Thank You, Umbrella.

I remember the day well. It was four, maybe five years ago, and I was running errands on my own at lunch, a rare thing at a company where the social aspects of group lunches were the skeleton around which the rest of each day was built. But some holiday was fast approaching, various people were on vacation, and I was out shopping. When I walked out of my favorite card store, however, I saw that the skies had suddenly opened up. This was no mere drizzle. It was as though God had left several billion faucets running. There was no outrunning the downpour to reach my car at the far end of the parking lot. I was trapped in a strip mall, under an overhang, and I wouldn't make it two feet without becoming absolutely drenched. So I waited. And waited. And it seemed like an eternity because I was bored, and had a meeting to get back to at the office. In reality, it may have only been two or three minutes.

I had to do something, but what? My car wasn't KITT, and shouting “I need ya, buddy!” into my wristwatch wasn't going to help me any more than it did when I was getting pummeled on the playground in elementary school. The card store couldn't help, nor could the pizza place, the video store, the discount CD store, nor the express Burger King. It was a pretty lame strip mall. But there was a dollar store. Could that be my savior?

Sure enough, there was a rack full of cheap umbrellas right by the door. I might have had several perfectly good ones of better quality at home, but even if they were in my car they'd still be useless to me. No, for a dollar, that little black umbrella was worth it. My feet my have gotten soaked in the lake that was once a parking lot, but the rest of me was relatively dry for my meeting, and I got there early enough that no one would hear my squeaky shoes. The Emergency Umbrella became a staple of my car, one I kept when I got a new car a few years later after changing jobs. My good umbrella got buried in my room. I have a rough idea of where it is, but stacks of graphic novels brought home from my old job, next to bags of comic book convention swag, next to towers of paperback novels, next to so much clutter I can't even make this a proper sentence. I think I'm missing a verb...or subject...participle...moving on....

Now, that umbrella has seen better days. After one storm, one of the spokes broke, so one side always hung down. I kind of liked it, as it made a good shield on days when it was raining at an angle. I could also be a better “ostrich man” and hide my face from people on the street, moreso than I could with a pair of sunglasses. I have issues. I also, as I've mentioned, have a better umbrella, not to mention a steady job with which I could easily afford a new one. A coworker spotted me early on at my current job and commented that it was time for a new umbrella. But I'm a weird, lazy, sentimental creature of habit.

After yesterday's fire, I came home and replaced the battery in my parents' fire alarm, something that was at least two months overdue. And Thursday was off to a great start, until I rounded the back of my car and saw my rear left tire was completely flat. I was even going to be a little early for work. A few weeks ago my father and I had patched the back right tire, so of course the left one was flat. At least it had the courtesy to empty itself during the night after I'd gotten home from work, and not during my commute. There was no time to change it, and certainly no time to patch it. I borrowed my dad's car for the day, and I was on my way.

Things were back to normal at work. I noticed one of the cubicle workers outside arrive and scrutinize his desk with a puzzled expression. No doubt there were ashes and other debris. If he only knew. Later that morning, one of the maintenance guys arrived, and spot checked a few panels in the ceiling, replacing some with new ones. I guess he was checking for scorch marks. At lunch, I opted to walk, and was glad I'd grabbed my old friend from my car before hopping in my dad's vehicle. It's compact, and fits up my sleeve, kind of like the spring-loaded stakes in Angel, not that I'm dorky enough to ever pretend I could spring into action and slay vampires on a moment's notice. Nope, I've never done that. Never.

On this day, my sta--er, my umbrella didn't remain up my sleeve for long, and it got me from my office to, coincidentally enough, another strip mall with a Burger King. This is Long Island. This is probably America, but I wouldn't know. The journey there was uneventful, but coming back was bad. It took all my strength to push against the wind, and if legs that have been running six miles daily for several months now couldn't do it, what chance did my poor, cheap umbrella have? At least two more spokes broke, and I had to use one hand to hold the floppy mess of black fabric open while I clutched the handle for dear life with the other. Miraculously, I made it back to the office without getting very wet, but I think that was the last adventure of that umbrella. Thankfully, it wasn't raining when I went to gym later, though after my workout I discovered that I'd forgotten to pack a change of underwear for after my shower. I didn't have spare socks and had to put my shoes on over bare feet, but I had inexplicably packed two pairs of gym shorts that morning so I didn't have to go commando. That's too much information and not at all relevant to the main story, but it's a good way to see how many paragraphs people get through.

Farewell, my old Emergency Umbrella, and thank you for years of service which far surpassed the one and only time I should have needed, and enlisted, your assistance. That'll do...


Blogger Lorna said...

I have shamelessly littered the world with forgotten, shed and destroyed umbrellas. And I don't even care about getting wet. Especially since I cut my hair.

11/13/2009 6:25 AM  

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