brings up a file; the team from Disney adjusts the gain on the mike and resyncronizes with the overhead sattelite they are transmitting to.

Behind the bar up front a red LED turns on and begins to wink once every half-second, and the bartender curses under his breath and flips on a switch that will start to power up the white noise generators. In the backroom Jamison is telling his theory of how the codes on the secure line were broken only a few hours before the Barcelona demonstrations, and Couteau is choking back a sob of pure misery.

The rain increases its mad tempo and somewhere in the distance a roll of thunder can be heard, slow and intense like maybe the sky has worked itself to orgasm, and a generator grumbles to life in the basement. This is a stroke of luck because the surveillance men are unsure whether electronic countermeasures or just the storm has blocked out their equipment, and their reports will note that uncertainty.

Later, when the rain slacks and the party breaks up and the men in the back room go home, none of them are sure when they will see the others again; it's not like the old days when they all lived out of a few hotel rooms and two beat-up vans. They stumble off into the night and their respective flights to their respective places of residence, and nobody, except for them and even they begin to have doubts now, realize how close they came to changing the world forever.

"The sky is falling! The sky is falling!"

So said Chicken Little, running around like his head had been cut off, raising a ruckus.

And so also say the people behind the wheel when it starts to rain.

It doesn't seem to matter where they live. It doesn't seem to matter how much driving experience they have. It doesn't seem to matter how many times they've driven in the rain before. If there's water falling from above, most drivers lose all common sense.

I'm not saying that there are a lot of good drivers out there normally. The number of people who shouldn't be trusted with a 2-ton weapon is easily visible just by counting up the number of people who think they can safely drive with a cell-phone stuck to one ear. What I am saying is that any competance they began with goes out the window as the first drops start to fall.

If you drive regularly, you can understand what I'm saying. Even if you're one of those I'm talking about, you can still see it.

The roads get wet and slippery, yet not only don't they slow down, they speed up just to get out of the weather faster. A few years ago, January, we had our regular winter storms. My husband was driving me to the doctor's office to help clear up a bout of bronchitis. We're waiting at a stop light for a freeway onramp and this car comes up on the right, intending to take the corner without stopping, never mind that the signal was red. This was a very poor decision and a great misfortune to the oncoming driver who was just turning onto the onramp. The foolish driver hit the brakes, hydroplaned on the slick blacktop and smacked right into the front passenger side of the other car. This caused the other car to be pushed sideways and it came to a stop facing the right way at the curb, as if it had been parked. Which was a good thing, as it wasn't going to be moving without the assistance of a tow truck. The car that hit it spun around, fetching up against a light pole, facing down the onramp. Both cars were only occupied by the drivers and there were no obviously serious injuries. If I hadn't been so miserably sick, we would have stayed as witnesses.

Visibility is reduced by the water both falling and kicked up by tires, yet not only do they not slow down, not only do they still tailgate, but they don't even turn on their headlights. I don't know about you, but I rather want to be as visible as possible. My car is an off-white cream color. Just the sort of color that fades into daylit mist. Even with the lights on, people still fail to see me, but not because they can't see me but because they never look.

This seems to be epidemic wherever in the world you are. If there are drivers and there is rain, this is common. I'm fortunate that here in southern California, we only get about 30 days that it rains out of the year. But I've spoken to online friends in Maine, Florida, Washington, Australia, Germany, Ireland, Ottawa, Vancouver and various other regions and it is all the same.

Next time you're out driving and it starts to rain, take a look around. You'll see them. They're everywhere.

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