A few feet from my office is a normally bright atrium, a large section of greenery surrounded by bricks below large skylights, creating the illusion of being outdoors. When it rains, the pelting drops on the glass shields are unmistakable. Without being near a window, I knew I'd have rain to contend with when I went to lunch on Friday.

Since getting my new car, I've been doing the park-far-away-from-everyone-else thing. It wasn't raining when I got to work, so I left my umbrella in the car. With my jacket over my head, I sprinted to the far end of the parking lot. My umbrella would serve to get me from my car to a deli and back again, and once back at the office parking lot it saw me safely inside.

For whatever reason, I was never inclined to buy an umbrella. They're certainly not expensive; it's just one of those things I never thought to do. A few years ago while shopping during lunch at my old job, a sudden torrential downpour sent me to the shelter of a dollar store, where I picked up a cheap umbrella just to make it to my car. I've been using the same umbrella ever since, and though one of the spokes recently broke so one flap hangs down, I haven't gotten around to picking up a new one.

I was headed in to the city after work for a friend's birthday gathering. I was initially hesitant when I saw she'd chosen a sushi buffet, as I'm not a fan of seafood in general let alone uncooked fish. But after checking out the menu online and seeing there were other choices like hibachi beef or chicken, I accepted. Leaving my car at a train station near my office, I brought my umbrella as the downpour was still hanging on, albeit as a continuous drizzle. Strong winds threatened the remaining spokes, but it held out to the train platform. In Manhattan, I only had a few blocks to walk, lowering it under awnings despite the awareness that I probably looked a lot like The Penguin in doing so.

The buffet place was great, with a selection nearly the length of a city block, all conveniently labeled. Rice, fresh fruit, vegetables, salad, chicken, beef, soup and more offered me plenty of alternatives to some of the things my braver friends were sampling, such as jellyfish. The dessert bar was excellent, offering a lot of miniature cakes and two flavors of ice cream I'd never tried before, Green Tea and Red Bean. Afterwards, when we were out on the streets, some of my friends noticed the condition of my umbrella. “Oh yeah, it was pretty windy coming up here...” I lied. I really should get around to picking up a new one, one of these days.

Back on Long Island, I was happy to find my car where I'd left it. Earlier in the day, a friend and coworker who lives in the same town had a disturbing story to share. Several months ago, he adopted a massive mastiff. Among other reasons, besides simply wanting a dog, he wanted something to guard his home and his wife should he ever be away on a business trip. On Thursday night, the dog wouldn't stop barking, and after yelling at it futilely a few times and giving up, he was finally drifting off to sleep. Suddenly, his wife sat up in bed and exclaimed that she thought someone was on the porch.

Now fully awake and hearing someone fiddling with the door, he ran to the window where the dog was barking as the automatic lights came on. Fast footsteps directed his attention to a shadowy figure retreating in to the night, even as he quickly dialed 911. Within minutes, he saw darkened police cars creeping up opposite ends of the block, hoping to corral the suspect, only turning on their lights when they'd reached his house. Apparently there's been a rash of burglaries in the area, and he even told me of some gang activity that'd been popping up in the otherwise idyllic community. He lamented the fact that his wife wouldn’t let him bring a weapon stronger than a paintball gun into the house, but his dog had certainly proven her worth. Still, after this scare, he’s going to be getting some alarms.

I don't think much of when our neighbor’s dogs are barking. I always assume there's a raccoon, or one of the local cats prowling around. We've never been burglarized, nor have any of our neighbors. My mom's idea of security is putting a watering can behind the screen door when she works in the yard, so she can tell if someone's walked in to our house. I'm not sure how useful our cats would be if anyone ever came in here at night. One would hide under the bed while the other would probably be friendly and rub up against the intruder's legs. Neither of them would make the kind of noise a distressed canine would make.

As I cut through an alleyway behind a firehouse Friday night, taking a shortcut from the train station to the street where I'd left my car, I thought about the downside of a nice car. I never had to worry about the old one; someone taking it might have even done me a favor. I thought about the “anti-theft” labels on my car and what those meant exactly. Did I have an alarm? Would the car not start for anyone other than me? Did it have automatic shields like the ‘90s Batmobile? Would it transform into an ED-209?(“STEP AWAY; YOU HAVE TEN SECONDS TO COMPLY!”) The car might still be there but would my windows be intact? But it was fine and right where I left it. Soon I was home, drifting off to sleep and wondering why there were dogs barking outside.

Saturday morning came, and I reclined in bed watching a movie on my computer. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something large and black alight on a stack of CDs. The wings were enormous, and my first thought was that a wasp had found its way into the house. Could I make it past to the door in time? Should I shield myself with my blanket? Or should I grab a napkin and go on the offensive?

I've been making it through a lot lately, taking on a lot of long journeys and challenges. Feeling brave, I grabbed that napkin and crept closer, moving slowly so it wouldn't lift off. As I got closer, I saw it wasn't a flying insect at all, but a fuzzy black spider with white stripes about the size of a fingernail. If it was the same one I'd encountered last week, it had quadrupled in size. It darted toward me, lifting its front pincers as I swung down and encapsulated it. I felt the thing squish and pop between my fingers, and hoped there wasn't any venom in it. If it was venomous, paper proved to be enough to shield me.

There are a lot of things out there that can harm or inconvenience us, from rain to burglars to insects. When such obstacles arise, its nice to know we can shield ourselves.


Blogger b13 said...

Fortunately, if your car is stolen you are insured. However, if someone enters your house while you are there... Time to buy a shotgun. If the sound of it cocking does not scare an intruder off you'll be happy you have it by your side.

5/11/2008 1:18 AM  

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