Does anybody have Noah’s telephone number? New Jersey has just experienced the wettest winter on record. Since the day records began, we’ve never had this much rain. That fact came home to me yesterday while driving the fifty miles to Montclair in a tremendous downpour. I had just purchased new windshield wipers, but the cap had fallen off the driver’s side blade. Driving on a truck-infested interstate where traffic continued to fly by at above posted speed limits, I realized with horror that at each passing swipe the rubber insert that actually swipes away the moisture was creeping out of the top of the wiper fixture. There it was, just at the top of my field of view, thrashing about like a demon-possessed snake, while my field of view grew smaller and smaller. I was in lane three of an eight-lane highway and couldn’t get over to make adjustments. In a nightmare I envisioned the slippery snake making a terminal bit for freedom and flying over my head as metal scraped glass and I drove blind into whatever lay ahead.
Well, the wiper stayed intact long enough to get me to the university. The rain did not abate, however. Even with battered umbrella and longsuffering raincoat, I was soaked below the knees by the time I squished into class. Unfortunately we studied the flood myth a few weeks ago. A few years back William Ryan and Walter Pitman, a couple of geologists, uncovered the fact that the Black Sea had been flooded by the Mediterranean some 7500 years ago. They posited that this sudden increase in sea-level around the Euxine Sea led to the dispersion of a world-wide flood myth. Their book became a best-seller and even Robert Ballard got in on the search for Noah’s homeland.
Hearing people talk about New Jersey’s incessant rain, I have no doubt that a major sea change was not necessary for flood stories to begin. As water levels rise, perhaps to the delight of whales and other blubber-laden beasts, the rest of us fear being perpetually covered by overwhelming waves. That is enough to start the story of a flood. Especially when your windshield wipers aren’t working on the Garden State Parkway.