Saturday, October 15, 2005

Notes from New York: Walking in the Rain

I don't carry an umbrella, and haven't carried one as a matter of practice for years. Although it rains a great deal in Seattle, most of the time all we see is a fine mist. The sky "spits," as we say. A raincoat is usually sufficient; an umbrella is usually unnecessary.

When I lived in the city I bought a felt hat to protect me from the rain. It served me well for many years and spared me the inconvenience of carrying a brolly around with me during the winter. I never thought twice about wearing the brown felt hat to work until one morning, upon entering my building, the security guard greeted me with a sarcastic "Good morning, Dr. Jones."

I suppose it does look like the hat Indiana Jones wears, and I was thereafter careful to remove it before I entered the building.

It's been raining in New York. When I arrived at my hotel I discovered that a small umbrella belonging to my wife was packed in my suitcase. I did not want it (since hailing from Seattle I consider myself impervious to rain) but I nonetheless took it with me the following afternoon on my trek from Midtown East to Times Square. I had a few hours to kill until the eight o'clock curtain at the Eugene O'Neill Theater.

Dragging the umbrella around was an inconvenience I am unaccustomed to, but I tolerated its presence, and forgot about it during the show.

When the curtain dropped at ten-thirty, I exited the theater to discover that they sky was not merely spitting at me but raining cats and dogs. East Coast rain, I recalled. Because I was too cheap for a taxi I realized I was going to be soaked after my twelve block walk back to the hotel. But wait...what was that uncomfortable lump in my jacket pocket? My wife's umbrella! Victory!

Bless my wife.

There were a few times while walking through Manhattan in the rain that I left the umbrella unopened, when the sky was spitting as opposed to raining on me. Regardless, many New Yorkers (and tourists, presumably) had their umbrellas open, and it was then that I realized I was in a perilous situation.

Today's compact umbrellas are small enough for a purse or briefcase or coat pocket and have a very short telescoping handle, requiring them to be carried right at head level when opened, and the prongs of these compact bumbershoots are directly at eye level. I became fully aware of this fact on East 52nd and Third when I nearly lost an eye. The woman whose umbrella frame nearly punctured my retina was unaware of the incident. She merely shoved past me, crossing the street against the light. (There was some consolation in the fact that the strong wind traveling down 52nd Street turned her umbrella inside-out, rendering it useless. She no doubt shoved it into a trash bin along with all the other turned-out umbrellas that are disposed of by New Yorkers by the thousands on a rainy day.)

Before I arrived at my hotel a young man with a basket of umbrellas held one out to me as I passed. "Ten bucks," he said. I was damp, but not soaked. I smiled and shook my head.

"It's just a little rain," I said.

1 comment:

Rick said...

our wives are so wise, are they not?