Run for Cover: Your Winter Slump’s Just a Drop Away

It’s been a strange week.

Trees fell. Drivers panicked. DSW sold out of rubber boots in almost every size. A girl in my history class even claimed victory in nature’s greatest wet T-shirt contest.

The source of so much commotion? The kind of storm Facebook statuses reported as triggering a tornado alert. Here. In La Jolla. Where a bad forecast usually means you just need to wear closed-toed shoes — not boots fashioned out of school bus-yellow rubber and a huge poncho (the Southern California equivalent of a Hazmat suit).

Indeed, the fact that all of us — untested San Diego natives and those used to heavy downpour, too — were so ill-equipped to deal with an inch of rain isn’t much of a surprise. It’s not often we have to make a slippery sprint to Center Hall wearing common-room trash bags. Even in the frigid, sub-70-degree weeks of January, our heavy coats don’t usually get much action.

But what’s most alarming isn’t the fact that we don’t know how to respond when the forecast prohibits T-shirts and sandals; it’s just how sulky we become at the sight of that first dewy raindrop.

You might think that, in a desert where we seldom get any closer to rainfall than a “Sound of Music” rerun, we’d be excited enough by the prospect of an authentic winter to run barefoot from our dorms out onto the pavement — heads tilted backward, tongues out, to taste God and global warming’s gift to the world — but if the past week’s widespread helplessness is any indicator, that’s clearly not the case.

And maybe for good reason. Last week, in the five exasperating minutes it took to beat the elements from the Sunshine Market to the top of the Literature Building, I went from feeling great about scoring a 50-cent breakfast bar (to whoever thought to stuff all the saturated fat of a Cinnabon roll in a five-inch wrapper for mass consumption: you’re what I call a hero) to dabbing the inside of my shoe with a dwindling supply of paper towels and cursing the Lit Building for not being evacuated.

In any event, I was in no position to master the past-perfect tense with a soaked-through textbook and socks. I wanted to be dry, in bed, listening to the same mopey Liz Phair song on repeat until my ears bled or I began producing estrogen — whichever came first.

And that I did. (Well, almost — I can’t be certain of the correlation, though after a dozen or two plays of “Fuck and Run,” I suspect my facial-hair growth may have slowed.)

A couple days of grilled-cheese overindulgence later — not even the promise of a superior sandwich could rouse me from the safety of my room — I decided it was time to do something about my depressed condition. Chances are the storm would have outlasted my supply of sourdough and pepper jack anyway, and one can only comfortably subsist on Cinnabon bars for so long.

A seasoned hypochondriac, there was only one place for me to turn: the Internet.

I shortly found that there’s a common medical designation for what may or may not have reduced me to an under-the-cover Cheez-It binge — one with an acronym that couldn’t have been more spot-on: Seasonal Affective Disorder.

According to the trusted experts at WebMD.com and Wikipedia, I more than fit the bill. Between the ages of 15 and 55? Check. Feeling sad, grumpy, moody or anxious when there’s no sunshine? Quadruple check. By the time I scrolled down to the bit about craving carbohydrates, I needed no further convincing: I was sick — ill, really — and for all the Parmesan and garlic Cheez-Its I could stomach, no treatment but a sunny afternoon could heal me.

Thankfully, this is Southern California — where, I am convinced, no week can pass without a fresh sunburn (for a ginger, anyway) — and by Saturday, I was healed. The clouds parted, the debris cleared and I finally got my hands on a meal consisting of more than three-week-old bread and melted cheese.

But for those couple days that my fellow hypochondria/SAD-afflicted peers and I were forced to take refuge at home, the end of the world one violent gust away, it occurred to me that maybe the reason they call it El Niño is that only a sugar-addicted toddler can match the terror of a violent storm. Wikipedia begs to differ, but I don’t care. No one really believes those pages, anyway.

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