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Mack Williams: Pretty liquid rainbows

Getting out of my car during a thunderstorm the other day to get some coffee at a local coffee shop (coffee must be had, even during lightning), I saw a rainbow. Rain was falling in a downpour and the sky was completely overcast, so it was definitely not like one of those raining, partially sunlit, “devil-wearing-a-tank-top” sort of days when rainbows can appear.

Procuring the coffee and getting back into my car, the sun was still blocked, and the rain still fell; but despite this, the rainbow was still there, and as on my way in the coffee shop, not in the sky above, but in the rainwater flowing past my feet.

This rainbow moved along, not like the static one “set in the heavens,” but the line-up of colors remained the same as we were taught at Granite Quarry: “ROYGBIV,” with no such mix-ups as: “ROBYGIV,” “GIBVROY” or “VIGOBR” (making me think of “Ghostbusters II” [1989]).

This rainbow flourished as long as there was water on the ground and just enough daylight to see it, getting much more “money’s worth” of rainbow for such little “expense” of light.

I had to make a number of stops that day; but no matter the distance of my travel, rainbows just like that one seemingly followed me in “little-lamb” fashion, then passed me by when I was on foot.

They had a cheery “fluid fluorescence” not possessed by the average sky-bound rainbow. They gave a positive feeling to a dark, rain-filled day.

Going uphill, I noticed my transmission didn’t seem to be working as smoothly as when I had just put in my monthly quart. (I find it necessary to do this at least once a month, since after all, it is an old ’92 Lumina. That beats a monthly car payment!)

I decided to switch on my FM radio for some appropriate “rain music for driving” from a classical station. It’s always puzzled me that all the music played there is lumped together under the name “classical,” in spite of the fact that the play list also includes baroque, romantic and modern. (Any radio station playing only classical music should primarily be called the Beethoven station, with call letters: “BEET.”)

Instead of the thunderstorm in Beethoven’s Pastoral symphony being available (to match the weather), someone was giving a talk about the surprising amount of chemical run-off in this country, stressing the fact that collectively, that spilled by both “suburban-man” and “rural-man” (a “poor-man’s Darwinian-esque nomenclature”) in their yards and on city streets adds up to just as much, or more than, industrial run-off of the sort showcased in old TV documentaries of the 1960s (with ice burg-like soap suds floating “gently down the stream”).

My transmission was still slow to act (the car’s, not mine, mine being aided by glucosamine-chondroitin), so I stopped by Walmart and got the cheapest transmission fluid I could get, since as I said, I must add it fairly regularly.

Walmart’s parking lot sits on a gentle rise, and both on my way in, and on my way back out to the car I saw numerous, beautiful, iridescent “rainbow rivulets” running downhill.

Leaving Walmart, my oil light flickered, so I stopped by my mechanic’s station. As another pretty little liquid “rainbow” trickled past my shoes, Mike (my mechanic) inquired as to the frequency of my “additions” of transmission fluid and oil.

When I told him, Mike said: “You really ought to get those gaskets checked, something I wish everybody in this city would do. When you drive downtown, and when you go to Walmart, you see it: those greasy, nasty oil and transmission fluid spots everywhere on the asphalt. When it rains, that stuff’s picked up by the rainwater runoff and seeps into the groundwater. It goes to the river, and eventually to the ocean. It’s everywhere! What a mess!”

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