When it rains, it’s wet…

The California Highway Patrol appears to be making one last, desperate attempt to somehow reach the collective psyche of the state’s devil-may-care motorists.

For decades, the remarkably patient CHP has been trying to warn drivers of the dangers associated with rainy weather and how to reduce the risk of accident or injury during those times when water falls unexpectedly out of the sky.

Sad as it may seem, many of us just can’t seem to get it together when it comes to the simple equation of rain equals moisture on the pavement which leads to a condition generally known as slipperiness.

I guess the Highway Patrol always thought people could figure this stuff out by themselves.

Bad assumption.

The CHP, however, never gives up and not long ago I heard what must have been a last-ditch attempt by the state traffic agency to explain the mystical water-pavement-aiiieeeee! equation to Bay Area motorists.

Listening to a San Francisco radio station’s traffic update, I heard the announcer grimly report “It’s raining in San Mateo County right now, so the CHP has issued a wet road advisory.”

Hmmmmm – a wet road advisory. In the rain …

I’d always suspected that a large segment of the population in San Mateo County might be a few enchiladas short of a combination plate and this wet roadway advisory would seem to bear me out.

It also means that the CHP has finally had to admit that the great majority of Californians somehow haven’t made the connection between rain and wetness.

This seems like a rather simple concept. Even the most anvil-headed of my past newspaper editors knew that rain was wet. Unfortunately, the poor fellow never seemed to be able to figure out what rain was.

Every time rain began to fall in Fairfield, he’d rush frantically out onto Texas Street from his dimly lit newspaper office with a puzzled expression on his face. Shaking his head, he’d scamper around the building a few times and then contact United Press International in San Francisco to find out exactly what was going on.

Then he’d slog over to his desk and carefully craft a weather headline that invariably said something like “Wet Stuff on the Way” or “More Wet Stuff Expected Today.”

I worked with the guy for five years and I never once saw him write a headline that so much as mentioned “rain.” He just couldn’t seem to wrap his intellect around the concept.

He did, however, know that “wet stuff” made the highways slick and periodically mentioned that fact in one of his periodic weather commentaries.

Alas, this put him waaaaaay ahead of most California drivers on the road today.

We can only hope that the CHP’s “wet road advisory” in times of rain will somehow catch on and drivers will finally be able to connect the dots between rain and wetness. Otherwise it’s going to be another long and frustrating spring for the Highway Patrol – and those boys can be downright ornery when they get all damp and soggy…

Originally published March 6, 2005