Seasonal change in UB has the same transitional feel as my parent's Ford Escort when I was learning to drive. Sixteen years old and unsure of how to accelerate onto the highway I would slam my foot down on the gas. The car would give a shudder and a jerk and then slowly grind its way up to 75 mph. It was feast or famine, 35 mph or 75 mph. There was no middle ground, no ease into 45, 50, 55 and finally 60 or so miles per hour. I was all about the extremes... not because I was fiery (quite the opposite) but because I was generally clueless about vehicular operation.
The weather in UB has given a shudder and a jerk and has now gone from summer to winter without any autumnal transition. One gorgeous summer day I was sitting at my desk at MIU. The window was open, blowing in beautiful warm breezes from the outside. I was in my sleeveless shirt. My colleague, another American teacher not named Christina, was looking at the weather report on her computer. "Do you know it's going to snow tomorrow?" she asked.
"That's drug lingo, right?" I asked, "I used to watch HBO."
"No no, I mean literally snow. The temperature is going to drop fifty degrees overnight."
This was news. I knew from my high school meteorology class that huge drops in temperature due to cold fronts were usually preceded by massive storms. Being from the midwest I was used to massive, possibly dangerous storms. My college commencement ceremony of 2004 was heralded by one of the worst storms Ohio had seen in a decade. Still, I have never been in an environment where there had been a 50 degree drop in temperature in the space of ten hours. I decided to go home early that night.
The weather didn't appear to grow violent. The sky became grey. The air was still, though not ominously so. It looked like nice, grey autumn weather. I went home that evening, cooked dinner, inked cartoons and went to bed. My apartment, I should explain, is unusual for a UB apartment. The rooms are not small and cozy. Instead the entire area is composed of large, airy, hip rooms painted in the hippest shade of white. It is like a New York City apartment... except it's in UB and costs 400 dollars a month. Still the days' sunshine give my place a wonderful sense of open space and I adore it.
Open space, alas, turns to cavern-like spookiness after the sun goes down. Once the lights are off, I curl up in my enormous bed in my enormous bedroom (ridiculously huge, more than twice the size of my old bedroom in my parents' house and with less than a fifth of the furniture) and pretend I'm in a small place. I ignore the great cave of my living room yawning outside the door-less hole of my bedroom. I pretend that the cold, windy glassed-over balcony outside my living room hanging suspended in deep space over Seoul Street just isn't there. All I live in is a cocoon of blankets. Thus I sleep comfortably.
Or so I usually do... one woman nested away from the larger cavern. That night I was woken up. I was woken up by a mysterious tapping. Or rather, the tapping sound in itself wasn't mysterious. It was the distinctive tapping of someone typing on a laptop. It was the soft, rich tip-tip-tip that you hear in coffee shops, libraires, wireless areas and occasionally places of academic study. Mostly coffee shops. What was mysterious was from where it was coming. It was coming from somewhere inside the depths of my apartment.
Living in central UB you get used to a lot of noises. You hear the ice cream truck melody of the garbage collection vehicle as it picks up the rubbish from corners. You hear the demented screams of the neighbor's insane grandmother. You hear drunks sobbing loudly outside after their wives have locked the doors on them.... and you hear car horns car horns car horns. Still, at two o'clock am on a weekday, the city is mostly silent.
And yet there was a ghost in my room... and he was silently tapping away on his laptop.
At first I just lay in my bed staring up in the dark. I saw nothing, of course. The tapping of the laptop keys did not stop. There was also no way to pretend that this sound was coming from another apartment. It was too soft... and too present in my house. Finally, after laying in my bed for the longest amount of time, I decided to rise up from the horizontal and trace the noise with my ears. I was more curious than anything else. One of the most famous quotes from Sherlock Holmes is that when you eliminate the impossible (ghosts) the improbable, however unlikely, must be the truth (a screenwriting thief who had received a bolt inspiration right when he was yanking my laptop out of the electrical strip).
I crept into my vast living room and peered around the darkness. There were no movements that I could see from the ambient outside light reflecting off my living room walls. There was nobody in my house except myself and the laptop taps. There wasn't even a laptop. My own computer was sitting silently on the coffee table where I left it, securely shut and dark.
But the taps continued.
I crept across the living room and opened the door to the balcony. I was not hit by a blast of cold air from my unheated, glassed-in balcony.... but I was gently pinched by small gusts of rather chilly air that flowed in from the thin window panes. I looked up and saw hard, icy pellets hit the glass roof of the balcony. The taps that resulted from the collision of ice pellets and glass panes sounded exactly like the phantom taps of a ghostly Starbucks screenwriter. Sherlock Holmes was supplanted by Occam's Razor: The simplest explanation is most often the correct one. It was sleet, stupid!
Epilogue: The next day smelled wonderful. As soon as I stepped outside the sharp, clear smell of freshly falled snow hit my nostrils. The weather was pleasantly cold. Everybody was wearing jackets. Their shoulder were hunched forward and their chins were buried under their collars, hiding the reflexive half-smiles all people wear when they walk through a new, fresh, snowy world.