Rain Triggers Torrents of Conversation

TIMES STAFF WRITER

If you've lived here for the last couple of years, you've already talked yourself numb on the subjects of Heidi, Michael Jackson and you-know-who.

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Now, you're talking rain.

When's it gonna stop? Where's it gonna flood? Or--as everybody was asking under Thursday's dry but still sulky sky--when's it gonna rain again?

"I think it's gonna start again tomorrow night," said Tod McLean contemplatively as he stood in a Chevrolet auto parts store in Cerritos. "And this one looks like a big one."

McLean thinks a lot about the rain. A concrete pumper from Bellflower, he hasn't worked in several weeks. "Concrete don't work good in the rain," he said ruefully.

"Be interesting to see how much more we can take. They say it's a 500-year storm. Didn't we just have one in 1992?"

Given the talk in gyms, coffee houses and malls around the Southland, the seven or eight seemingly endless days of rain have become almost biblical in scope, more like 40 days and 40 nights. On television, the weatherman is upstaging the anchor man. Dallas Raines has replaced Fabio as a cult figure. (And has almost as much hair.) People try desperately to memorize that five-day forecast they flash across the screen for three seconds.

"We're a little frustrated by the weather forecast--'We're gonna get a little break, there's gonna be a little sunshine,' " said Lee Martinez, a salesman for S&J; Chevrolet in the Cerritos Auto Square. "And then it's the complete opposite--it sprinkles, it rains."

Martinez, in a buttoned-up double-breasted raincoat, presides over a sea of Chevrolets, raindrops still beaded on their shiny surfaces.

Even for a Southern California car dealer, the rain clouds have silver linings.

"We kind of like it because you get the serious buyers," said Martinez with a smile. "Saturday and Sunday, we sold 20 cars. And it was pouring. "

Like others, Martinez declines to make his own weather predictions, preferring the fatalistic approach to this current deluge.

"You kind of roll with it," he said. "What happens, happens. You gotta be positive."

The only thing he can't stomach is the commute--the other day, his 45-minute drive to Cerritos from his Aliso Viejo home was doubled. "You want to talk traffic?" he asked. "I HATE it!"

Despite the vagaries of weather forecasting, others have been trying to gauge the weather for the weekend.

Scott Carpenter, a Newport Beach resident, was hoping his brother could come over and play golf. "He lives in Newhall," said Carpenter, puttering around the Chevrolet dealership looking for a new Blazer. "The golf course is flooded out."

But Carpenter has given up predicting the weather--and scratched golf plans for the weekend. "We're going to let it go," said the Procter & Gamble salesman. "Talking about when it's gonna rain is completely useless. We're in the mind set that it's going to rain again. You're sort of in the habit--it's going to rain."

At the Panache Hair Design salon in Lakewood, it was a good hair day. And according to Linda Weber, one of the owners, rain--the bane of styled hair--has frazzled nary a customer.

"If you're blow-drying it, people will say, 'Don't spend a lot of time on it. I'm going out in the rain,' " Weber said.

She had blow-dried her own hair to perfection even though she fully expected rain to start up again at any time. "I think we just assume it's going to be here for a while," Weber said.

Lakewood chiropractor Fred Hayes noted that there is some hidden wisdom in one folksy method of weather prediction: The rain affects some people's joints, allowing them to sense the advent of rain. "You can feel a drop in barometric pressure," he said. "I have had people saying, 'My knees have been killing me.' "

His friend and fellow chiropractor Rob Rattray said the rain means more missed appointments followed by the arrival of achy patients. But for Rattray, as for many others, knowing whether it will rain or not has other implications. As chiropractor for the Yorba Linda Strikers semi-pro soccer team, it has left his weekend plans in the balance. If the game gets canceled, Rattray said, "it's like a day off from school."

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